It's double the mice, double the men

TODAY'S TV

January 12, 1994|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,Contributing Writer

If you're interested in movies of mice and men -- or, to state it another way, if you're interested in movies "Of Mice and Men" -- the Showtime cable network has the evening's most intriguing offering. It's presenting back-to-back prime-time presentations of two film versions, made more than 50 years apart, of the classic John Steinbeck story.

* "The Nanny" (8-8:30 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- If you've watched Cloris Leachman in any of Mel Brooks' productions, from "Young Frankenstein" to her Teutonic Ms. Frick on TV's short-lived "The Nutt House," you know what kind of nanny she can play -- and, on tonight's episode of "The Nanny," she does. Fran Drescher stars. CBS.

* "National Geographic Special: 'Island of the Giant Bears' " (8-9 p.m., WMPT, Channels 22 and 67, WETA, Channel 26) -- This latest "Geographic" special is a very bearable way to spend an hour -- especially when you get to see giant Kodiak bears fishing for salmon or sitting by the water's edge enjoying a whale of a meal, with real whale. But this special isn't all about mastication and hibernation: It's also about the history of people on the island, including a bloody battle when the Russians attacked. Once again, it's history and nature intertwined, served up in a very attractive and watchable package. PBS.

* "In the Heat of the Night" (9-10 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Elizabeth Ashley guest-stars tonight, inheriting a "Heat" role last played by Diane Ladd. CBS.

* "American Playhouse: 'Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City' " (9-11 p.m., WETA, Channel 26, 10-midnight, WMPT, channels 22 and 67) -- The disco mini-series concludes. PBS.

Cable

* "Of Mice and Men" (8-9:50 p.m., SHO) -- If you're planning to watch the upcoming ABC mini-series version of "Stephen King's 'The Stand,' " you ought to watch this 1992 movie also -- not because the writing styles of King and John Steinbeck are at all comparable, but because the star of "The Stand" is Gary Sinise, who also stars in, and directs, this gripping and tender version of Steinbeck's story. It's a great look at the scope of Sinise's gifts, and also showcases his old Steppenwolf Theatre colleague, John Malkovich, who plays the retarded Lenny to Sinise's loyal George. Malkovich and Sinise are outstanding -- as are, in supporting roles, Ray Walston and Sherilyn Fenn.

* "Of Mice and Men" (10-11:50 p.m., SHO) -- After watching the new cinematic "Of Mice and Men," Showtime rolls out the old one -- made in 1939, with Lon Chaney Jr. as Lenny and Burgess Meredith as George. Seeing the two films together is like attending a session in "Movie Literature 101" -- an at-home class that, on this particular night, is highly recommended.

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