Taking a TV look back at 1991


Although the Christmas specials just keep on coming (including some new ones, such as tonight's "The Wish That Changed Christmas" at 8:30 on Channel 11), the inevitable end-of-year review shows are also beginning to appear.

A pair of cable considerations get a jump on the New Year tonight.

* At 10 p.m. on Arts & Entertainment, for example, the excellent weekly "Revue" series is a combined Christmas/year-end special.

Robert Klein hosts, and singer Patti LaBelle is a guest, who sings from her album of Christmas songs. Other guests include actress Judith Ivey (who reads from Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory") and James Toback, screenwriter for the film "Bugsy."

And the 1991 cultural scene is scanned in a discussion by Klein, National Public Radio's John Hockenberry and Vanity Fair critic Steven Schiff.

* At 8 p.m., the MTV channel offers "The Year in Rock: 1991," an hour-long assessment of trends, events and breakthrough artists.

Will we see Madonna? Hey, this is MTV. A mini-profile covers her film "Truth or Dare" and looks ahead to her role in the coming baseball movie, "A League of Their Own."

Like the daily fare on the network, the show is a quick-cut superficial survey. But it covers some widespread territory, from the Persian Gulf war to the excellent year enjoyed by black filmmakers.


THE CABLE CONNECTION -- In another year-end review, the National Cable Television Association, the cable industry's trade organization, has issued some interesting numbers.

For example, it says the number of homes in the U.S. now hooked up to cable service is estimated by the A.C. Nielsen Company at about 55.8 million, or a little more than 60 percent of all homes. That is up about 1.6 percent over the previous year.

And for the first time, ratings for basic cable service have exceeded one of the big three broadcast networks in prime time.

Specifically, for the first six weeks of the fall season, the total viewers watching cable service were third in number behind CBS and NBC, but slightly ahead of ABC. CBS scored a 14.7 rating, NBC a 12.5, cable a 12.2 and ABC a 12.0. (One rating point equals 921,000 homes.)


A RADIO READING -- A second four-hour edition of "Mrs. Bush's Story Time," in which the first lady and a variety of celebrity guests read holiday tales, is scheduled to air at 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday on WBAL-AM 1090.

A similar holiday special on Thanksgiving Day marked the debut of the read-aloud series, and half-hour editions can also be heard on WBAL at 9:30 a.m. Sundays.

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