A GUIDE TO NOTABLE PROGRAMS BY BRUCE FRETTS. (TIMES ARE EASTERN DAYLIGHT AND ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.)
SCI-FI Outbreak fever seems to be contagious. In the aftermath of the hit film, and right before NBC airs the movie Robin Cook’s Virus, THE X-FILES (Fox, April 28, 9-10 p.m.) offers its own deadly-disease thriller. A dozen prisoners perish from a mysterious illness, and Mulder (David Duchovny) chases two escaped convicts who may be carriers. Scully (Gillian Anderson) stays behind at the penal institution and oversees a quarantine. Speaking of Untouchables, Charles Martin Smith-the squirrelly accountant in the 1987 Kevin Costner-Sean Connery movie-guest-stars as a doctor. X-philes will also be glad to see Cigarette Smokin’ Man, a spooky recurring character played by William B. Davis. Any relation to The Brady Bunch’s Ann B. Davis? SITCOMS If you’re not mad about Ira, the annoying cousin on MAD ABOUT YOU (NBC, April 27, 8-8:30 p.m.), you might want to skip this week’s episode. The loudmouth Noo Yawker played by John Pankow figures in two plotlines: His shrill ex-wife, Marianne (Cyndi Lauper, reprising her Emmy-nominated role), inquires about . investing in the Buchman family’s sporting-goods store, and Ira accompanies Paul (Paul Reiser) to a Knicks game, where they get into a shouting match with Patrick Ewing. (Is Spike Lee involved?) Believe it or not, this may mark the first time Lauper and Ewing have worked together.
MEDICAL SHOWS Family traumas threaten to overwhelm two docs on ER (NBC, April 27, 10-11 p.m.). Greene (Anthony Edwards) leaves his hospital responsibilities behind and heads to Milwaukee to visit his estranged wife (Christine Harnos), and Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) tends to her pregnant derelict sister (Kathleen Wilhoite). Meanwhile, Benton (Eriq LaSalle) tries to forget his personal problems by taking on an inhuman caseload, including a diabetic girl (Jean Marie Barnwell) and a boy (Karl David-Djerf) with a brain aneurysm. In a less depressing subplot, Ross (George Clooney) coaches a Little League team. Clooney knows strikeouts; ER is his eighth stab at a series.
COP SHOWS David Morse reteams with St. Elsewhere writer-producer Tom Fontana on HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET (NBC, April 28, 10-11 p.m.). The former St. Eligius doctor guest-stars as Jim Bayliss, a Baltimore homeowner who shoots a drunken Turkish exchange student made up to resemble a member of Kiss circa 1978. Jim’s the cousin of cop Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor), and the case sets off racial sparks with Tim’s partner, Pembleton (Andre Braugher). Directed by Peter Medak (The Krays), the episode uses Rashomon-style flashbacks, Homicide’s trademark jump-cut editing, and the Kinks’ ”Well-Respected Man.” And in the art-imitating-life department, Braugher’s wife, Ami Brabson, plays Pembleton’s spouse.
MOVIES Two polar-opposite ’80s cop shows make comebacks as the return of HUNTER (NBC, April 30, 9-11 p.m.) trots out Fred Dryer’s Dirty Harry-ish lieutenant to avenge his fiancee’s murder, and CAGNEY & LACEY: TOGETHER AGAIN (CBS, May 2, 9-11 p.m.) rejoins Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless as the sensitive NYPD vets. The first C&L reunion drew huge ratings in November, so CBS hopes to turn it into a franchise. This time the duo simultaneously investigates the killing of a homeless man and grapples with love-life dilemmas: Daly’s Lacey helps her Harvey (John Karlen) recover from a heart attack, and Gless’ Cagney splits up with a presidential appointee (James Naughton) who may be cheating on her. A Clinton official committing adultery? Who’d believe that?