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Two networks offer cultural salutes


Tonight's TV programming sets up a conflict of interest for viewers interested in the cultural arts: Broadcast at the same time, on different networks, are a 90-minute tribute to Leonard Bernstein and this year's two-hour "Kennedy Center Honors." Having seen both on preview tapes, I'd hate to have to make that choice -- but I'd love to have to make it more often, rather than just during "dead week" in December, one of the few times the networks don't care much about ratings.

* "The Nanny" (8-8:30 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- TV time-slot XTC shifts, like blips on the stock market, can be an early indication of a coming change of fortune. Tonight, for example, "Hearts Afire" and "The Nanny" switch places on CBS, giving the leadoff spot -- and therefore the bigger show of network confidence -- to Fran Drescher than to John Ritter and Markie Post. CBS.

* "Sesame Street Stays Up Late!" (8-9 p.m., WMPT, channels 22 and 67) -- This is an international co-production with many different countries, most of whom contribute characters from their local versions of "Sesame Street." The differences, as well as the similarities, are fun to watch in this (early) New Year's Eve holiday special. PBS.

* "Hearts Afire" (8:30-9 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Hearts may be afire, but CBS appears to be cooling on this show, which has fared little better in its revamped version than it had since returning for a second, tamer season. CBS.

* "16th Annual Kennedy Center Honors" (9-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- VCR Alert: There's enough talent on display in this two-hour special to enjoy watching several times over, so tape this if you can. There are wonderful highlights in each of the segments saluting this year's honorees -- Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Mitchell, Marion Williams, Johnny Carson and Sir Georg Solti -- including, but not at all limited to, Angela Lansbury singing "Send in the Clowns," David Letterman saluting Carson, and Aretha Franklin, Little Richard and Billy Preston teaming up to salute gospel great Williams. CBS.

* "Great Performances: 'Leonard Bernstein: The Gift of Music' " (9-10:30 p.m., WMPT, channels 22 and 67) -- From a vintage TV perspective, this new documentary salute is worth watching just to catch generous samples from Bernstein's "Young People's Concert" and "Omnibus" specials. PBS.

* "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (10-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- Part 2 of 2. Last week's Part 1 had only a scene or two missing from the original pilot, so expect tonight's conclusion to have many more such scenes. Or expect me to complain, in the near future, that ABC has falsely advertised the contents of this particular repackaged program. ABC.

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