A week or two ago on "60 Minutes," Andy Rooney did his entire closing segment on the loose stuff in his office drawer -- paper clips, rubber bands, things like that. It looked and 'N sounded more like a parody of an Andy Rooney report than an actual "60 Minutes" piece, and I wondered why he would take up that much time on something so obviously tossed off without much effort. Then it hit me: There are times when there is absolutely nothing going on, and when the ideas simply don't flow. Which leads me to tonight's dishwater-dull TV lineup, and why today's column lead is so unusually long and rambling . . .
* "TV Guide's 40th Anniversary Special" (8-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- This show wasn't available for preview, but even though I'm a big fan of historical TV specials, this one has a suspicious aura to it. "TV Guide" is owned by Fox, this special is presented on the Fox network, and the most prominent co-host is Heather Locklear, star of the current Fox hit "Melrose Place." Pretty Foxy programming idea, no? Fox.
* "Northern Exposure" (10-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- This is a repeat from last season, a show that gave Jo Anderson a second role, and an opportunity to visit Cicely, Alaska. (When last she guest starred, it was in an extended flashback season finale, as one of the lesbian pioneers who founded Cicely.) It's also the episode where Marilyn (Elaine Miles) takes off for a vacation in Seattle and takes in the sights in a laid-back way that ought to be embraced, and circulated, by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. CBS.
B6 * "Mr. Bean" (7:30-8 p.m., HBO) -- Here's the best
bet of the night: A new episode of "Mr. Bean," that mostly silent funnyman played by the talented, rubber-faced Rowan Atkinson. Actually, goofy-faced is more like it; Mr. Atkinson is actually hTC rather handsome, but with the wrong haircut and the right expressions, he looks like -- well, exactly like Mr. Bean. Watch these with your entire family, and I guarantee everyone, no matter what age, will laugh loudly and often.
* "Dream On" (10-11 p.m., HBO) -- And if you missed Saturday's "Dream On" Christmas special, here's a chance to catch it again. Like "Mr. Bean," it's strongly recommended -- but "Dream On" is NOT recommended for children.