Either Oscars or repeats


Feared in its earliest days as the messenger of death for the movies, television instead became Hollywood's most important partner, and Oscar night represents TV's ultimate tribute. But look for first-time host David Letterman to puncture some of the posturing -- and "Forrest Gump" to collect a few statues.

* "Barbara Walters Special" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- In her annual pre-show, the interviewer chats with Michael Douglas, Jim Carrey and Liam Neeson. Hmmm. Couldn't she have found an actress for balance? ABC.

* "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- NBC counters with a double dose of Will Smith, both repeats. In the first, fitness femme fatale Susan Powter appears as herself. In the second, John Amos ("Good Times") appears as the father of Lisa (Nia Long). NBC.

* "Melrose Place" (8 p.m.-9:30 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- Forget those old fogeys at the Academy Awards. Fox harks back and presents the premiere episode of its young-viewer hit, which actually didn't air that long ago. The series made its debut July 8, 1992. Fox.

* "The Nanny" (8 p.m.-8:30 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- But speaking of fogeys, one of early TV's first hunks, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (remember "77 Sunset Strip"?), guest-stars in this repeat as Fran's (Fran Drescher) date for a surprise trip to Paris. CBS.

* "Road Scholar" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., MPT, Channels 22, 67) -- Romanian-born poet Andrei Codrescu, now heard regularly on National Public Radio, used to teach in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and appeared regularly in the pages of The Sun. In this documentary, which had a theatrical showing in Baltimore in 1993, he drives a red Cadillac in an experiential odyssey across America. MPT.

* "The Academy Awards" (9 p.m.-midnight, WMAR, Channel 2) -- He didn't get Johnny Carson's late-night position, but David Letterman takes up Johnny's longtime position as emcee of the annual Oscar presentation, in its 67th edition. ABC.


* "Live Academy Awards Pre-Show" (7 p.m.-9 p.m., E!) -- What will they be wearing? That's the question that will preoccupy talk-show maven Joan Rivers and her daughter, Melissa, in this celebrity fawning special.

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