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On theTube: Gifford gives her fans an eyeful in 'Spinning Out of Control'

Friday, March 16, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

See Kathie Lee Gifford smoke pot!

Watch as she gets it on with a boy toy! (Take that, Frank!)

Be sick to your stomach as she vomits!

Actually, "Spinning Out of Control" (9 p.m. Sunday on E!) will sicken viewers long before the vomit scene. This E! original movie is a muddled mess, veering wildly between attempts at loopy humor and maudlin scenes that are drippily earnest.

Gifford stars as Amanda Berkley, a sitcom actress hailed as America's sweetheart (sort of like Kathie Me) who's really a self-centered rhymes-with-witch. Her agent, Marty (Howie Mandel), tries to clean up after Amanda when she makes a mess, whether it's setting her home on fire or overdosing on drugs.

Aside from no sense of what it wants to be, the biggest sin of "Spinning Out of Control" is that it's interminably dull. Plus, who cares what happens to a woman as awful as Amanda? There's no reason to keep watching because there's no reason to care.

Gifford is clearly having a ball indulging in the worst rumors about her and burying her self-created goody-goody image. The odd thing about the film is that it begins as Amanda's story and half way through becomes Marty's story. Talk about spinning out of control.

'Biography: Sesame Street'
(8 p.m. Sunday, A&E)

For 32 year's it's been sunny days and everything's A-OK on PBS's "Sesame Street," and Sunday "Biography" spends two -- TWO! Ah, ha, ha! -- hours exploring the origins of the series and the importance of Muppet characters like the Count.

A special segment looks at the creation of episodes airing March 26 to 30 (6 and 10 a.m. weekdays on WQED) that deal with a hurricane that hits Sesame Street, destroying Big Bird's nest.

"Biography" goes behind the scenes to show how the series is filmed, including interviews with the human cast and puppeteers Carol Spinney (Big Bird) and Kevin Clash (Elmo).

For those who grew up watching "Sesame Street" (or watched it with their children), the program brings back warm memories. But this "Biography" fails in one way "Sesame Street" never has: It won't keep those with short attention spans tuned in. At two hours, it's too much of a good thing.

'Blackadder: Back & Forth'
(10:15 p.m. tomorrow, WQED)

Rowan Atkinson may be best known in the United States as Mr. Bean, but to Anglophiles the world over he is Edmund Blackadder, a weasely schemer in any age.

Past installments of "Blackadder" have featured the character as part of the royal court of Queen Elizabeth I (Miranda Richardson) and on the battlefields during World War I. The big difference between episodes from the '80s and "Back & Forth" is the quality of the production design. Back then, "Blackadder" was shot on video in front of a studio audience. This new production looks like a major motion picture.

"Back & Forth" is set in late 1999 as London prepares to celebrate the new millennium. Blackadder is gathered with friends (Richardson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Tim McInnerny, Rik Mayall all return from past episodes) and unveils a time machine. His filthy, humble servant Baldrick (Tony Robinson) created it and it's not supposed to work, but somehow it does, sending Blackadder and Baldrick sailing through time.

This gives them a chance to visit some of the periods in which past "Blackadder" programs were set. Any opportunity to hear Richardson as Elizabeth I shriek, "Kill him!" is worthwhile.

What's not to cheer when Blackadder decks William Shakespeare (Colin Firth), proclaiming, "That is for every school boy and girl for the next 400 years. Have you any idea how much suffering you're going to cause?"

Cheekily written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, this half-hour special is accompanied by a 20-minute special of bloopers and cut scenes. It's a must-see for long-time "Blackadder" fans.

(9 tonight, Sci Fi)

"Star Trek" is dreck. "The X-Files" are empty. "Farscape" is hands down today's best sci-fi series. It has the most talented cast, the best effects, the best production design, the best costuming -- it's simply the best TV has to offer to fans of science fiction.

Tonight's third season picks up at the same spot the season finale ended in January, with former Peacekeeper soldier Aeryn (Claudia Black) dead and lost-in-space human astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) lying on an operating table, his surgeon knocked out.

It's a fast-moving hour that resolves the cliffhanger, while pushing the series forward both in terms of plot and relationships.

The episode is augmented by new opening credits (they look great) with narration that sends the series in a different direction that should assure continued creativity for seasons to come.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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