Ken Tucker says, 'Skip the parties and watch TV instead.' Here's his guide to the best and worst shows of the New Year

By Josh Wolk
Updated December 31, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST
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Hey, happy new year, especially to all you stay-at-homes who’ll be avoiding parties and are ineluctably drawn to the television set: We gotta stick together, gang. For you, a list of things to watch and avoid this New Year’s weekend.

NEW YEAR’S EVE Skip the 27th annual edition of Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” Why? ‘Cause he’s booked those obnoxious, faux-swing hepcats the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. (On the other hand, if I could figure out exactly when Chicago is going to perform “25 or 6 to 4” on this show, I’d tune in for THAT hoot.) And while Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” scream-fest is tempting this year for the spectacle of Rebecca Romijn Stamos reporting live from New York’s Times Square (“Let’s see more goosebumps!” I can almost hear Jay bellow), I implore you to give the bespectacled underdog, David Letterman, your attention. His “Late Show” boasts an unbeatable combination: Stupid Human Tricks plus guest Nathan Lane, who with any luck will have consumed all that wine that sits around on his lousy sitcom “Encore! Encore!” and will tell us what he REALLY thinks about the show.

NEW YEAR’S DAY If you’re a sports fan, you’ll watch all the Bowl games. Me, I’m no help here — can’t stand the footsball. Have fun. At night, though, I have to recommend VH-1’s “Behind the Music” marathon, which goes all-metal with back-to-back episodes profiling Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Metallica, and Black Sabbath. Nothing like going into the new year with ringing ears.

JAN. 2 Man, it’s only Saturday and already you’re breaking those new-year’s resolutions, like not watching junk TV. Punish yourself by checking out PAX TV’s “Little Men,” an insipid version of the Louisa May Alcott book that makes Michael Landon’s version of “Little House on the Prairie” look like a feat of scrupulous literary fidelity.

JAN. 3 Sunday, and the holiday weekend is almost over. Amidst all the reruns and NBC’s bowdlerized version of Michael Mann’s underrated 1995 crime film “Heat,” thank Chris Carter for a new episode of “The X Files,” featuring guest star Bruce Campbell (late of Fox’s own camp classic 1993-4 series “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.”). But, oh dear, at the same time, Masterpiece Theatre is presenting its first worthwhile effort in a dog’s age, a white-knuckled version of Charles Dickens’ “Our Mutual Friend.” Use your techno-skill to tape one and watch the other. Pull that off successfully, and you’ll be in the 1999 groove, baby.