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TV Mail Box

Q: I've noticed that some network prime-time programs start before the top of the hour. Why do they do this?

-- David Little, Los Alamos, N.M.

A: In all honesty, we've found it a more common occurrence for shows to start after the top of the hour, by a minute or two. In either event, the purpose is the same. The network in question wants to persuade you not to turn to another channel so if a show starts a little earlier or a little later, the hope is that you will stay right where you are on the dial (though most TVs don't have literal dials anymore).

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Q: I'm enjoying seeing Laura Linney on "The Big C" again. What other series has she done?

-- Paul Marshall, Columbus, Ohio

A: The beginning of Linney's television work pretty much coincided with the starts of her careers onstage and in the movies. In 1993, she played central character Mary Ann in the first miniseries based on author Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City." Shortly after that, she had a guest role on "Law & Order," then came back to TV in a 1998 "Tales" sequel.

The early 2000s proved especially fruitful for Linney in television terms; she won an Emmy for the movie "Wild Iris," then another one as the woman who inspired the title character in "Frasier" to leave Seattle in that sitcom's final season. Toward the end of that decade, Linney would earn yet another Emmy as Abigail Adams in the HBO miniseries "John Adams." Though "The Big C" hasn't brought her an Emmy yet, she does have a Golden Globe Award for it.

Send questions of general interest via email to tvpipeline@tribune.com.