School's not out just yet


Lovers of quality television need to clear their calendars for Saturday night - or, at the very least, set their VCRs. "Freaks and Geeks," the lovingly crafted high-school drama that was hands-down the best new show of 1999, gets a one-night reprieve.

Canceled earlier this year (and how does a show like this get canceled, while stuff like "Profiler" just keeps going and going and going?), the show is returning briefly for a mini-marathon of three unaired episodes.

The series stars Linda Cardellini as Lindsay Weir, a high-school student who's been suffering quite the identity crisis. Although smart as they come, Lindsay has found herself attracted of late to the burn-outs who inhabit her high school's outer fringes. In short, she's a geek who longs to be a freak.

Then there's her younger brother, Sam (John Francis Daley), who has no pretensions of being anything but a geek. He does, however, long to fit in - and perhaps attract the eye of the beautiful Cindy, who sees him as only a good friend.

Filled with marvelous young actors who acted like real high-schoolers, "Freaks and Geeks" was as addictive as TV gets, not to mention as honest. Set in the early 1980s, the show transcended its time period by touching on such universal themes as acceptance, peer pressure, parents who aren't quite as clueless as you think and the struggle to survive high school.

But it suffered the fate of quality shows its network (in this case, NBC) has no idea what to do with. The show started out airing on Saturdays, one of the worst viewing days of the week, then got bumped to other days, got skipped over many weeks, and eventually got canned, despite a loyal viewership that, given time, would undoubtedly have grown.

Instead, the show joins the ranks of other quality programs canceled way before their time was up - "My So-Called Life," "Cupid" and "Now and Again" for just three examples.

At least "Freaks and Geeks" lovers get one more chance to savor the show's substantial pleasures from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday on WBAL, Channel 11.

Shedding a little light

Electricity deregulation will be the topic of the second-half of today's edition of "The Marc Steiner Show," as attorney Scott Phillips, Michael Travieso of the office of the People's Council and Public Service Commission Chairman Glenn Ivey are the scheduled guests.

On Friday, the state Court of Appeals issued an order delaying a plan to deregulate Maryland's electrical power industry. The order only affected those areas of the state serviced by BGE; in other areas of the state, deregulation began Saturday, as scheduled.

During tomorrow's second half, Robin Marantz Henig, author of "The Monk In the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics," is the scheduled guest.

The Steiner show airs noon- 2 p.m. weekdays on WJHU-FM (88.1). Sitting in for Steiner will be Andy Bienstock (today) and Mindy Mintz (tomorrow), with The Sun's Milton Kent taking over Friday.

Out of Africa

The fourth annual Pan African Film Festival on BET Movies/Starz - showcasing films either from Africa or made by filmmakers of African descent - opens next week with "Genesis," a film from Mali that relates the biblical tale of Jacob and Esau, set three years after the great flood.

"Genesis" debuts Wednesday, July 12, at 8 p.m. on the BET Movies/Starz cable channel. The festival's remaining movies debut every Wednesday at 8 p.m. through Aug. 30.

Other movies in the series, with their countries of origin, are "Neuba Yol" (Dominican Republic, July 19), about one immigrant's struggle to establish a foothold in New York; "La Vie Est Belle" (Belgium/Congo, July 26), about a poor, rural musician trying to break into radio and TV; "Un Ete a La Goulette" (Tunisia, Aug. 2), a comedy wherein three fathers of different faiths cope with their 16-year-old daughters; "Black Dju" (Luxembourg/Cape Verde, Aug. 9), in which a young black man searching for his father forms an unlikely alliance with an alcoholic white policeman; "Living In Paradise" (Algeria/France, Aug. 16), the story of a family who fled Algeria in the early '60s for a life in Paris; "Guelwaar" (Senegal, Aug. 23), a political satire from director Ousmane Sembene; and "Quilombo" (Brazil, Aug. 30), the true story of a democratic society established in Brazil in the 17th century.

Actress CCH Pounder will serve as host of the festival.

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