This Titanic tale is just the tip of the iceberg

Today's TV

December 10, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach At a glance

Titanic mania is sure to reign supreme over the next few weeks, as director James Cameron's trillion-dollar motion picture gets set to open Dec. 19. Tonight, the Discovery Channel kicks things off with a look at the sunken wreck and some of the lives it left behind.

"Titanic: Untold Stories" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., repeats midnight-1 a.m.) aims to tell stories of some of the ship's passengers -- both victims and survivors -- and enhance them by showing places on the ship where they lived, worked and died; a view of what was once the mailroom, for instance, is accompanied by tales of the workers who struggled heroically to save the mail -- and for their troubles were among the first to drown.

It's a good idea, but "Untold Stories" suffers from spending too much time looking at the wreck and not enough telling the passengers' stories; for instance, a remarkable and recently discovered account from a survivor, Masabumi Hosono, is quoted only once. Plus, the program errs by re-enacting events using actors and barely audible dialogue; the result is far more distracting than enlightening (re-enactments really ought to be barred from historical documentaries).

Still, it's impossible not to be moved as the Titanic sinks inexorably to the ocean floor, and by the realization that it took more than a thousand lives down with it. "Spin City" (8 p.m.-8: 30 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- Alyssa Milano drops in to play the mayor's daughter, who develops a tendency for taking it off in public. ABC.

"Murphy Brown" (8: 30 p.m.-9 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- While attending Corky's charity auction, Murphy ends up in a bidding war with Olivia Newton-John for the chance to conduct a symphony orchestra. CBS.

"Party of Five" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- An episode called "S'Wunnerful Life" finds a holiday reunion strained by doubts and setbacks that people aren't eager to talk about. Annie (Paige Turco), for example, confides in Bailey (Scott Wolf) that she has lost her job. Fox.

"Law & Order" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- After hearing a murder confession left on the wrong answering machine, Briscoe and Curtis reopen an old murder case that claimed the life of a child. Evidence points to the victim's stepbrother, an unstable teen sheltered by his grandfather (Robert Vaughn). NBC.

Cable

"Hey Arnold!" (8 p.m.-8: 30 p.m., Nickelodeon) -- As a Secret Santa, young Arnold tries to reunite a lonely boarder with his long-lost daughter.

"Christmas Time With Eddy Arnold" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., TNN) -- LeAnn Rimes and Faith Hill join the country crooner for an hour of seasonal songs. The tunes include "Christmas Can't Be Far Away" (Arnold), "Silver Bells" (Rimes) and "Winter Wonderland" (Hill). The trio teams up on "Jingle Bells" and "O! Come All Ye Faithful."

"A Gift of Song" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., TNT) -- A live concert in New York will benefit the U.S. Committee for UNICEF, with performers donating royalties from one of their songs to the child-advocacy organization in perpetuity. Among those scheduled to take part are Bryan Adams, Mariah Carey, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Celine Dion, Aaron Neville and Rod Stewart.

"Ms. Scrooge" (9 p.m.-11 p.m., USA) -- A new made-for-cable version of Dickens' classic Christmas story stars Cicely Tyson as the present-day Ebenita Scrooge. With Katherine Helmond and Michael Beach.

"The Daily Show Year-End Spectacular" (11 p.m.-midnight, Comedy Central) -- Craig Kilborn and his correspondents (A. Whitney Brown, Lizz Winstead, Brian Unger) have the distinction of presenting the first retrospective of 1997. Included are comedic clips from the past 12 months.

Pub Date: 12/10/97

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