The fall after Hurricane Andrew devastated parts of South Florida, NBC came up with the presumably clever idea of having the same hurricane "hit" its Saturday-night sitcoms, all set in Miami, so that the same event could befall the characters on "The Golden Girls," "Nurses" and "Empty Nest." Creatively, it was a washout Saturday, but ratings were high, so tonight NBC gives it another shot on another night -- with blackout Thursday.
The idea is that Jamie, on "Mad About You," causes a New York blackout that also affects the Big Apple characters of "Friends" and "Madman of the People," but not "Seinfeld." Viewers are encouraged, strongly, to stay tuned throughout -- but not by me. When "Madman" comes around, my advice is to create your own blackout, and pull the plug. As for the other electricity-obsessed NBC shows tonight, they're worth keeping an ion.
* "Mad About You" (8 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Channel 2) -- In hopes of tapping into cable illegally, Jamie (Helen Hunt) becomes a fiddler on the roof, pulls the wrong wire and causes a massive blackout. Why not? In the '70s, it was a faulty $2 relay that did the same thing. NBC.
* "Friends" (8:30 p.m.-9 p.m., Channel 2) -- The blackout hits the city in "Friends," too -- the power failure traps Chandler (Matthew Perry) in the same ATM vestibule as model Jill Goodacre. This, I suppose, is what's known as a power meeting. NBC.
* "Seinfeld" (9 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Channel 2) -- "Seinfeld" and its writer-producers declined to play along with NBC's power-failure gimmick tonight. More power to them. Instead, we get the usual unusual plots, including some obsessive reactions to Kramer's new 3-D poster. Michael Richards plays Kramer. NBC.
* "Chicago Hope" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., Channel 11) -- When Margaret Colin made her first appearance on this series, as a visiting doctor in the pilot, she may not have expected to appear so many subsequent times in a recurring role. Tonight she may be surprised again: In tonight's show, her character goes through more change than many regular series characters get to experience in a season. CBS.
* "Madman of the People" (9:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Channel 2) -- Cynthia Gobb's Meg, gets trapped in an elevator -- while Dabney Coleman, as the Madman, gets tossed in jail. Talk about a dark day. NBC.
* "ER" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., Channel 2) -- The lights are on in the "ER," which is reason enough to watch. Another reason, among the many other fast-moving subplots: Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) deals with a spinal tap, and I'm not referring to the mock music group. This is the show's first original episode since landing the Newsweek cover. NBC.