Archive for Saturday, March 3, 2001

Sopranos’: Portrait of dysfunction

March 3, 2001

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HBO took an extra two months to begin the third season of "The Sopranos" (8 p.m., Sunday), and from the look of tonight's first two episodes, it was worth the wait. While slow to build, the first hour becomes a hilarious meditation on the painstaking efforts of FBI agents to bug every member of Tony's immediate family. The results are both revealing and banal.

Episode 2 shifts gears to a much grander opera when Tony gets the news that his mother (the late Nancy Marchand) has finally died. Not to give too much away, but her memorial service is one of the best scenes of this excellent series.

l "Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot, Part I" (8 p.m., Sunday, NBC) recycles Kennedy memories from the wives' perspectives. As you can imagine, these long-suffering gals suffer a lot. Jill Hennessy cuts a stylish figure as the urbane, multilingual Jackie. Ethel (Lauren Holly) comes across as Eve Arden with an adenoid problem. She's a sassy, nasal big sister to the doomed, innocent Joan (Leslie Stefanson) who drowns her marital disappointment in alcohol.

Here's a deep thought: We are now as far removed in history from 1960 as JFK's election was from Warren G. Harding's. Time to move on. How about a miniseries about the Bush family?

l What happens when a TV franchise runs out of gas? You give your second bananas their own gig. Byers (Bruce Harwood), Frohike (Tom Braidwood) and Langly (Dean Haglund), the wisecracking conspiracy-obsessed geeks of "The X-Files," get their own series, "The Lone Gunmen" (8 p.m., Sunday, Fox).

"Gunmen" will air in its regular 8 p.m. time slot beginning on Friday, March 16.

l Even those seriously stuck in the past will be disappointed by "The 70s: From Bell-Bottoms to Boogie Shoes" (8 p.m., Sunday, TLC). As obvious as a happy face and as pointless as a pet rock, this two-hour film reduces the transitional decade to its most obvious clich Why talk about women's rights, Roe v. Wade, the born-again phenomenon and other seismic societal changes when you can interview David Cassidy, Cheryl Tiegs and the members of the Village People?

Nick at Nite tackles a more recent era with "Revenge of the '80s." From Sunday night through Friday, the nostalgia network offers a steady diet of laughs from the PacMan decade. They devote each night to a different "classic." Sunday brings "Diff'rent Strokes"; Monday, "Silver Spoons"; Tuesday, "The Facts of Life"; Wednesday, "Alf"; Thursday, "227"; and Friday, "Square Pegs."

Saturday's highlights

l Game five of the XFL Football season (7 p.m., NBC). Maybe this week, nobody will watch.

l Robin Williams and Nathan Lane star in the 1996 comedy "The Birdcage" (7 p.m., ABC), directed by Mike Nichols.

l Questioning the wisdom of a prescription drug on "Kate Brasher" (8 p.m., CBS).

l Mega-shopping complexes are explored on "It's A Mall World" (9 p.m., TLC).

l Jennifer Lopez hosts a repeat of "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC).

Sunday's other highlights

l Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): an interview with Andrew Weil; Italian men and apron strings.

l Michael Sanders travels to the troubled Mideast to unearth "Biblical Mysteries: Ark of the Covenant" (6 p.m., NBC).

l Tom Bergeron hosts "America's Funniest Home Videos" (6 p.m., ABC).

l Scheduled on "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): young people and guns.

l Our reaction to cute critters may be genetic. Find out on "Baby Tales" on "Nature" (7 p.m., PBS).

l Harry Shearer narrates "It's Burlesque" (7 p.m., A&E;), a look at a lowbrow art form.

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