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ENTER THE SWEEPSTAKES
MAY WILL BRING A BONANZA OF WINNING PROGRAMS -- ENOUGH TO LAST ALL SUMMER

Elvis is back for an encore, "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Third Watch," "JAG" and Dr. Carter of "ER" have their swan songs and "American Idol" crowns its fourth singing champion.

It is time for the May sweeps, which is one of the best advertisements for a Digital Video Recorder. A viewer could use the entire 50 hours or so the DVR allows, and spread the viewing joy over the entire summer. Here is one critic's list of the top events, with the warning that networks are known to change schedules for competitive reasons.

Friday: "JAG" finale (9 p.m., Channel 4): CBS promises some "surprising results" as Mac (Catherine Bell) and Harm (David James Elliott) resolve their personal and professional lives.

Sunday: "Riding the Bus With My Sister" (9 p.m., Channel 4): Anjelica Huston directs the "inspiring true story" about the bond between two different sisters played by Rosie O'Donnell and Andie MacDowell.

Tuesday: "Judging Amy" (10 p.m., Channel 4): Amy (Amy Brenneman) resigns and considers a U.S. Senate run in a season or series finale.

May 6: "Third Watch" (9 p.m., Channel 2) series finale: The 55th Precinct House is attacked and set on fire by gangs in an explosive finale, undoubtedly with "surprising results."

May 8 and 11, "Elvis," (9 p.m. Channel 4): Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("Bend It Like Beckman") stars as Elvis in a miniseries told in co-operation with the Presley Estate. Three nights later, CBS airs a two-hour special featuring family members.

May 10: "Amazing Race" two-hour finale (9 p.m., Channel 4).

May 11: "Jack & Bobby" (9 p.m., Channel 49): Political activist Tim Robbins is the voice of the president in a season finale for a show that could have a one-year term.

May 13: (8 p.m., Channel 23): "Star Trek: Enterprise": The series ends after four seasons with two, hour-long episodes.

May 15: "Survivor: Palau" finale (8 p.m., Channel 4).

May 16: "Everybody Loves Raymond, the Last Laugh" (8 p.m., Channel 4) is the retrospective that shows just how painful it was for the cast to say goodbye before the Barones' final half-hour episode (9 p.m., Channel 4).

"Hercules" (8 p.m. Channel 2) Talk about a Herculean task. Getting viewers away from "Raymond." Sean Astin, Leelee Sobieski, Elizabeth Perkins and Timothy Dalton star in the latest big fat Greek event from producer Robert Halmi Sr.

"The Bachelor Finale" ( 8 p.m., Channel 7): Charlie decides, America yawns.

May 17: The season finale of "Gilmore Girls" (8 p.m., Channel 49) finds Rory seeking advice from people she trusts more than her mother.

"American Country Music Awards" (9 p.m., Channel 4): Bound to be a hit locally.

Untitled UPN Reality Series with Britney Spears and hubby Kevin Federline (9 p.m., Channel 23): The couple nicknamed YoYo and Dumb Dumb on "Saturday Night Live" looks for bigger dummies to watch their series.

May 18: "That '70s Show" (8 p.m., Channel 29): Hour-long season finale includes some reminiscing between Eric (departing series regular Topher Grace) and his pals in the basement where it all began.

"Revelations" ( 9 p.m., Channel 2): The finale of the limited series, which saw a big rating decline in Western New York in its second week.

May 19: "The OC" (8 p.m., Channel 29): Jimmy Cooper (Tate Donovan) rushes home to discover the mess his ex-wife, daughter and neighbors have gotten into since he left town.

"CSI" season finale (9 p.m., Channel 4): Directed by Quentin Tarantino, it focuses on the attempts to save a team member literally in "grave danger" after being buried alive.

"The Apprentice" (9 p.m., Channel 2): The Donald gives out his third job.

"ER" (10 p.m., Channel 2): Dr. Carter gets a surprise going-away party in Noah Wyle's last episode as a regular. Oops, there goes the surprise.

May 20: "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" (8 p.m., Channel 7): R&B superstar Ashanti is Dorothy, Queen Latifah is her guardian and Miss Piggy is all four witches in a film that will need wizardry to get an audience on Friday.

May 22: "Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (7 p.m., Channel 29): Fox gets viewers ready for this summer's new film. It competes with the season finale of "Desperate Housewives" (9 p.m., Channel 7), which will be cloned by the networks next fall. ABC's synopsis: "It's a not-so-wonderful day in the neighborhood, as past actions come back to haunt the men and women of Wisteria Lane."

May 23: "24" (8 p.m., Channel 29): The two-hour season finale of this series' best season.

"Everwood," 9 p.m. Two weeks after distraught son Ephram (Gregory Smith) considers leaving for Europe, Andy (Treat Williams) considers a job offer from Chicago and reconsiders his true feelings for Nina (Stephanie Niznik). Expect "surprising results" in this under-rated series.

"Nick & Jessica's Tour of Duty" (9 p.m., Channel 7): Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson go overseas to entertain the military and combat jokes about the survival of their marriage.

May 24: "American Idol"(8 p.m., Channel 29): The live hour-performance finale, with the winner revealed in a two-hour finale on May 25. The performance show will KO the seven-round live finale of "The Contender" (8 p.m., Channel 2) and the season finale of "One Tree Hill" (8 p.m., Channel 49), when "things heat up" between Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Brooke (Sophia Bush) weeks after the actors got married in real life.

"House" (9 p.m., Channel 29): The sarcastic doctor's heart goes aflutter while caring for the husband of a former flame (Sela Ward) in the season finale. It will compete with "Rob (Mariano) and Amber (Brkich) Get Married" (9 p.m., Channel 4), the special in which the reality show lovebirds race to the altar. Well, at two hours, maybe it is more like a crawl.

"Trump Unauthorized" (9 p.m., Channel 7): Justin Louis, whose face is more familiar than his name, stars as you know who.

May 25: "Lost" (8 p.m., Channel 7): Opposite the "Idol" finale, the two-hour season ender finds the castaways on the raft they've constructed when they meet "something unexpected" at sea. It is followed by the season finale of "Alias."

"Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution" (9 p.m., Channel 4): Lookalike Janel Moloney ("The West Wing") plays the woman who didn't realize convicted wife killer Scott Petersen was married when she had an affair with him. There won't be any "surprising results."

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com