'MANTIS' is a pleasant sci-fi surprise


Telemovies abound on tonight's schedule, with subjects ranging from an alcoholic wife to a widower, with a paraplegic super hero known as MANTIS thrown in for good measure. Guess what? "MANTIS" is the best of the bunch. Overall, though, the best bets are from Lincoln Center and Cicely, Alaska.

* "The Nanny" (8-8:30 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Lesley-Anne Down guest stars, and her British accent, up against Fran Drescher's non-British accent, ought to make for some good laughs right there. CBS.

* "MANTIS" (8-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- Carl Lumbly, the "Cagney & Lacey" alumnus who was so powerful as Bobby Seale in the 1987 HBO telemovie "Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8," stars as a crippled scientist who, with help from a strength-augmenting suit and an array of neat cars and gadgets, fights crime as a costumed hero known as MANTIS. Yes, it sounds dumb, but it's got some interesting subtext and a lot more style than expected, thanks to director Eric Laneuville (who filmed the "I'll Fly Away" pilot) and co-creators Sam Hamm and Ram Raimi, of "Evil Dead" and "Darkman" fame. Fox.

* "To My Daughter With Love" (9-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- Rick Schroder, who has trouble finding a role as challenging and rewarding as that of Newt on "Lonesome Dove" and its sequel, continues to have trouble. He stars here as a widower in a movie directed by Kevin Hooks -- who, like Mr. Laneuville, was a young black actor who got his initial chance to direct while starring in a Bruce Paltrow TV series. Mr. Laneuville got his shot on "St. Elsewhere"; Mr. Hooks got his on Mr. Paltrow's previous series, "The White Shadow." NBC.

* "My Name Is Kate" (9-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- And the star's name is Donna Mills, who plays a recovering alcoholic in a telemovie that co-stars Daniel J. Travanti -- who played a recovering alcoholic in "Hill Street Blues." Also co-starring: Nia Peeples, who starred with Rick Schroder in "Return to Lonesome Dove." Small TV world. ABC.

* "Live From Lincoln Center: Pavarotti Plus!" (8-10:30 p.m., WMPT, channels 22/67) -- The tenor's annual concert spotlighting new talent -- and, this year, French and Italian performance pieces. PBS.

* "Northern Exposure" (10-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- This must be Cicely, not Eden, because Adam (Adam Arkin) is here without Eve. I guess Valerie Mahaffey, who portrays Eve on this series, wasn't Abel to make it. CBS.


* "Love on the Run" (9-11 p.m., LIF) -- This 1985 telemovie features Alec Baldwin, pre-stardom, with Stefanie Zimbalist, in a plot that has them both trying on many guises and moods.

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