The Tonys (CBS, 9-11 p.m., E.T.): Broadway's big night often proves to have a panache missing from other events in this abused genre, even though its ratings are typically lower than Oscar or Grammy night. One of executive producer Gary Smith's goals this year - a somewhat wistful one - is to get the live broadcast over on time. Last year one of the Tony winners actually read a poem on camera, and Smith has sent out pleas to nominees to keep their acceptance speeches to 30 seconds - especially since more
speeches than usual loom this year: The awards for sets, costumes, and lighting will all be done on camera - following a flap over the fact that last year's were done off-stage. The evening is hosted by Liza Minnelli, who will also perform. * MONDAY
Fame in the 20th Century (PBS, 9-11 p.m.): Clive James, one of Britain's better-known writers and broadcast personalities, leads American viewers through a four-part examination of what "fame" means, who has it, and how long it tends to last. The topic is not one of compelling originality, but James is both an informed and funny fellow whose presence helps make this enterprise something more than a thinking man's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Decades ago, of course, Andy Warhol foresaw a society i n which everyone will become famous for 15 minutes, but this subject looks at the enduring figures of history like Hitler, Elvis Presley, and Ernest Hemingway. A mixed bag, but such eclecticism helps the series explore the nature of fame itself.
Episode 1 runs from 1900 to 1926 and notes the rise of mass-circulation newspapers, the ascendancy of silent-film stars like Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Mary Pickford, and other bright names. In an article about fame, James notes that if you count this century's figures of lingering fame, or those whose present fame appears to be permanent, you end up with 250. His criterion is pure fame, not merit, and his list is inevitably arbitrary. But his approach makes the subject manageable and even entertaining.
Please check local listings, especially for the PBS program.