'Mystery!' has first-rate new series in 'Cadfael'

TODAY'S TV

January 12, 1995|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,Special to The Sun

Fresh episodes of Thursday night's best series, and the premiere of the best new "Mystery!" import since "Prime Suspect," make tonight's prime-time schedule worth talking about -- and speaking of talk, tonight's late-night shows offer some cause for discussion as well.

* "My So-Called Life" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., Channel 2) -- It must be a universal rite of high school, because TV show after TV show has mined it as part of the coming-of-age saga of teens: working on a stage production of "Our Town." It happened on "Family Ties," on "The Wonder Years," and tonight it happens on "My So-Called Life" -- amid a backstage squabble of romantic rivals that makes onstage events seem relatively serene. Claire Danes stars. ABC.

* "Living Single" (8:30 p.m.-9 p.m., Channel 45) -- Baseball player Bobby Bonilla, with lots of extra time on his hands, guest- stars as himself on "Living Single" and finds himself in the midst of yet another strike. Fox.

* "Seinfeld" (9 p.m.-9:30 p.m, Channel 11) -- Last week, we learned that Kramer's first name is Cosmo. This week, Kramer (Michael J. Richards) has another confrontation with Wayne Knight's Newman -- who, come to think of it, hasn't revealed his other name either. Could it be Alfred E.? At any rate, tonight's other notable guest star is Jon Lovitz. NBC.

* "Mystery!: Cadfael" (9 p.m.-10:30 p.m., Channels 22, 67) -- Derek Jacobi, despite some outstanding work on "The Shakespeare Plays" TV series, has never found a TV role quite so singular as his stuttering Roman fool-turned-emperor on "I, Claudius." Not until now, that is, when another journey into the remote past rewards him with the title role in "Cadfael," a series of four stories based on Ellis Peters' novels about a 12th-century monk who serves as a sort of amateur sleuth. "The Leper of St. Giles," tonight's opener, is a captivating introduction to this new detective and this old world, and Mr. Jacobi is wonderful in the role. Lepers and vespers, sword fights and romantic trysts -- this is the most visually intriguing blast from the past since Showtime's "Robin Hood" series. PBS.

* "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" (11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m., Channel 11) -- Tonight's guests include John Travolta, who's laid-back enough to allow Mr. Leno to let loose. NBC.

* "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m., Channel 13) -- The very first "Late Show" had Paul Newman standing up in the audience and asking Mr. Letterman where to find "the singing cats." Tonight, for the first time, Mr. Newman will sit down as an official "Late Show" guest. CBS.

* "Late Late Show With Tom Snyder" (12:35 a.m.-1:35 a.m., Channel 13) -- Finally, another late-night conversation worth anticipating: Mr. Snyder's interview with Kelsey Grammer. CBS.

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