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Viewers lose when networks compete

Sunday, May 19, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

"Put up yer dukes," one network said to another. And another and another.

That's how we ended up with tonight's cutthroat programming, or as Daily Variety calls it, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday."

TV Preview
"The X-Files"
When: 8 tonight on Fox.

"Survivor: Marquesas"
When: 8 tonight on CBS.

"The Cosby Show: A Look Back"
When: 9 tonight on NBC.

"The Practice"
When: 9 tonight on ABC.

Whether any of the four broadcast networks will get a KO in this seemingly fruitless round of competition, viewers are sure to lose.

With so many choices, anyone without a couple VCRs will have tough choices to make as Fox's final episode of "The X-Files" goes up against the season finales of CBS's "Survivor: Marquesas" and ABC's "The Practice" and NBC's nostalgia fueled reunion of cast members from "The Cosby Show."

Let's check out the competition.

'The X-Files' (8 tonight, Fox)

After nine years of seeking the "truth" that is allegedly "out there," this spooky series finally comes to a much-too-late end.

The show was always about Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny), but Duchovny's absence most of last season and all of this season made no sense. Are we really to believe he'd abandon the woman he loves and their child?

"Where the hell is he?" Scully asked in a recent episode, echoing the frustration and anger of viewers.

Series creator Chris Carter, who doesn't believe the series lasted too long, said Mulder will have a good reason for going underground when he returns tonight.

"Yeah, I think it's spelled out," he said in a phone interview earlier this month.

Recent episodes sent shockwaves through fandom as viewers saw the Lone Gunmen die (yes, they're really dead, Carter said) and Scully give up her and Mulder's child for adoption.

For all intents and purposes, baby William is gone, Carter said. After all, you can't have Scully and Mulder chasing aliens in a future movie with a toddler tagging along.

"It was a problem we knew existed, and we couldn't figure out how we were going to handle it," he said. "This seemed like the best way."

Carter said tonight's finale will not set up a movie or answer all the questions raised over the years.

"What we're really attempting to do is have it all make sense," he said. "It will close the series and hopefully bring us full circle."

But it won't be the end. Carter said Fox wants another "X-Files" movie, and, he said, Anderson and Duchovny are ready to reprise their roles.

"Nothing's standing in our way except everyone's busy schedules."

No plot for the film has been developed, but Carter knows what he doesn't want to do.

"I don't want to do a mythology episode," he said. "It may be a conspiracy, but it won't deal with the conspiracy."

'Survivor: Marquesas' (8 tonight, CBS)

This fourth edition of the reality show has offered more entertainment than the sorry African-set episodes that aired last fall.

Tonight's two-hour finale is followed by a live reunion of the entire cast that will be broadcast from New York's Central Park. What New York has to do with this South Pacific-set "Survivor" isn't readily apparent, but the addition of "Survivor" fan Rosie O'Donnell as host (replacing Bryant Gumbel) should add some spark.

'The Cosby Show: A Look Back' (9 tonight, NBC)

The entire cast - minus loopy Lisa Bonet - returns to reminisce about this sitcom that's emblematic of a kinder, gentler television landscape.

Phylicia Rashad, who starred as attorney Clair Huxtable, said the show became a hit because of the honesty of the relationships among the characters.

"I think the audience saw themselves in those characters and liked what they saw," she said in a recent phone interview. "I watch the reruns now [on Nick-at-Nite] and our show was so absolutely honest. The young people were young people. Their behavior was age appropriate, not young people who sounded like they were 50 and 40."

Rashad said cast members talk about what it was like to work on the classic series and their jobs since "The Cosby Show." She's not surprised by renewed interest in past TV hits.

"Isn't it interesting? Things we thought were passť, done and over with, come back and there's such interest in them," she said. "Hmm, hmmmm. There must be something there that young people are not seeing in things being programmed today."

'The Practice' (9 tonight, ABC)

Two episodes of the legal drama air back to back, including the season finale at 10 that will feature "a shocking murder that hits home at the firm."

The show wasn't available for review by the TV Week deadline (filming didn't begin until May 2), but here's ABC's description: "All the partners rally around the case of a fragile client with whom they all have a personal connection ... a startling verdict is revealed that could alter the course of life for several members of the firm."

Smells like a cliffhanger.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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