Bionic men on PBS Ted Turner on NBC


As I write this, it's still not clear whether the American League or National League will occupy prime time tonight -- but by the time you read this, you'll know. If the Toronto Blue Jays clinched the pennant last night, then the NL's Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves will play their sixth game in prime time. But if the Chicago White Sox won last night, the seventh game of the Toronto-Chicago series will be played tonight, pushing the Phillies-Braves game to a daytime start at 3 p.m. on CBS. Either way, baseball will occupy prime time beginning at 8 p.m., leaving the following as the best available alternatives for non-baseball fans. But with the nail-biting play of the Phillies, how can you not be a fan?

* "Scientific American Frontiers" (8-9 p.m., WMPT, channels 22 and 67) -- Alan Alda is the host as this series starts its fourth season, and he's an active host, too, occasionally going out into the field to watch and do things. The opener is "Superhumans and Bionics," but Lee Majors is not called upon as a guest star. PBS.

* "Now" (9-10 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- Last week, "Now" was scheduled to present an interview with Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, but the segment was postponed until tonight. That was then; this is "Now." Too bad. Last week, Mr. Turner could have crowed about such triumphs as CNN's coverage in Moscow and his Atlanta Braves winning their division on the last day of the season. But if tonight's interview is up to date, he's looking at his Braves possibly being eliminated by the Phillies -- and, if the National League occupies prime time, Mr. Turner will be competing with himself, seen on tape on NBC and live in the stands on CBS. If that's the case, which one should you watch? Well, which one would he? NBC.

* "Law & Order" (10-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- James Earl Jones guest stars on tonight's show, which is about the efforts to stop and prosecute a serial killer. NBC.

* "In the Spotlight: Billy Joel: Shades of Grey" (10-11 p.m., WETA, Channel 26) -- The self-labeled "Piano Man" is seen in a variety of venues on this brand-new "In the Spotlight" special: lecturing at a songwriting course, playing in concert, recording his new album, being interviewed at home, all in a one-hour show that gets down to the basics. Namely, Mr. Joel's particular process of songwriting and his analysis of some of his early and recent work. "Take the melody by itself," he says of his "We Didn't Start the Fire" anthem, "and it's like a dentist's drill." To demonstrate, he plays it one-fingered, rolling his eyes all the while. PBS.


* "Tales From the Crypt" (10-10:30 p.m., HBO) -- Bill Paxton stars in this new episode, which has a wonderful title: "People Who Live in Brass Hearses." A hearse is a hearse, of curse, of curse ...

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