Sweeps opens with a top-notch night


April 28, 1994|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,Special to The Sun

Can you tell this is the first night of the competitive, all-important May sweeps? Original episodes of "The Simpsons" and "Seinfeld" would make any Thursday night a good one for TV -- but the very best thing on television tonight is the opening installment of "Prime Suspect 3" on the PBS series "Mystery!" Once again, Helen Mirren's detective heroine would appear to have a lock on best miniseries of the season.

* "The Simpsons" (8-9 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- Tonight "The Simpsons" marks its 100th episode by showing a pair of episodes. First comes a new one, Episode No. 100, in which Bart instigates the firing of Principal Skinner. Then comes a repeat of Episode No. 1 (not counting the Christmas special preceding the launch of the series, or the interstitial segments on "The Tracey Ullman Show"). The drawing style of the characters has shaped up a bit over the years, but what's most obvious, comparing the old to the new, is the consistency of comic quality. It remains, no contest, the funniest sitcom on television -- "Seinfeld" and other wonderful challengers notwithstanding. Fox.

* "Seinfeld" (9-10 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- Speaking of "Seinfeld," here's a wild one-hour installment involving the parents of both Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) and George (Jason Alexander), with Judge Reinhold as the newest boyfriend of Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and with Kramer (Michael Richards) plotting a moneymaking scheme involving old raincoats. The wildest element of all? "Seinfeld" has the gall, and the guts, to make a few jokes about, or at least relating to, "Schindler's List." NBC.

* "Mystery!: 'Prime Suspect 3' " (9-10 p.m., WMPT, channels 22 and 67) -- First of four parts. It's only after you finish watching each episode of "Prime Suspect 3" that it sinks in how superbly Ms. Mirren is playing, for the third time, her role as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison. That's because during the episode, you're too caught up in her character, and the plot, to think of it as acting. From top to bottom, the actors in "Prime Suspect 3" portray credible, complex and often surprising characters -- a credit to both the script by associate producer Lynda La Plante (creator of the series) and the talent of Peter Capaldi, Tom Bell, Ciaran Hinds and other of Ms. Mirren's co-stars. The story line involves a murder linked to a pedophile ring, but it's not presented for shock value. The most shocking thing about "Prime Suspect 3" is how terrific it is, and how often it defies second-guessing. Don't miss it. PBS.

* "L. A. Law" (10-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- As "L. A. Law" begins to wind down, its guest roster begins to heat up. Tonight's guest stars include Shelley Duvall (a long-time favorite) and Armin Shimmerman, who's usually obscured by makeup as Quark on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." NBC.

* "PrimeTime Live" (10-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- Worth noting: Diane Sawyer interviews Boris Yeltsin on tonight's program. ABC.

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