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THE WEEK

A GUIDE TO NOTABLE PROGRAMS FROM DEC.22-JAN.11 BY BRUCE FRETTS.(TIMES ARE EASTERN STANDARD AND ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.)

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NEW SERIES The last thing viewers need is another family sitcom starring a stand-up comic. But NBC is giving us The Good Life (previews Jan. 3, 8:30-9 p.m., continues Tuesdays beginning Jan. 4, 8:30-9 p.m.) anyway. John Caponera-not to be confused with John Mendoza, the stand-up who stars in NBC’s other Chicago- set sitcom, The Second Half-plays a warehouse manager with a wife and three kids. But Life’s breakout character could be Caponera’s swinging-nerd coworker, played by Drew Carey. Yes, Carey’s yet another comic, but his buzz- cut look and skewed delivery could make him the next Kramer. Dramas Here’s a plot description I never wanted to read: ”Chris tries to get in touch with his feminine side.” On the Jan. 3 episode of Northern Exposure (CBS, 10-11 p.m.), John Corbett’s touchy-feely metahunk personifies all that has gone soft at the core of this once-solid series. His pervasive pseudophilosophical soliloquies have rendered Exposure unwatchable.

MOVIES Custody battles have dominated TV movies this season (they even seeped onto the big screen in Mrs. Doubtfire). Ex-Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd gets in on the act with Broken Promises: Taking Emily Back (CBS, Dec. 26, 9-11 p.m.), a fact-based drama reminiscent of the recent Baby Jessica case. With titles like River of Rage and Desperate Journey, wilderness survival has run a close second to custody cases as a TV-movie topic. Now Neil Patrick Harris gets trapped in a blizzard in Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story (CBS, Jan. 9, 9-11 p.m.), and Justine Bateman’s mountain camping trip is disrupted by a psycho rapist-killer in Terror in the Night (CBS, Jan. 11, 9-11 p.m.). Thanks, I’ll just rent Deliverance.

Celeb SpecialS Who can keep track of all the black-tie ceremonies that have aired on TV in the past few weeks? The Comedy Hall of Fame. The TV Hall of Fame. A Gala for the President at Ford’s Theater. Well, brace yourself for three more. Katie Couric hosts Legend to Legend Night (NBC, Dec. 28, 8-10 p.m.), a lovefest including Muhammad Ali, James Stewart, Angie Dickinson, Tony Bennett, and Wynonna. One night later, it’s time for The Kennedy Center Honors (CBS, Dec. 29, 9-11 p.m.), always a classy affair, and of special note this year for its first-ever TV honoree, Johnny Carson, who’s saluted by fellow late-nighters Ted Koppel and David Letterman. Finally, moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, The Golden Globe’s 50th Anniversary Celebration (NBC, Jan. 8, 10-11 p.m.) is a small-star event attracting the likes of Ann-Margret, Burt Reynolds, Sally Kirkland, Linda Blair, and Peter Graves. What, Pia Zadora couldn’t make it?

Talk Shows What TV viewers need even less than another family sitcom is another talk show. So it’s a little hard to get too excited about the premiere of Clapprood Live (Lifetime, Jan. 2, 11-11:30 p.m.). Marjorie Clapprood, a frosted-blond former Massachusetts state legislator, hopes to follow the politics-to-TV-talk path of Jerry Springer (ex-mayor of Cincinnati), Tim Russert (ex-aide to Mario Cuomo), and John Sununu and Mary Matalin (ex-aides to George Bush). Clapprood’s show does have the advantage of airing live, and on Sunday nights there’s no competition from Jay and Dave-or Oprah or Phil. At least Clapprood should provide more fodder for Talk Soup, Greg Kinnear’s brilliantly snide digest of the creepiest/funniest clips from the daily chat + shows. The program’s tastiest morsels from 1993 have been culled for Cream of talk soup (E!, Dec. 25, 11 p.m.-midnight). The good news for Soup lovers is that Kinnear will do the E! show for another year, even as he succeeds Bob Costas on NBC’s Later. After that, don’t be surprised if Kinnear bumps Conan O’Brien from Late Night. Conan, you’d better get your act together. Fast.

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