Idiot Box: Be Afraid. Or Change the Channel.

Idiot Box: Be Afraid. Or Change the Channel.

Idiot Box: Be Afraid. Or Change the Channel.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
Feb. 12 1999 9:51 AM

Idiot Box: Be Afraid. Or Change the Channel.

Week Two of sweeps features not only a Stephen King mini-series but also a spate of serial killers, assassins, aliens, and even a baby-snatching social worker. If that's not scary enough, be warned: The eerily cheerful Tara Lipinksi appears on CBS twice, including her own TV special (Wednesday, 8 p.m.).

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Take shelter from the storm with Jimi Hendrix (if you can forgive the mixed musical allusion) in a new Bravo documentary, Searching for Jimi Hendrix (Friday, Feb. 12., 8:00 p.m.). Co-directed by D.A. Pennebaker, who also made Monterey Pop, the film looks at people such as Cassandra Wilson and Laurie Anderson as they record the master's music. "It's taking us hours to do what he did in six minutes," complains singer Taylor Dayne--another reminder of just how innovative Hendrix really was. To learn more about the guitar legend, start with this bio page, Celebsite: Jimi Hendrix.

February is also Black History Month, with more shows on black artists and themes. On Saturday (8 p.m.), HBO airs Steven Spielberg's uneven slave-revolt drama, Amistad, with strong performances by Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, and newcomer Djimon Hounsou as the noble Cinque, who recently guest-starred on ER as a noble Nigerian torture victim who becomes . . . a janitor. Black History Month or not, stereotyping still lives.

This weekend, you can relive the hunt for two '70s monsters: a killer shark (Jaws, TNT, Saturday, midnight) and Richard Nixon (All the President's Men, The History Channel, Friday, 9 p.m.). Here's a chance to remember what real high crimes and misdemeanors are all about.

There are plenty of pleasingly creepy moments in ABC's $35 million blockbuster, The Storm of The Century, the first Stephen King horror movie written directly for TV (Sunday, Monday, Thursday, 9 p.m.) The small, isolated town of Little Tall Island finds itself under siege from both a brutal winter storm and a sinister visitor, a placid-faced killer with supernatural powers, Andre Linoge. With six hours of screen time to fill, the townsfolk take quite a long time to realize that Linoge is the force behind a series of mysterious killings and suicides. (Don't they read Stephen King novels up there?) All the while, the demonic Linoge character, ably played by Colm Feore, keeps insisting: "If you give me what I want, I'll go away." While we wait and wait for him to tell us what he wants, the movie employs stalling devices such as the search in a darkened house for the elusive bogeyman. "Hell is repetition," Linoge tells people at various points. Well, yes.

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CBS is counter-programming by offering refuge for women: two heart-tugging TV films in which mother have to give their children away. Good acting by Ann Bancroft in Deep in My Heart (Sunday, 9 p.m.), which traces the odyssey of the mulatto daughter of a white rape victim, but who cares?

With the hackneyed police mini-series, To Serve and Protect (Sunday and Monday, 9 p.m.), NBC is apparently seeking to bridge this gender gap in programming. The film mixes father-daughter strife and cop romance and the search for a serial killer. Craig T. Nelson (Coach) gives a confident performance, but it doesn't help this hodgepodge.

If you want to solve mysteries, turn instead to the conclusion of the X-Files two-part conspiracy series (Fox, Sunday, 9 p.m.) when the Cigarette Smoking Man finally explains (almost) all.

The week's most interesting programs may be documentaries. (Exceptions to this rule: an FX network marathon of NYPDBlue episodes, Monday, 4 p.m to 1:30 a.m., and George Clooney's last ER on NBC, Thursday at 10 p.m.) Monday is President's Day, and the History Channel takes a look at the formative traumas in Abe Lincoln's life (8 p.m.), followed by Chris Matthews' documentary on the rivalry between Kennedy and Nixon (10 p.m.).

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PBS's Nova is offering lots of bang-'em-up footage in its two-part series, ESCAPE! Because Accidents Happen, on Tuesday and Wednesday (8-10 p.m.) Using the fig leaf of studying "survival engineering" and safety pointers, PBS gives us fires, crashes, and sinking ships.

PBS returns to form with a strong Great Performances program on the late Alvin Ailey, who brought black soul to modern dance (Wednesday, 10 p.m.). The show is a weave of archival footage, interviews, and Judith Jamison's innovative new dance tribute, "Hymn," which includes the great performance artist Anna Deavere Smith.

On Wednesday, NBC sinks to new lows with Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens Among Us? (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) The show exploits the spurious device of "open-minded" questions about the Roswell UFO incident, alien abductions, and grainy UFO footage. Result: too much credence given to incidents exposed elsewhere as hoaxes and illusions. For a more skeptical view of these issues, check out these sensible articles:  What Really Happened at Roswell and Abduction by Aliens or Sleep Paralysis .

On Thursday, Fox offers The World's Most Shocking Medical Videos (9 p.m.) and The Learning Channel profiles the sickos who kill leaders in Shadow of the Assassin-- complete with fast-paced footage of famous assassinations, President Clinton's head, and repeated gun-shot sound effects. All this sure to inspire someone--probably the next Sirhan Sirhan.

--Art Levine