Comedy Central offers dusty laughs

And you thought cable networks such as Nick at Nite and TBS, or local independent stations, screen a lot of reruns. Check out some of the moldy oldie titles on the daily lineup of Comedy Central, the laugh-around-the-clock network that joined Baltimore City's United Artists Cable system today (on Channel 50).

Among sitcoms past, you can catch "Love American Style," "The Lucy Show," "That Girl," "Rhoda," "Sergeant Bilko," "C.P.O. Sharkey" or "McHale's Navy" every weekday. On weekends you can even find things more obscure, including Mel Brooks' briefly aired Robin Hood bomb, "When Things Were Rotten" (at 7:30 a.m. Saturdays) and the silent-movie clip series "Fractured Flickers" (8:30 a.m. Sundays).


Even better are some of the truly classic comedy/variety shows of TV's history, including "The Steve Allen Show" (from 1956-60, at 1 p.m. weekdays and 11:30 p.m. Sundays), "The Jack Benny Show" (from 1950-65, at 1:30 p.m. weekdays) and "The Ernie Kovacs Show" (from the 1950s and '60s, at noon and 11 p.m. Sundays).

In fact, the rich vein of old shows makes it "a little frustrating to try and get people excited about our new productions," says network spokesman Tony Fox.


But Comedy Central offers about a dozen original shows, ranging from the thoughtful "Alan King: Inside the Comedy Mind" conversation show (8 p.m. Saturdays) to a nightly hour-long collection of stand-up and other comedy bits called appropriately, "Short Attention Span Theater" (at 6 p.m. weekdays).

Perhaps the biggest hit of the original shows, says Fox, is a quirky vehicle called "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (at 10 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and also 7 p.m. Saturdays). It is said to include 750 jokes per show.

The format has a live host (Joel Hodgson) and two robot/puppet companions, who in each show screen a marginal movie of the past, cracking wise throughout. The viewer sees the movie, such as the recently screened "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and also hears all the off-screen banter.

Comedy Central, which resulted from the merger of the rival comedy networks HA! and The Comedy Channel, arrived earlier this fall on United Artists cable systems in Annapolis and Salisbury and can also be viewed in Frederick.

However, Comcast Cablevision in Baltimore and Harford counties, and Storer Cable in Howard County, do not carry the service.


TALKING TO GOVERNMENT -- Delayed coverage of tonight's public forum in Annapolis on Maryland's fiscal crisis is scheduled to be seen at 10 o'clock tonight on Maryland Public Television. The hearing, a joint session of the House of Delegates and state Senate, is the first of five public forums around the state seeking citizen comment on budget problems in advance of the 1992 legislative session.