Danson shines in role of psychic

Ted Danson is such a popular television personality that you almost overlook the fact that he's also a very good actor. Forget the womanizing Sam Malone on "Cheers" or the cranky Bronx doctor on "Becker." Ted Danson turns in a marvelously understated performance as psychic James Van Praagh in the compelling made-for-television chiller "Living With the Dead" (8 p.m. Sunday, CBS).

Van Praagh cannot only see dead people, he hears them as well, and brings their messages to the living. It only takes one look at Danson's gaunt and haunted character to see that this "gift" has brought him a lifetime of agony. Director Stephen Gyllenhall makes an economical use of flashbacks to show how James was ostracized by his classmates and chastised by his nuns and teachers. When poor little James finally meets a lonely kindred spirit in the woods, he turns out to be just that � a spirit. At his parent's insistence young James suppresses his peculiar talent.

Well into middle age, James has made a mess of his marriage and seems on the verge of driving his business into the ground. Danson's pale demeanor, sunken eyes and stunted posture paint a picture of a defeated man. To make matters worse, his visions return with a vengeance after the death of his mother (Diane Ladd). His business consultant, a dabbler in the occult (Queen Latifah), also encourages him to embrace his gift.

Suddenly, he finds he can't go to the supermarket without seeing his deceased mother. He's haunted by the vision of a silent teen-ager whose hands have been bound together by twine. The spirit of a dead man tells James that he had been murdered. James leaves a tip with a police detective Karen Condrin (Mary Steenburgen) that leads to the arrest of the man's killer.

The recurring sight of the boy with the bound hands leads James to discover the grisly work of a serial murderer and sets the stage for Tuesday night's conclusion. A terrific television movie, genuinely creepy and gripping from start to finish.

� Carol Burnett hosts the two-hour retrospective, "CBS: 50 Years from Television City" (7 p.m. today, CBS). Guests including Bob Barker, John Ritter, Craig Kilborn and Tommy Smothers reflect on the sitcoms, variety shows, talk shows and game shows taped at Hollywood's Television City studios, which opened in 1952.

In keeping with the nostalgic theme, CBS has invited fans, including Ron Howard and Billy Bob Thornton, to glance back at their favorite clips of "Everybody Loves Raymond: The First Six Years" (7 p.m., Sunday, CBS).

Today's other highlights

� Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler and Billy Bob Thornton star in the 1998 meteor thriller "Armageddon" (7 p.m., ABC).

� Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo star in the 1999 drama "The Thomas Crown Affair" (7:30 p.m., NBC).

� Amanda Donohoe and Tony LoBianco star in the 2002 drama "Lucky Day" (8 p.m., Pax) based on a novel by Mary Higgins Clark.

� Mannion fights a turf war with the head of the CIA (Beau Bridges) while conducting an investigation into the murder of a spy on the "District" (9 p.m., CBS). The story concludes on Thursday's episode of "The Agency."

Sunday's other highlights

� Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): How Canada's immigration policy helps terrorists; France's controversial skating judge; Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve on the West Bank.

� Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment star in the 1999 supernatural drama "The Sixth Sense" (7 p.m., ABC).

� On back-to-back episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, TV-14): a police overtime probe turns deadly (9 p.m.); a mysterious teen author may hold a clue to publisher's murder (10 p.m.).


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