Recapping police dramas: 'Dragnet' to 'Homicide'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The previews you are about to read are true. The names have not been changed, since there are no innocent. On Dec. 29, "Dragnet" is pulled off the Nick-at-Nite schedule. In a few paragraphs, the results of that decision.

* "Great Performances" (9:30 p.m.-11 p.m., MPT, Channels 22 and 67) -- Hear the works of the man who is possibly America's greatest living Broadway lyricist, as Betty Buckley, Glenn Close, Bill Irwin, Madeline Kahn and others join together for "Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall." Featured songs include selections from "Sweeney Todd," "A Little Night Music" and "Sunday in the Park With George."

* "Homicide: Life on the Street" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- This is a repeat of the very first episode, which aired on Super Bowl Sunday 1993. Even this early, it was easy to see that "Homicide" was going to be a quality show. Give it a look; see if the show, or the way it portrays this city, has changed much in two years. NBC.

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* "It Could Happen to You" (11:20 a.m.-1 p.m.; repeats 8 p.m.-10 p.m., Showtime) -- This film is a real winner from director Andrew Bergman and one of the happiest movies of 1994: Nicolas Cage stars as a New York City cop who, caught without any money for tip, promises his waitress (Bridget Fonda) half of any winnings from a lottery ticket he has in his pocket. Of course, he wins big. Both Cage and Fonda are wonderful, and the whole movie is festooned with so much goodwill and faith in humanity that it hardly seems real.

* "The Freshman" (1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m., HBO) -- Here's another gem from Andrew Bergman -- too bad the third film that has established him as one of Hollywood's most consistently enjoyable directors, "Honeymoon in Vegas," isn't airing today as well. When "The Freshman" was released, all the attention focused on Marlon Brando, who poked fun at his Don Corleone role in this comedy about a college student who suspects his new mentor is some Mafia bigwig. But the real star is an escalator-riding Komodo dragon.

* "Dragnet" (11 p.m.-6 a.m., Nickelodeon) -- Nobody ever walked or talked like Joe Friday, that tough-talking, no-nonsense cop who single-handedly kept the peace in Los Angeles for umpteen years. Nowadays, of course, the show is laughable to call the acting wooden is charitable, to call the writing stilted an understatement. Watching 14 straight episodes could be considered cruel and unusual punishment in some states. But if you have a sudden craving to watch the cop who was square years before it was hip, tonight may be your last chance. Nick-at-Nite is yanking it off the air, but not without a proper send-off: seven hours of just the facts.

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