Our guide to the best of February sweeps
''Charmed'' offers a ''Friend''-ly alternative to ''Survivor,'' and more
February sweeps begins with a roar: The battle between CBS’ ”Survivor: The Australian Outback” (Thursdays, 8 p.m.) and NBC’s special 40 minute editions of ”Friends” — plus 20 minute doses of ”Saturday Night Live.” But don’t overlook some other intriguing developments: CBS hopes to hold onto its ”Survivor” audience by moving ”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” — the biggest hit of the new season — from Fridays to the Thursday, 9 p.m. slot. ”Thursday is a key night for advertisers, who buy heavily in anticipation of the big weekend spending sprees,” says Tom Watson, research director at Initiative Media. ”CBS hasn’t had a pulsebeat that night in years.”
The WB hopes to keep the pulse going on ”Gilmore Girls,” its critically lauded new show about a single mother (Lauren Graham) and her teenage daughter (Alexis Bledel). On Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, the WB is temporarily benching the drama in favor of the sultry supernatural series ”Charmed.” Actually, it’s a protective move: The weblet will let its more firmly entrenched sorceresses — Shannen Doherty, Alyssa Milano, and Holly Marie Combs — cope with sweeps mayhem. Read more about the Thursday night smackdown here.
Here’s EW.com’s guide to the best of this week’s TV:
THURSDAY, Feb. 1
”Thursday Night Live” (8:40 p.m., NBC)
Watch as Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Molly Shannon, and company take on primetime and CBS’ ”Survivor” with a special 20 minute compilation of live sketches.
”Charmed” (9 p.m., the WB)
The bewitching sisters participate in an underworld wrestling match (featuring WCW grapplers Slammer, Thunder, and Mega-Man) to save the soul of Prue’s (Shannen Doherty) boyfriend.
”ER” (10 p.m., NBC)
”Happy Days” dad Tom Bosley and ”Newhart” handyman Tom Poston play elderly men who’ve injured each other during a fight. As if watching grandpas bloody each other isn’t enough reason to tune in, there are also subplots involving a burnt down sweatshop, and a career breaking mistake from Dr. Corday (Alex Kingston).
FRIDAY, Feb. 2
”Celebrity Deathmatch” (8:30 p.m., UPN)
The animated brawl pits pacifist Mahatma Gandhi against Genghis Kahn — and all the various James Bonds against each other. The smart money’s always on Sean Connery.
”The Fugitive”(9 p.m., CBS)
As the nation celebrates a new era of compassionate conservatism, Dr. Richard Kimble (Tim Daly) is caught in a roundup of homeless people and imprisoned in a psychiatric ward.
”Black Scorpion” (8 p.m. and 11 p.m., Sci Fi)
Darcy (Michelle Lintel) gets burned when her new boyfriend, a heroic firefighter (played by the excellently named Brent Huff), is transformed into a combustible criminal called Inferno. Ironic!
SATURDAY, Feb. 3
”Walker, Texas Ranger” (9 p.m., CBS)
Walker (Chuck Norris) helps his pal Boomer Night (former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan) broker a truce between two inner city gangs. As always, a carefully applied boot to the face helps clarify matters.
”Dancing in September”(9 p.m., HBO)
In this original movie from writer director Reggie Rock Bythewood (”Get on the Bus”), Nicole Ari Parker (”Soul Food”) and Isaiah Washington (”Romeo Must Die”) star as a TV writer and exec who hook up to create a successful African American drama. Sadly, this is not a documentary about network TV.
SUNDAY, Feb. 4
”King of the Hill” (730 p.m., Fox)
Hank finds out he’s not a native Texan. In fact, he might even be — gasp! — a Yankee. Former state Governor Ann Richards lends a guest voice.
”The PJs” (7:30 p.m., the WB)
The foam animated show returns on a new network with a message episode. In exchange for free A/C, Thurgood (Eddie Murphy), the super, lets a cigarette company slap a billboard on the side of the housing development — only to fall prey to the taunts of company mascot Coolio the Crocodile.
”Touched by an Angel” (8 p.m., CBS)
Chachi alert! Scott Baio is back on TV, playing a detective wracked with guilt for accidentally killing a young child.
MONDAY, Feb. 5
”Ally McBeal” (9 p.m., Fox)
Latin pop star Chayanne plays a man who sues his ex- dance partner for stealing his moves; a little boy hires Ally to represent him against his parents; and a pre- op transsexual (Lisa Edelstein) needs legal assistance with what’s technically a same sex marriage.
”Inside the Osmonds” (9 p.m., ABC)
In what should become a primary text for a future doctoral thesis by Julie from ”The Real World” New Orleans cast, here’s the rise and fall story of the five most popular Mormons since Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
”Family Law” (10 p.m., CBS)
Andy Griffith plays a man accused of killing his terminally ill wife (played by Janet Leigh). Did this man learn NOTHING in his nine years on ”Matlock”?
TUESDAY, Feb. 6
”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (8 p.m., the WB)
As Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) celebrates her 20th birthday, little sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) realizes something terrifying about herself and runs away. In a town full of demons and vampires, that’s a bad move.
”That ’70s Show” (8 p.m., Fox)
Donna (Laura Prepon) interns at the local radio station, where she encounters Alice Cooper, and throwback guest stars Howard Hesseman (”WKRP in Cincinnati”) and Danny Bonaduce (”The Partridge Family”). What, no ”Brady Bunch” references?
”Frasier” (9 p.m., NBC)
What is sweeps without a Shakespearean actor to class things up? Sir Derek Jacobi plays a stage star the Crane brothers used to admire. That is, before he became a regular on a sci fi series. Wonder how Patrick Stewart feels about all this?
”Nova: Nazi Prison Escape” (9 p.m., PBS)
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, fire up your VCRs and get ready to bid on the rights to these tales of WWII heroism! The PBS docu explores British POWs’ ingenious efforts to escape from a German castle.
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 7
”Bette” (8 p.m., CBS)
Miss ”Xanadu” herself, Olivia Newton-John, guests as yet another of Bette’s celebrity pals. Midler’s real offspring, Chloe Rose, also has a cameo.
”Dawson’s Creek” (8 p.m., the WB)
Will they or won’t they? Joey (Katie Holmes) and Pacey (Joshua Jackson) have the perfect opportunity to do it on their senior trip. Then again, there’s always May sweeps to consider. Meanwhile, in his second TV spot in three days, Andy Griffith guests, helping Dawson (James van der Beek) decide whether to take his elderly pal Mr. Brooks (Harve Presnell) off life support.
”The Drew Carey Show” (9 p.m., ABC)
Speaking of pulling the plug…in this ”very special episode,” Drew falls into a coma and has a magical mystery tour of his own subconscious. In the hospital, Kate (Christa Miller) and the gang deal with the idea of Drew’s death. Guess they don’t know the show’s named after him.