Kathie Lee plays bad badly

After 15 years as America's perkiest morning co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford has spread her wings to portray a drug-addled sitcom star in "Spinning Out of Control" (8 p.m., Sunday, E!). The results are not pretty. If you liked Gifford's saccharine image, you'll be appalled by this vulgar, obvious movie.

If you're like the rest of us, "Spinning" only confirms your suspicions about Gifford's acting ability. She's even bad at being bad.

Not that "Spinning" gives us much chance to watch anybody act. Her performance lies buried under a landslide of pretentious editing and annoying speeded-up effects. The film rarely unfolds in real time. The tantrums of Amanda Berkeley (Gifford) are never even given the opportunity to rise to camp.

Just why every scene is chopped down to eight nanoseconds is anybody's guess. But it leads to speculation that Gifford isn't convincing for more than a frame at a time.

In all fairness, Gifford's performance is hardly the only dreadful thing about "Spinning." The film takes many pointless and tasteless detours. In a subplot that adds nothing to the story, Robin Givens plays a starlet who constantly throws herself at Berkeley's beleaguered manager, Marty Rosen (Howie Mandel). Berkeley's sitcom, "Whaddaya Want Mom?," involves children discussing the stimulating virtues of certain brands of condoms. The diabolical network executives are particularly weak.

� Meanwhile, Gifford's former co-host Regis Philbin kicks off a week of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (8 p.m., Sunday, ABC) episodes featuring stars of classic TV shows. Valerie Bertinelli, Marion Ross, Kim Fields, Adam West, Melissa Gilbert, Sherman Hemsley, Danny Bonaduce and Cindy Williams will compete for up to $1 million. All proceeds will go to charity.

� After decades on the same show, you can be forgiven for being a grouch. I'm not talking about Andy Rooney, but Oscar, one of the many stars of "Sesame Street" profiled on the two-hour "Biography Close Up: Sesame Street" (8 p.m., Sunday, A&E;).

Smith speaks with Joan Ganz Cooney, the former documentary filmmaker who dreamed up the notion of creating entertaining educational programming for pre-schoolers, particularly kids who came from homes where books and learning were not a priority.

Smith also chats with longtime cast members, including Bob (Bob McGrath), Susan (Loretta Long), Maria (Sonia Manzano) and several Muppeteers, as well as archival interviews with the late Jim Henson.

Today's other highlights

� For reasons I can't begin to understand, TNT celebrates St. Patrick's Day with a 12-hour "Dirty Dancing" marathon beginning at 11 a.m.

� NCAA Basketball Tournament continues (noon, CBS).

� Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Dennis Hopper star in the 1995 big budget epic "Waterworld" (7 p.m., ABC).

� Tough guys do the darndest things in the 1999 drama "Fight Club" (8 p.m., HBO) starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

� Julia Stiles hosts "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC).

Sunday's other highlights

� A widow (Linda Hamilton) inherits her late husband's secret enclave in the 2001 fantasy "Bailey's Mistake" (6 p.m., ABC).

� John Travolta and Nicolas Cage star in the 1997 thriller "Face/Off" (7 p.m., NBC).

� "Neanderthal" (7 p.m., Discovery) takes a two-hour look at the human species that dominated Europe until the rise of Cro-Magnon man. No, it's not about professional wrestling.

� The tiff between Janice and Svetlana escalates on "The Sopranos" (9 p.m., HBO).


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