BOSTON — TV highlights for the week of Feb. 16-22. All times are Eastern; check local listings. Ratings are listed for shows when available (see explanation box below).
SUNDAY - 2/16
NBA Doubleheader (NBC, 3-8 p.m.): Basketball fans can give the remote a rest for awhile when the Seattle SuperSonics take on the Los Angeles Lakers, followed by Orlando's Magic facing Chicago's Bulls.
Jane Austen's Emma (A&E, 8-10 p.m.): This production of Jane Austen's classic, while lovely, lacks the sparkle of last year's screen adaptation and the originality of 1995's "Clueless." It is certainly more faithful to the book than either of the other adaptations - Mark Strong's Mr. Knightley is closer to Austen's hero than the movie's camera-ready Jeremy Northam. But its primary problem lies with the main character. Austen said when she wrote Emma that she was creating a heroine "that no one but myself would like." Sue Birtwhistle and Andrew Davies, who created last year's award-winning "Pride and Prejudice," have taken this as their mantra: Emma's (Kate Beckinsale) warm nature, love for her father, and charitable works - all found in the novel - have been excised. Still, the production is a cut well above most made-for-TV movies.
Mandela and De Klerk (Showtime, 8-9:55 p.m.): Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine star in this new docudrama about the two men who negotiated an end to South Africa's apartheid.
Dave (ABC, 9-11:20 p.m.): Celebrate Presidents' Day with this sweet-natured 1993 comedy starring Kevin Kline as an impersonator asked to stand in at the White House after the president falls ill. Not surprisingly, the average Joe (or Dave, in this case) does a better job than the politicians. Co-stars Sigourney Weaver. (TV-PG)
Asteroid (NBC, 9-11 p.m.): The premise of this below-average miniseries is simple: A comet passing Earth brings several asteroids with it, and they're headed straight for the United States. Although the special effects are adequate, it's hard not to wince at lines like, "Welcome to your worst nightmare." Actor Michael Biehn (deliverer of aforementioned bad line) is not at his best in the role of Jack Wallach, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Annabella Sciorra stars as the astronomer who discovers the pending crisis, and is also underutilized. Part 2 airs on Monday. (TV-PG)
MONDAY - 2/17
American Experience (PBS, 9-10 p.m.): Even if you've never ridden New York's subway, you'll likely find this documentary on its origins fascinating. Opened in 1904, it was built as an answer to the city's overcrowded streets and burgeoning urban population, which moved outward with the new form of transport. Most interesting are the discussion and photos documenting how a subway is built and how the city around it is affected.
The 11th Annual American Comedy Awards (ABC, 9-11 p.m.): This two-hour award show dedicated to the punch line honors Hollywood's funniest on both the big and little screens. Also, Rob Reiner will receive a special Creative Achievement Award, giving him and his father, Carl, a matched set.
TUESDAY - 2/18
Thomas Jefferson (PBS, 9-10:30 p.m.): This documentary, filled with the stunning cinematography and seamless narration we've come to expect from Ken Burns, explores the fascinating and sometimes contradictory character of our third president. The author of the Declaration of Independence, which stated "all men are created equal," was a large slave-owner who theorized that blacks were an inferior species. It is sometimes argued that it is unfair to judge Jefferson by today's standards on racism, but a number of his fellow Virginia planters - including George Washington - freed their slaves. The two-part series, which concludes Wednesday, covers Jefferson's personal tragedies - four of his six children died young - and public triumphs: He was the first man to codify the separation of church and state, considered by many to be his greatest achievement.
Spin City (ABC, 9:30-10 p.m.): Can you say "guest star"? "Spin City" offers a sweeps-month smorgasbord with a list of celebs as long as this column - among them former Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos, David Letterman, Rosie O'Donnell, and basketball pro Patrick Ewing. All appear as themselves when the staff rounds up big names to wish "happy birthday" to the mayor (Barry Bostwick). (TV-PG)
WEDNESDAY - 2/19
Elton John in Concert From Rio (Disney, 9-10:30 p.m.): John is in fine form in this concert filmed at Brazil's Flamingo Stadium. He rolls through favorites like "I'm Still Standing," "Bennie and the Jets," and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." Among the musicians joining him are skilled percussionist Ray Cooper - always a treat to watch.
THURSDAY - 2/20
Unforgiven (ABC, 8-11 p.m.): This gritty 1992 western won four Oscars, including best picture, and accolades for director and star Clint Eastwood. Co-stars Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman. (TV-14)
PICK OF THE WEEK
Tuesday, Feb. 18 9-10:30 p.m. (PBS)
The following categories apply to programs designed for children:
TV-Y All Children
TV-Y7 Directed to Older Children
The following categories apply to programs designed for the entire audience:
TV-G General Audience
TV-PG Parental Guidance Suggested
TV-14 Parents Strongly Cautioned
TV-M Mature Audience Only
Sports and news programs are not rated.
- Provided by the Motion Picture Association of America