What's on TV

SHOWS FOR DEC. 27 - JAN. 3

FridaY 12/27

The 25th Annual Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (CBS, 9-11 p.m.): This dazzling array of the nation's glitterati can be touching at times. Maybe presenters slide a bit over the top with extravagant praise. But it's hard not to be moved when one actor quotes from "Othello" to pronounce James Earl Jones "the king." In Elizabeth Taylor's stylish exit from acting to activism, there is a tinge of sadness, a nostalgia for the sweet little child she once was. Clips from her first movies may attack the tear ducts. President and Mrs. Bush sit with their chosen few stars and honor them with grace.

Sunday 12/29

The Lives They Lived (Discovery Civilization Channel, 8 p.m.): This engaging documentary, a companion to The New York Times Magazine's tribute issue, looks at such luminaries as comedian Milton Berle, folklorist Alan Lomax, designer Bill Blass, mobster John Gotti.

Tuesday, 12/31

Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2003 (ABC, 11:35 p.m.): Talk about old acquaintances. Dick Clark rings in the New Year from New York's Times Square for the 31st year in a row.

Wednesday 1/1

College Bowl Games (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN, 11 a.m.,): March into the New Year with the Tournament of Roses Parade, hosted by Bill Cosby and Fred Rogers. At the same time, it's a football lover's dream: Six bowl games in 13 hours. Ohio State and Miami face off in Friday's Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.

Thursday 1/2

Frontline: 'Much Ado About Something' (PBS, check local listings): Well, who did write Shakespeare's plays? Was it Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, or Sir Francis Bacon, as many believe? Could it have been the great playwright Christopher Marlowe? Or did the actor from Avon, the Bard himself, write his own work? This documentary investigates the "Marlovian" argument. Proponents believe that Marlowe faked his own death at 29, escaped to Italy (where many of the plays are set), and sent home manuscripts to his front man, W.S. Now, what does it really matter who wrote the greatest plays in the English language? It matters to a lot of us. But you have to see the show to understand the implications for history.

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