Oscars on ABC, otherwise mostly junk

Will tonight be the night in which Oscar meets Oskar? "Schindler's List," the Steven Spielberg-directed film about Oskar Schindler, is one of the major movies up for an Academy Award tonight. One good omen for Spielberg fans: He's one of the guests tonight on "The Barbara Walters Special," and a pre-Oscar chat with Ms. Walters worked well enough for Clint Eastwood last year, when he won for "Unforgiven." Given that 1-2 punch on ABC, there's no other place to be tonight -- and the rival networks seem to concede as much.

* "The Barbara Walters Special" (8-9 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- This time around, Ms. Walters' guests are Mr. Spielberg, Elton John and Meg Ryan. With Mr. Spielberg, we get snippets from his childhood home movies -- the ones he directed, showing his drive and talent even then -- and a revealing conversation about his own adolescent encounters with anti-Semitism. With Elton John, we get a surprisingly frank conversation about his assessment of Michael Jackson's problems (and an admission that, when the world was looking for Michael Jackson in England, he was holed up in Mr. John's house undetected). With Meg Ryan, we get -- well, not much, really. ABC.


* "Model by Day" (8-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- This Fox telemovie, which incessantly and shamelessly plugs other Rupert Murdoch enterprises (like New York's Fox 5 News and the New York Post), stars Famke Janssen as a fashion model by day who becomes a masked, leather-clad avenger by night. Supporting roles by Sean Young and Shannon Tweed add to the camp factor, but this telemovie, which has been sitting on the network's shelf since last October, isn't nearly so stylish as it presumes to be. It's understandable why it's being tossed away as a sacrificial lamb opposite the Oscars. This isn't exactly the type of thing for people who care about movies. Fox.

* "Bird on a Wire" (8:30-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- Oscars or this Mel Gibson-Goldie Hawn flop? Tough choice. NBC.


* "The 66th Annual Academy Awards" (9 p.m.-conclusion, WJZ, Channel 13) -- How will Whoopi fare as host of this year's show? Will Mr. Spielberg finally get an Oscar? Will Paul Newman be as effortlessly charming accepting a Humanitarian Award as he was on opening night of "Late Show With David Letterman"? Those are three reasons to watch this year's show. Three others: musical performances by Janet Jackson, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. ABC.

* "Sudden Impact" (9-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Even Clint Eastwood won't have much impact against the Oscars this year -- although people who can't get worked up about "The Piano" might be more than happy to watch an old "Dirty Harry" film instead. If that's the case, go ahead. Make your night. CBS repeat.


* "A Killing in a Small Town" (9-11 p.m., Lifetime) -- This 1990 telemovie, starring Barbara Hershey and Brian Dennehy, is brilliant. Scheduling it opposite the Oscars, however, is moronic.