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Archive for Tuesday, July 23, 2002

From the mob to Little League

July 23, 2002

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F. Scott Fitzgerald once quipped that there are no second acts in American lives. His adage seems doubly true for those engaged in a life of organized crime. Wise guys generally end up in jail or fitted for cement shoes. But Michael Franzese is trying to buck the trend. Profiled on tonight's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" (9 p.m., HBO), Franzese is a reformed mobster who has become a Little League coach in southern California and lectures young athletes about the perils of gambling.

Sports betting was once Franzese's line of work. In the 1970s and 1980s he earned a lot of money for New York's Colombo crime family running a gambling racket. He freely admits to having fixed more than one boxing match. After several prison terms for racketeering, tax conspiracy and parole violations, Franzese now claims he has reformed. He entered, and has since left, the Federal Witness Protection program, and even wrote a book "Quitting the Mob: How the Yuppie Don Left the Mafia and Lived to Tell His Story" (HarperCollins, 1992).

"Real Sports" also includes segments on sports hazing and a profile of Ernie Harwell, who has broadcast Detroit Tigers games for the past 43 summers. Harwell, 84, will retire at the end of this season.

"Biography" (7 p.m., A&E) profiles the short life of comedian Chris Farley, who died of a drug overdose in 1997 at age 33. Raised in a devout Catholic household in Madison, Wis., Farley attended church every week until the end of his life. The profile features interviews with Farley's brothers and sisters, as well as Al Franken, Rob Schneider and Tom Arnold. Farley can also be seen in his 1994 comedy "Tommy Boy" (7 p.m., USA), co-starring David Spade.

Classic cartoons return: "The Ren & Stimpy Show" will rise again. John Kricfalusi, the creator of the cracked early 1990s cartoon about an asthmatic Chihuahua and his kitty sidekick will create all new episodes, scheduled to air on TNN in the spring of 2003. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

This December, NBC will celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol." This 1962 musical was the first ever made-for-primetime animated special and is credited for starting the popular genre. Featuring songs by Broadway composers Jule Stein and Bob Merrill, "Carol" stars the voices of Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy and June Foray ("The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle"). Break out the razzleberry dressing.

Tonight's other highlights

Dean and Jess bid for Rory's charity picnic basket on a repeat "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).

"The Great Outdoor Games" (7 p.m., ESPN2) continue.

The eight contenders sing to survive on "American Idol: The Search for a Superstar" (8 p.m., Fox).

Contestants contend with bugs, snakes and other creepy things on "The Mole II: The Next Betrayal" (8 p.m., ABC).

The documentary "Fenceline: A Company Town Divided" on "P.O.V." (8 p.m., PBS) looks at the affects of a petrochemical plant on a small Mississippi town.

Scheduled on "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC): defective air bags may have caused blindness.

A pro football hopeful requires microsurgery on the sixth and final episode of "Houston Medical" (9 p.m., ABC).

Series notes

"Spy" is new ... Harm's jet sustains serious damage on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Ali Landry hosts back-to-back episodes of "Spy TV" (7 p.m., NBC) ... Stormy weather inspires a 'Wizard of Oz' parody on "That '70s Show" (7 p.m., Fox) ... On back-to-back episodes of "According to Jim" (ABC), Cheryl spoils Jim (7 p.m.), Cheryl develops a crush on Dana's new beau (7:30 p.m.) ... Buffy and Spike confront their new situation on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., UPN).

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