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STUNT CASTING, MAGICIANS AND ANGELS ALL COME INTO PLAY IN NOVEMBER SWEEPS

Now that the new season has failed to generate any ratings spark, the Big Four networks are bringing out their big guns for the November sweeps.

If Frankenstein, Cinderella and the Mafia can't give viewers an offer they can't refuse, who can?

Of course, November also is the time when low-rated series go into semi-hibernation and specials by such magicians as Dick Clark (if you can get ratings with some of the junk he programs, you qualify as a magician) and Penn & Teller come along to prop up time periods where audiences have disappeared.

The ax already has fallen on several series, including ABC's
"Timecop" and NBC's "Built to Last." NBC's "Tony Danza Show" soon will be on hiatus. Fox also has placed "413 Hope Street" on hiatus until December. "Living Single" and "Between Brothers" also take a few November weeks off.

November also is the time of stunt casting, gimmicks that shows use to try to enhance ratings. "The Nanny" is looking for help from Chevy Chase on Nov. 5. And John Tesh visits "The Naked Truth" on Nov. 11.

Without further ado, let's look at one critic's Top 25 events of the sweeps. They don't include any theatrical movies, which already have been given considerable airplay on cable or home video and which NBC is relying on heavily.

1. "Sabrina the Teen-age Witch" (8 p.m. Friday, Channel 7): 10,000 Maniacs guest-star as themselves in a Halloween episode.

2. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (8 p.m. Friday, Channel 4): CBS looks for ratings magic opposite "Sabrina" with this rebroadcast of the 1966 program. A half-hour later, it's your chance to miss the 200th episode of "Family Matters."

3. "Cinderella" (7 p.m. Sunday, Channel 7): Whitney Houston, Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander and Bernadette Peters star in a delightfully corny "Wonderful World of Disney" movie.

4. "The X-Files" (9 p.m. Sunday, Channel 29): The season premiere, which will begin uncovering why Mulder isn't dead and investigate the suspicion that someone at the FBI is part of a conspiracy that gave Scully cancer. The story wraps up Nov. 9, and on Nov. 16 something truly bizarre happens: Richard Belzer guest-stars as his "Homicide" character (Munch) in an episode detailing the origin of the Lone Gunmen.

5. "Murder She Wrote: South by Southwest" (9 p.m. Sunday, Channel 4): Angela Lansbury is back solving crimes in a case involving a top-secret government satellite code.

6. "Before Women Had Wings" (9 p.m. Sunday, Channel 7): Oprah Winfrey stars in the first of six made-for-TV movies produced by her company. Based on the novel by Connie May Fowler, "Wings" is about the unlikely friendship between a tender-hearted woman (Winfrey) and a young white girl (Tina Majorino), "coping with the cycle of alcoholism and child abuse."

7. "House of Frankenstein" (9 p.m. Sunday and Monday, Channel 2): Old tale is given modern spin in a much-publicized NBC miniseries that stars Adrian Pasdar, Greg Wise, Teri Polo and a variety of secondary characters from "ER."

8. "George & Leo" (8:30 p.m. Monday, Channel 4): Several cast members of Judd Hirsch's "Taxi" and "Dear John" and the old "Bob Newhart Show" visit Judd and Bob's new show, in an episode that defines what stunt casting is all about.

9. "The World's Scariest Police Chases III," "Prisoners Out of Control" (8 and 9 p.m. Tuesday, Channel 29): Fox pre-empts Tuesday movie. The scariest thing is that these specials actually pull in decent ratings.

10. "Mad About You" (8 p.m. Tuesday, Channel 2): Mel Brooks reprises his Emmy-winning role as Uncle Phil. This time, his coupon collection gets him into trouble.

11. "Party of Five" (9 p.m. Wednesday, Channel 29): Charlie (Matthew Fox) is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and reveals his secret to the family two weeks later.

12. "Murphy Brown" (8:30 p.m. Nov. 5, Channel 4): Murphy contemplates using marijuana to help relieve the pain of her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. In a bizarre coincidence, the program serves as a lead-in for "Scott Hamilton: Back on Ice" (9 p.m.), which marks Hamilton's return to skating after battling cancer.

13. "Angels in the Endzone" (7 p.m. Nov. 9, Channel 7): Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as the irrepressible angel from "Angels in the Outfield" to score points by helping a high school football team in this Disney flick.

14. "Into Thin Air: Death on Everest" (9 p.m. Nov. 9, Channel 7): Based on the best seller by Jon Krakauer, it dramatizes the 1996 tragic ascent of Mount Everest.

15. "Ken Follett's 'The Third Twin' " (9 p.m. Nov. 9 and 11, Channel 4): Kelly McGillis, Larry Hagman and Jason Gedrick star in Follett's tale about cloning, which is the twin to a decent September NBC movie about the same subject.

16. "Law & Order"/"Homicide" Crossover (10 p.m. Nov. 12 and 14, Channel 2): In a takeoff on the JonBenet Ramsey case, Detective's Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Curtis (Benjamim Bratt) investigate the death of a 14-year-old model that could be the result of child abuse that happened in Baltimore, where "Homicide" Detectives Munch (Richard Belzer) and Falsone (Jon Seda get involved.

17. "Oliver Twist" (7 p.m. Nov. 16, Channel 7): Elijah Wood, Richard Dreyfuss and newcomer Alex Trench star in this new "Wonderful World of Disney" version, filmed in Dublin.

18. "Bella Mafia" (9 p.m. Nov. 16 and 18, Channel 4): Vanessa Redgrave, Dennis Farina, Nastassja Kinski and Jennifer Tilly star in Lynda LaPlante's ("Prime Suspect") four-hour miniseries adaption of her novel about a group of Mafia wives who avenge their husbands' murders.

19. "Medusa's Child" (9 p.m. Nov. 16 and 20, Channel 7): Gail O'Grady, Christopher Noth, Vincent Spano, Lori Laughlin, John Glover and Martin Sheen star in a miniseries based on a novel from John J. Nance ("Pandora's Clock)" about a mad scientist who plans on detonating a nuclear warhead during a hurricane because he's angry at the Pentagon.

20. "The Full Monday" (8 p.m. Nov. 17, Channel 2): NBC gives its gimmicky Must-She TV comedies, "Suddenly Susan," "Fired Up," "Caroline in the City" and "The Naked Truth," a gimmicky theme night full of singing and dancing in a takeoff -- so to speak -- of the adorable theatrical movie "The Full Monty."

21. "Meego" (8:30 p.m. Nov. 21, Channel 4) accidentally reaches Gilligan's Island and discovers that Gilligan (Bob Denver), the Professor (Russell Johnson) and Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) are still stuck there.

22. "Touched by an Angel" (8 p.m. Nov. 23, Channel 4): Carol Burnett and her real-life daughter, Carrie Hamilton, star in a very special episode of this series. As if there are any other kind.

23. "What the Deaf Man Heard" (9 p.m. Nov. 23, Channel 4): Mathew Modine, James Earl Jones, Bernadette Peters, Tom Skerritt, Judith Ivey and Jerry
O'Connell star in this Hallmark Hall of Fame fable about a young man in a quaint Southern town where everyone assumes that he is deaf and mute.

24. "Dead by Midnight" (9 p.m. Nov. 23, Channel 7): Timothy Hutton, whose film career appears to have died, stars in a futuristic thriller about a man who discovers he is a cybernetic experiment.

25. "I Survived a Disaster" (8 p.m. Nov. 24, Channel 7): ABC tries to get viewers with this Fox-like special -- at 8 p.m. Monday -- which is ABC's own weekly disaster.

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