What's on TV

Listings are not necessarily recommended by the Monitor. All timesEastern, check local listings.

SUNDAY 3/7 National Dog Championships (Animal Planet, 8-10 p.m.): This year's championship promises a new breed of competition as 36 dogs compete for the Grand Champion title. (TV-G)

The Real Howard Spitz (Fox Family, 8-10 p.m.): Kelsey Grammer stars as an ex-detective-turned-children's- book author. Writing detective stories for small children leads to a romance with the mother of a small girl trying to solve the mystery of her absent father. Predictable and slow, it is mildly entertaining. (TV-14)

Screen Actors Guild Awards (TNT, 8-10 p.m.): The fifth annual awards show announces the top TV and movie performances of 1998. Kirk Douglas will also accept the lifetime achievement award during this live broadcast.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (A&E, 9-11 p.m.): This BBC-A&E coproduction is a terrific treat, a captivating tale about the guillotine-happy French revolutionary regime. Richard Grant plays Sir Percy Blakeney, an English aristocrat who's a foppish, strutting popinjay at day and a brave adventurer at night. Ronan Vibert is excellent as the hideously loathsome and slimy creature Robespierre. It could have been even better if there were more action, and less talk. (TV-PG)

Rome: Power and Glory (TLC, 9-11 p.m.): This six-part series is a fascinating retelling of the stunning rise and spectacular fall of the Roman Empire. A thousand years of military excursions, turbulent politics, and cultural ethos is depicted with pertinence to the present. The series continues on Monday and Tuesday at the same time. (TV-G)

MONDAY 3/8 Strange World (ABC, 10-11 p.m.): Powerful new episodic crime thriller about an ongoing conspiracy la X-Files. This time a captain in the Army takes on the forces of evil - a complicated plot about medical experimentation on children opens the series. A heavy emphasis on disease and medical details might be a turn-off for many viewers. (TV-PG, V)

PICK OF THE WEEK Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports (HBO, 10-11:30 p.m.): Narrated by Lauren Hutton, this involving 90-minute documentary chronicles the history of women in sports dating back to the Victorian age, when women were limited to "ladylike" sports such as tennis and croquet. Also featured are interviews with Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Sheryl Swoopes, and Pat Summit.

TUESDAY 3/9 The Homes of FDR (PBS, check local listings): A more domestic view of Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives this documentary unexpected charm - though it flags in the middle. The three houses he called home are highlighted - Campobello, Hyde Park, and the Little White House. Each played a role in shaping FDR - an aristocrat with the common touch.

WEDNESDAY 3/10 The Puerto Ricans: Our American Story (PBS, check local listings): Actor Jimmy Smits, entertainer Rita Moreno, and musician Tito Puente share stories about Puerto Rican life in America.

THURSDAY 3/11 NCAA Basketball Tournament (CBS, 12 noon): "March Madness," the 64-team tournament in college, begins today.

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