Martin Short gets his second chance


The second night of the official fall TV season brings with it one of the most anticipated, and tough, head-to-head battles of the year: NBC's "Frasier" vs. ABC's "Home Improvement." Tradition usually favors the incumbent, but this time there is no incumbent: Both shows have moved from other nights to face one another. "Frasier" is a better show -- but "Home Improvement" has the edge of being TV's highest-rated series last season. Let the battle begin.

* "Baseball" (8-10 p.m., Channel 22) -- Inning 3, covering the years 1910-1920, culminates in one of major league baseball's sorriest episodes: the 1919 White Sox scandal, when gamblers bribed certain players to throw the World Series. Movie fans who loved the blast from the past in "Field of Dreams" will want to catch this episode, which presents "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and others as they really were. PBS.

* "The Martin Short Show" (8:30-9 p.m., Channel 2) -- Steve Martin guest stars on tonight's second episode, which ought to draw a lot of viewers to it. Last week's premiere turned out to be an uneven mix of genial lunacy, satiric brilliance and somewhat pedestrian comedy. The parody of "Dave" was hilarious, but other parts needed more work. Perhaps tonight's show, with Martin, will set the program farther along the right track. Jan Hooks, Andrea Martin co-star. NBC.

* "Me and the Boys" (8:30-9 p.m., Channel 13) -- This show is not to be confused with "The Boys Are Back" or "On Our Own," which is tough -- but this show is the one starring Steve Harvey, who's droll enough as a widower dad to make the premiere watchable. ABC.

* "Frasier" (9-9:30 p.m., Channel 2) -- No sophomore jinx here. The second season of "Frasier" begins brilliantly, with a deft mix of comedy and poignancy. NBC.

* "Home Improvement" (9-9:30 p.m., Channel 13) -- There's a good season opener here, too, but the home stuff pales beside the "Tool Time" nonsense, which features Tim (Tim Allen) and Al (Richard Karn) dueling with drywall tape -- to the tune of "Dueling Banjos." ABC.

* "The John Larroquette Show" (9:30-10 p.m., Channel 2) -- This show's second season does a lot of seismic shifting: Carly (Gigi Rice) gives up her career as a prostitute, and Alison La Placa, last seen on "The Jackie Thomas Show," plays an intelligent, acerbic and single woman who lives across the hall from Hemingway's new apartment. NBC.


* "The Cronkite Report" (10-11 p.m., DSC) -- "Lessons for the Future" is the title of tonight's documentary, which compares what we said and planned regarding the American educational system in the '60s with how much -- actually, how little -- has been accomplished since.

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