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ENDING WELFARE AS WE KNOW IT
(With host Meredith Vieira)
Friday, June 5
TV highlights for the week of May 30-June 5. All times are Eastern; check local listings.
James Taylor Live (PBS, 9-11 p.m.): Grammy-winner singer-songwriter James Taylor kicks off his summer tour with a show telecast from the Beacon Theatre in New York. It's the first nationwide live concert ever broadcast on PBS.
Thicker Than Blood (TNT, 8-10 p.m.): An unfortunate title for an unconventional made-for-TV movie. An idealistic young teacher, Griffin Byrne (Dan Futterman), decides to teach in an inner-city parochial school for a year. Byrne sees that much of the curriculum is irrelevant to his students' lives, so he launches into controversial methods that outrage his headmaster, Father Frank Larkin (Mickey Rourke). Compared with feel-good teacher movies like "Dangerous Minds" and "Stand and Deliver," "Thicker" is less optimistic and more hardheaded. (TV-14, LV)
Thanks of a Grateful Nation (Showtime, 8-11:05 p.m.): A compelling docudrama with fine performances, excellent script, and a brave topic - the Gulf War syndrome. The mysterious illnesses of a Gulf War veteran and a civilian on a cleanup operation spur an ex-Secret Service agent (Ted Danson) to investigate. The desert glows with radiation, yet the Pentagon denies any link between the war and illness. Brian Dennehy, Matt Keeslar, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Steven Weber, and Marg Helgenberger also star. The serious illnesses chronicled in this program are sometimes unpleasant. (TV-14, DLSV)
Larry Sanders (HBO, 10-11 p.m.): After six seasons, talk-show host Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling) is calling it quits. In the finale, Sanders scrambles to get his last show together and must sweet talk "X-Files" star David Duchovny to secure him as guest. Other guest stars include Tim Allen, Warren Beatty, Clint Black, and Jerry Seinfeld. (TV-MA)
The Brady Bunch Marathon (Nickelodeon, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.): The five-night marathon showcases 40 episodes marking the series' introduction to the Nick at Nite lineup. Beginning the following week, two episodes will air back to back Monday through Friday.
The Simple Life (CBS, 8:30-9 p.m.): In this lackluster pilot, Judith Light ("Who's the Boss?") is Sara Campbell, host of a domestic TV show. Campbell longs for rural tranquillity and moves her show and crew from Manhattan to farmland. A charming idea, but a good sitcom takes more than birds and bees. (TV-PG, D)
NBA Finals (NBC, 9-11:30 p.m.): The Utah Jazz are resting, awaiting the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Chicago Bulls series. Rest, however, has big payoffs: In six of the last seven finals, the most rested team became the champion. At press time, the Bulls lead the Pacers by 3 games to 2. Play continues Friday.
Ending Welfare as We Know It (PBS, check local listings): "I eat every other day so my daughter can eat every day," says welfare recipient Denise Colona of Wisconsin. Hosted by Meredith Vieira (above), this compelling 90-minute special profiles six families and examines the difficulty of moving off welfare over the course of a year. It also explores the conflicts these families face as they struggle to find jobs, reliable child care, and transportation.