A GUIDE TO NOTABLE PROGRAMS BY BRUCE FRETTS.
Sitcoms Short of occupying a cushion on Larry Sanders’ couch, doing a voice on the Simpsons (Fox, Jan. 27, 8-8:30 p.m.) is surely the hippest guesting gig in Hollywood. This season alone, Michelle Pfeiffer, George Harrison, and Sam Neill have lent their pipes to the cartoon, and now James Woods joins the in club. The set-up: Kwik-E-Mart manager Apu (Hank Azaria of Herman’s Head) gets canned after accidentally poisoning Homer, and Woods (as himself) takes over the place so that he can do research for a movie role as a convenience-store clerk. In an attempt to get his job back, Apu travels to the company’s headquarters deep within the Himalayas. Of course, Homer tags along. Until last year, Seinfeld (NBC, Jan. 27, 9-9:30 p.m.) was never notable for big-name guest stars, aside from occasional stunt casting (Keith Hernandez, Fred Savage). But since the show’s ratings have skyrocketed, more recognizable faces like Marlee Matlin, Rudy Giuliani, and Dan Cortese have started popping up regularly. This week Carol Kane (Taxi, Scrooged) appears as an innocent bystander who gets injured when a livid Russian author chucks Elaine’s beeper out a limo window.
Dramas The guest actor de la semaine on CBS’ Emmy-winning small-town dramas is Adam Arkin. First, he returns to his occasional role as the gourmet misanthrope Adam on Northern Exposure (Jan. 24, 10-11 p.m.) and disrupts a President’s Day fireworks display organized by Maurice (Barry Corbin). A mere four nights later, Arkin turns up on Picket Fences (Jan. 28, 10-11 p.m.), as a federal attorney trying the case of an Alzheimer’s patient who wants to donate his heart to his son, who needs a transplant. Fences is rapidly becoming a weekly medical-ethics debate-the show recently aired, within the span of one month, two episodes about operating on comatose women.
NYPD Blue got the ball rolling, and soon after, a slew of other series-while stopping short of actually baring flesh-began using bodily exposure as plot fodder. Where I Live’s Doug E. Doug discovered his mom had exposed herself in a ’60s staging of Hair, and both Beverly Hills, 90210 and The Good Life dealt with nudity in experimental theater productions. Harts of the West (CBS, Jan. 29, 9-10 p.m.) jumps on the peekaboo bandwagon when teenager L’Amour (Meghann Haldeman) finds out that her mother (Harley Jane Kozak) once posed for a lingerie catalog. As long as Angela Lansbury and Jerry Van Dyke keep their shirts on, there’s no reason to complain about this development.
Action With his stringy hair, puffy face, and hippie duds, David Carradine looks more like a Grateful Dead sideman than like a martial-arts master these days, but kung fu: the legend continues (syndicated; check local listings) returns for a second season of high kicks and fortune-cookie mysticism anyway. This year’s premiere features Cagney & Lacey’s Martin Kove and ex-007 George Lazenby (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) as a pair of dimple-chinned serial killers stalking Carradine’s cop son (Chris Potter, looking as if he hired David Cassidy’s old hairstylist). At least Kung Fu has a healthy sense of its own ludicrousness-the scene in which the literally monotonous Carradine winds up taking the mike in a comedy club is a panic.