November 07, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

EW critic Ken Tucker tells you what to watch on Election Night

Okay, first: GO OUT AND VOTE. NO WATCHING TELEVISION UNTIL YOU’VE CAST YOUR BALLOT! Now, then: How are you going to spend your TV prime time tonight? Here’s a voter’s guide:

Forget the networks except for Dan Rather.
As they have consistently proven throughout the campaign, ABC, CBS, and NBC are utterly irrelevant, downright decadent in cluttering their airwaves with their overpaid, gaseous correspondents and their unpaid, gaseous commentators. The exception, as usual, is CBS’ Dan Rather — not because he’s smarter than Jennings or Brokaw (although, come to think of it, I’d pay money to see the three of them on ”Jeopardy!”), but because he’s the most likely to say something off the wall wacky.

Forget CNN except for Jeff Greenfield.
Always sane, wry, and steadfastly resistant to the hyperbolic prediction, Greenfield is the sharpest, most astute political analyst on the air. Too bad he works for a network that gives more air time to Larry King.

Watch MSNBC.
You gotta hand it to this corporate multispawn: For the past two weeks, MSNBC has been conducting election coverage headed by the unflappable Lester Holt that, in its all- inclusiveness, is like CSPAN with an editorial filter. On the bad side: the frighteningly overenthusiastic gushing of afternoon ”HomePage” coanchor Ashleigh Banfield. On the good side: ”Hardball”er Chris Matthews, the fastest talking interrogator with a brain on TV. Plus, if you love ”The West Wing,” this is the network whose commentators include two of that show’s political consultants, Lawrence O’Donnell and Peggy Noonan. For hardcore political junkies, MSNBC is your best bet.

Watch ”The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.
He’s going live on Comedy Central at 10 p.m., and you can be sure he’ll be cuttingly funny. Plus, his cohost is Bob Dole, no stranger to withering political remarks himself.

Regular programming I give you permission to watch.
A new episode of ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (WB, 8 p.m.). It’s on early enough so you won’t miss crucial election results; plus, we’re dyin’ to find out what the deal is with Buffy’s little sister, right?

Regular programming you do NOT have permission to watch. The season finale of MTV’s ”The Real World.” It’s on at 10 p.m, when key voting results start getting confirmed, and it’s on opposite ”The Daily Show.” C’mon — even if you’re hooked on the show, you know MTV will repeat it, like, 45 times this week (I know for a fact you can watch it again on Saturday at 9 p.m.)

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