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For television enthusiasts who don't know how to program their VCR or those who don't even own a VCR, TV viewing could get a bit easier with a new "near-video-on-demand" service.

Vista, Calif.-based Dimension Cable said Tuesday it launched a test of Your Choice TV, a service that lets viewers order and watch popular TV programs whenever they want.

Your Choice TV, a subsidiary of DCI, a privately held, multimedia company based in Bethesda, Md., allows viewers to select from 24 programs on a menu and watch them at their convenience on a designated channel on their cable system.

The service is not quite full video-on-demand but is a step beyond pay-per-view, which offers a small number of movies that are not part of regularly scheduled programming.

The choices on the menu will be updated from once a day to once a week, depending on the show. For example, soap opera choices will change daily, but a weekly show will remain on the menu for a full week.

Dimension Cable said it will let about 1,500 of its subscribers in Encinitas, a suburb of San Diego, Calif., test the service over the next four months. For a fee of less than $1 per program, viewers will be able to select programs ranging from documentaries to entertainment to children's fare.

Your Choice TV was founded by John Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications, creator of the Discovery Channel. Hendricks is one of four shareholders in DCI.

The other shareholders include Cox Cable Communications, Newhouse Broadcasting and Tele-Communications Inc., all cable TV operators.

Showtime, a cable television network owned by Viacom Inc., said it will spend $36.2 million to produce 15 to 20 movies in Canada within a 12-month period.

The films will be made mainly through Toronto-based independent production companies and will employ about 100 people each, it said.

Jan Hooks will join fellow "Saturday Night Live" alum Martin Short on NBC's new series "The Martin Short Show," which will air at 8 p.m. Tuesdays.

She will play Short's wife on the show, replacing Catherine Hicks. Hooks had a brief stint on CBS's "Designing Women" in its last season. She was a regular on "SNL" from 1986 to 1991.

Short says, "Jan is one of the funniest and most versatile performers working in comedy today." But then you'd expect Short, a perfect gentleman, to say something like that.

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