The playfulness of 'Northern Exposure'

TODAY'S TV

September 27, 1993

CBS has most of the action tonight, with most of its sitcoms offering good guest stars, and with "Northern Exposure" presenting a particularly playful episode.

* "Day One" (8-9 p.m., WJZ) -- This newsmagazine hits the books, or at least a best-selling author, in search of more viewers: John Hockenberry is scheduled to profile Anne Rice, author of "Interview With the Vampire." ABC.

* "Evening Shade" (8-8:30 p.m., WBAL) -- Is it accident or design that has Burt Reynolds adopting a relatively low profile in this series' episodes thus far? This week, there's a cameo appearance by Carol Burnett, who, when asked to perform her Tarzan yell, lets out a yell of a different kind. CBS.

* "Communion" (8-10 p.m., Fox) -- Tonight's movie is a 1989 flick about an allegedly actual encounter with beings from outer space. How many promos do you think Fox will throw in for "The X-Files," its Friday-night series that, so far, is based on precisely the same premise? Fox.

* "Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story" (9-11 p.m., WMAR) -- This docudrama is too preachy and one-sided, but Melissa Gilbert has one really strong scene with Ellen Burstyn (who plays her therapist), and there are small but strong performances by Patricia Kalember, Shirley Douglas, Kate Nelligan and Kenneth Welsh. NBC.

* "Murphy Brown" (9-9:30 p.m., WBAL) -- Tonight's guest: Martin Sheen, playing a former radical who shows up on TV with a new conservative slant. What a Rush. CBS.

* "The Secret of Life" (9-11 p.m., MPT) -- The highlight of tonight's two hours of this science series is a close-up look at the development and scientific study of maggots. That, I think, gives you all the information you need when choosing among tonight's viewing options.

* "Love & War" (9:30-10 p.m., WBAL) -- If you gave up on this series last season, give it another chance. Annie Potts, replacing Susan Dey as the female lead, has given this series the biggest boost since Joan Collins showed up after the first season of "Dynasty." CBS.

* "Northern Exposure" (10-11 p.m., WBAL) -- Borrowing a page or two from Woody Allen's new movie, this week's "Northern Exposure" has Maggie (Janine Turner) suspecting some neighbors -- or, in this case, some neighboring shopkeepers -- of foul play. Meanwhile, as she investigates them, Joel (Rob Morrow) investigates the American Indian language, looking to corroborate a theory of his own. CBS.

Cable

* "Mystery Science Theater 3000 Marathon" (8 p.m.-2 a.m., COM) -- There's a three-pack of MST3K episodes on tap tonight, revolving around the following really bad movies:

"Crash of the Moons," "City Limits" and "Earth vs. the Spider." (Hint about that last film: When placing bets on these sci-fi title bouts, never bet heavily on the creature challenger. Stick with the world champion.)

David Bianculli is the author of "Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously."

5/8

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