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Fleiss' dad, Hollywood sideshow


CBS tonight offers a two-hour movie about the father of Heidi Fleiss, the so-called "Hollywood Madam." I can't wait. What's next, the saga of O. J.'s cousin? A probing look at the life lessons to be learned from the experiences of Joey Buttafuoco's sister? Phooey.

* "Ellen" (8 p.m.-8:30 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- Remember when Mary Tyler Moore offered to buy a lobster for $1,000 so she could set it free? Ellen tries much the same thing tonight, and guess who shows up to thank her? ABC.

* "The Future of Crime-Fighting" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Richard Belzer of "Homicide" is your host for this look at such evolving law-enforcement technology as weapons that can subdue suspects without hurting them and robots that can be used to retrieve explosive devices. NBC.

* "The Churchills" (8 p.m.-10:30 p.m., MPT, Channels 22 and 67) -- Sure, you know plenty about Winston, that living embodiment of the English bulldog whose tug-of-war with Adolf Hitler is the stuff of legend. But the Churchills were far more than one man; in fact, they are a political dynasty that stretches back into the 19th century. The documentary was produced by that bastion of public television documentaries, Boston's WGBH. PBS.

* "The Good Doctor: The Paul Fleiss Story" (9 p.m.-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- Before you watch this, ask yourself: Why? CBS.


* "Freaks" (4:45 a.m.-6 a.m. Thursday, The Movie Channel) -- This 1932 effort from director Tod Browning, who had just finished "Dracula," has to be seen to be believed. A woman marries a sideshow midget she believes is worth a fortune, only to belittle him in front of his sideshow friends -- not a great idea. This film could never be made today, and it almost wasn't made 64 years ago. Film historians have debated for decades whether Browning was taking advantage of his stars (save for the chicken-lady at the end, there are no special effects here) or giving them a chance to make a living. The final scene will be replayed over and over in your nightmares. Set those VCRs.

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