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Stars pay tribute to Mitchell; TV: From Cyndi Lauper to Wynonna Judd, friends honor Joni Mitchell in song on TNT.; Radio and Television


It's always nice to be feted by your friends -- especially when your friends include Elton John, James Taylor, k.d. lang and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Those and about a half-dozen other musical acts were on hand last week to praise Joni Mitchell, and the results will be aired Sunday on TNT.

"An All-Star Tribute to Joni Mitchell," taped Thursday at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, features music both wonderful -- Cyndi Lauper's emotionally charged version of "Carrie" -- and a little off-the-game. The latter category would include Shawn Colvin and Carpenter failing to connect during a duet on "Chelsea Morning."

But all the music, cover versions of Mitchell's songs, is heartfelt, and the hits definitely outnumber the misses. There's Elton rocking out on "Free Man In Paris," Sweet Honey In the Rock wrapping their gorgeous voices around "The Circle Game," and Wynonna Judd's surprisingly spry "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio."

But the best is saved for last, as Mitchell herself walks onstage to perform -- with full orchestral accompaniment -- a soulful "Both Sides Now."

Ashley Judd is her usual shimmering self as host (love of Mitchell's music, she insists, provided common ground between her and her sister, Wynonna). Susan Sarandon, Laurence Fishburne and Tony Bennett introduce taped biographical segments -- with overblown narration that doubtless made Mitchell wince more than once -- and Hillary Rodham Clinton tells, via tape, how she and Bill came to name their daughter Chelsea.

Despite some conspicuous absences -- where are Neil Young, David Crosby, Bob Dylan and Judy Collins -- "An All-Star Tribute to Joni Mitchell" includes lots of good music and great spirit.

The two-hour program premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday, with repeats at 11 p.m. and next Wednesday at 12: 30 a.m.

NAACP supports 'Angels'

CBS's "City of Angels," one of the few big-three-network shows with a predominantly African-American cast, has friends in high places.

The NAACP last week urged its members to support the show, saying it "embodies the key principles needed to increase diversity on the network level."

The organization also noted that half of the show's writing staff is African-American, that 130 minority actors have been cast in "substantial" speaking parts and that 51 percent of the behind-the-scenes crew is African-American.

The series, set in a Los Angeles hospital, stars Blair Underwood, Vivica A. Fox and Robert Morse.

Town hall on violence

Cable's Discovery Channel is airing a live "National Town Hall Meeting on Youth Violence" Friday. Titled "Why Are We Violent?" the meeting will feature a taped message from President Clinton and the results of a Discovery Channel/Time magazine poll.

Scheduled for 7 p.m.-8 p.m. Friday, the meeting will be held live in Memphis. Participants will include activists, educators, religious leaders, child psychologists, business leaders and government officials, as well as young people who have been on both ends of youth violence.

TV's top shows

Here are last week's top TV shows, according to A. C. Nielsen Co. figures: Rating

1 ER NBC 18.3

2 Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Tues. ABC 17.9

3 Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Sun. ABC 17.2

3 (tie) Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Thurs. ABC 17.2

5 NCAA Basketball Championship: Florida vs. Michigan St. CBS 14.1

6 The Practice ABC 13.7

7 Law & Order NBC 12.6

8 60 Minutes CBS 12.5

9 Touched by an Angel CBS 12.1

10 Friends NBC 11.8

11 Frasier NBC 11.5

12 Dharma & Greg ABC 11.2

13 Daddio NBC 10.4

13 (tie) NYPD Blue ABC 10.4

15 CBS Sunday Movie: Fail-Safe CBS 10.3

15 (tie) Prelude to a Championship CBS 10.3

17 JAG CBS 10.1

18 Dateline, Tues. NBC 10.0

19 West Wing NBC 9.8

20 20/20, Wed. ABC 9.4

The rating is the percentage of homes equipped with a TV in use.

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