Quality shows share same slot

Tonight, two solid repeats remind us why "The West Wing" (8 p.m., NBC) and "The Bernie Mac Show" (8 p.m., Fox) are among the smartest and most rewarding shows on network television. It's simply too bad that viewers have to choose between them.

Both episodes set up the final story lines for each series. On "The West Wing" C.J. (Allison Janney) finds her life threatened after uttering some less-than-diplomatic remarks about Saudi society's treatment of women. The Secret Service assigns an agent (Mark Harmon) to protect her, a development that leads to some great, if subtle (this is C.J. after all), romantic chemistry between these characters.

On the "The Bernie Mac Show" the comedian takes his family back to Chicago to attend the funeral of his favorite uncle. While Bernie tries to mourn the man who was like a father to him, his pesky cousin (Don Cheadle) persistently hustles Bernie for money to invest in some get-rich-quick schemes. The series' last several episodes are all set in Chicago, far from Bernie's posh L.A. lifestyle. And they reveal the serious, even tragic, undercurrents that give this funny comedy its emotional power. Cheadle ("The Rat Pack," "Traffic") is outstanding, as usual. The gifted actor will appear in a series of episodes on "E.R." in the fall.

� Cynthia McFadden hosts "Safety Challenge: Back to School" (9 p.m., Court TV), an instructive and interactive lesson for parents preparing for the new school year. Mixing dramatic re-enactments with multiple-choice quizzes, the show discusses the best way parents and students can cope with school violence, bullying, teen driving, latch-key kids and other issues.

� High drama ensues on part three of "ICU: Arkansas Children's Hospital" (9 p.m., ABC) when Dr. Drummond-Webb, the star surgeon and triathlete, finally allows his colleagues to remove the mysterious lump from his hip. Meanwhile, the emotional nurse Shailaja Raval prepares for her wedding, and a 3-year-old patient wins the hearts of the hospital staff even as chances of his successful transplant seem to wane.

Tonight's other highlights

� Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (7 p.m., CBS): a major discovery sparks a modern-day diamond rush; the world's safest airline.

� A student (Tori Spelling) discovers that her dreamboat (Ivan Sergei, "Jack & Jill") is deeply disturbed in the 1996 made-for-television thriller "Mother, May I Sleep With Danger" (8 p.m.). The title of this movie ranks among the dumbest of all time.

� The gang of four become the final three on "American Idol" (8:30 p.m., Fox).

Series notes

"Seconds" and "Brother" are new � Jerry O'Connell guest stars on "Crossing Jordan" (7 p.m., NBC) � Amateurs compete on "30 Seconds to Fame" (7 p.m., Fox) � On back-to-back episodes of "My Wife and Kids" (ABC), bowling wars (7 p.m.), Junior's choice of cars worries Michael (7:30 p.m.) � On back-to-back episodes of "Enterprise" (UPN) Imprisoned on a strange planet (7 p.m.), an alien takes Archer hostage (8 p.m.).

Still sequestered on a two-hour episode of "Big Brother 3" (8 p.m., CBS) � On back-to-back episodes of "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC), an entirely improvised episode (8 p.m.), Jenny McCarthy guest stars as a police woman (8:30 p.m.) � A banker's artist wife falls to her death on "Law & Order" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

Late night

Al Pacino appears on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) � Jay Leno hosts Tom Cruise and Natalie Merchant on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Tom Brokaw, Liev Schreiber and John Pizzarelli are scheduled on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC).


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