Double trouble with Kong

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sixty-two years ago, Kong, the eighth wonder of the world, made his disastrous New York debut, breaking his chains, wreaking havoc on the streets of New York and carrying Fay Wray all the way to the top of the Empire State Building before some pesky biplanes got the better of him. Big apes still don't come any better -- as proven by his disastrous return to the big screen 20 years ago. Watch TNT and see just what I'm talking about.

* "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (8 p.m.-8:30 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- Say what you will about "It's A Wonderful Life," but here's the real harbinger of Christmas. CBS.

* "Billboard Music Awards" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- At least here's an awards show that made no pretension about measuring quality or other such intangibles. This show rewards sales and airplay, pure and simple. Hootie and the Blowfish are scheduled to perform with Al Green. Fox.

* "Mr. Willowby's Christmas Carol" (8:30 p.m.-9 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- Actor Robert Downey Jr. shares the screen with the debuting Muppet Mice, in this chronicle of a search for the perfect Christmas tree. Kermit the Frog plays host. CBS.

Cable

* "Norwood" (6:05 a.m.-8 a.m., Cinemax) -- This 1970 semi-musical shows pretty clearly why neither Glen Campbell nor Joe Namath ever had much of a career in the movies. And whatever happened to Kim Darby, anyway?

* "King Kong" (8 p.m.-11 p.m., TNT) -- No movie that introduces Jessica Lange to the world can be all bad. And the script is actually kinda clever, if somewhat obvious. But the special effects (which won an Oscar!) are a joke, consisting primarily of a guy in a monkey suit. The pacing is hard-to-sit-still-in-your-seat slow. And this 1976 film may be the most pointless remake ever made, considering there was no way it could improve on the original.

* "King Kong" (11 p.m.-1:15 a.m., TNT) -- This is one of the best movies ever made, and anyone who says otherwise can never be my friend. This 1933 movie's a lot more intelligent than you might think, and even some 60 years later, the animation is still as good as it gets. Plus, Fay Wray has one of the finest sets of lungs on the planet. I've probably seen this movie 100 times and still hate to miss it. Unfortunately, this is the colorized version, which should be avoided if possible, but even fake Kong is better than no Kong at all.

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