On The Weekend Watch:
THE MAN'S BACK -- Well-liked James Garner ("Rockford," "Maverick") returned to series TV this fall as -- what else? -- a slick-talking con man who ends up a city councilman. But NBC placed his semi-engaging "Man of the People" on Sunday nights, opposite CBS' heavy hitter "Murder, She Wrote," and it was a ratings bust. After a brief hiatus, the show is returning Friday with a one-hour special airing, "Mr. Doyle Goes to Vegas." If he can't make the old formula work there, it won't work anywhere.
REMEMBERING PEARL -- Television's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor goes on and on. (See Michael Hill's accompanying reviews of ABC and CBS documentaries.) Local independent station Channel 54 has a double-feature "Heroes of the Pacific" lineup Saturday night, including a two-hour documentary "Medal of Honor" at 8 p.m. and the 1943 war movie "Guadalcanal Diary" at 10 p.m. The longest single block of programming is on cable's history-inclined Arts & Entertainment network Saturday. Its 4 1/2 -hour study begins at 5:30 p.m. with "Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor" and concludes with the splendid 1954 documentary "Victory at Sea." Don't forget that NBC wraps up the miniseries "Pearl," with the final two parts at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Channel 2). And in a related movie screening, cable's The Disney Channel on Saturday (10 p.m.) is screening "Tora! Tora! Tora!" from 1970.
SINGING FOR DOLLARS -- If a finely pitched tenor's voice can actually break glass, can it also beak down resistance to public TV fund drives? That's the question posed by Friday's airing of "Pavarotti in the Park," at 9 p.m. on Maryland Public Television, currently in the middle of a winter pledge pitch. The show celebrates the singer's 30th year in fine voice, and was taped in July at London's Hyde Park.
TRIVIA TIME 1 -- What famous movie, radio and TV star was "discovered" in a battlefield trench in World War I France? It's the brainy German shepherd Rin Tin Tin, a stray who was found by trainer Lee Duncan and returned stateside, where he became the most durable animal character in show business (supplanted over the years by a succession of direct descendants). "Rin Tin Tin and the Paris Conspiracy" is a new film at 7 p.m. Friday on basic cable's Family Channel.
TRIVIA TIME 2 -- Everybody remembers the first name of the young girl who, in 1897, wrote a famous letter to New York Sun editor Frank P. Church. But what was the full name of the girl who wanted to know, "Is there a Santa Claus?" The new ABC movie "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" (at 9 p.m. Sunday on Channel 13) will tell you. (And so will Media Monitor: She was Virginia O'Hanlan, and she was 8 at the time.)