Performing arts greats shine

With President Bush, first lady Laura Bush and hundreds of Cabinet members and legislators in attendance, Walter Cronkite will play host to "The 25th Annual Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration Of Performing Arts" (8 p.m., CBS). This year's honorees -- James Earl Jones, Elizabeth Taylor, Chita Rivera, James Levine and Paul Simon -- hail from the worlds of theater, dance, movies, opera and pop music. The festivities were taped Dec. 8.

Best known as the voice of Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" films, James Earl Jones made his name on the New York stage before becoming one of the first black actors to regularly appear in an American soap opera ("Guiding Light") in the 1960s. Past honoree Sidney Poitier delivers a warm introduction and actors Kelsey Grammer, Charles S. Dutton and Courtney B. Vance recall their work with Jones.

Elizabeth Taylor is an actress who truly needs no introduction. And that's a good thing, because John Travolta's remarks are both forgettable and poorly delivered.

Placido Domingo pays homage to conductor Levine, and choreographer Harold Prince introduces a clipfest of Rivera's most notable work, including scenes from her Broadway smash hits "West Side Story," "Chicago" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman."

Steve Martin's joke-filled salute to singer Paul Simon is the evening's highlight.

  • It's the year in review on "On the Record with Bob Costas" (7 p.m., HBO). Costas joins Charles Barkley, Howie Long and Tim McCarver to glance back at the biggest sports stories and personalities of 2002. He also interviews Serena Williams and actor (and celebrity golfer) Bernie Mac. "Record" will also present short film tributes to sports giants who died during 2002.
  • The Sundance Channel kicks off a five-night "New Voices for the New Year" festival, showcasing new films by promising directors. In tonight's offering, "Decasia" (8 p.m., Sundance), director Bill Morrison creates a hypnotic dream world using found snippets of silent movies, ancient travel documentaries and other discarded shards of cinema.
  • "Noisemakers" (7 p.m., CMT) looks back at the year in country music. 2002 saw the death of Waylon Jennings and the return of popular stars like Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "48 Hours Investigates" (7 p.m., CBS): new revelations about Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Julie Andrews, Lauren Hutton and Loretta Lynn.
  • Scheduled on a two-hour installment of "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): a controversial televangelist claims he can heal the sick.
  • Cast members gather for the "MASH 30th Anniversary Reunion" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Christopher Lambert stars in the 1995 video-game adaptation "Mortal Kombat" (7 p.m., UPN).
  • A drug dealer's girl may be the only witness to his rival's murder on "Law & Order: SVU" (9 p.m., NBC).

Series notes

Tom Bergeron hosts "America's Funniest Home Videos" (7 p.m., ABC) ... Holly attends a wild shindig in the Hamptons on "What I Like About You" (7 p.m., WB).

A celebrity profile results in a lawsuit on "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (7:30 p.m., WB).

Drew Carey is host of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" (8 p.m., ABC) ... Brock cries on Reba's shoulder on "Reba" (8 p.m., WB) ... Wanda Sykes guest stars on "The Drew Carey Show" (8:30 p.m., ABC) ... David tries out for the football squad on "Greetings From Tucson" (8:30 p.m., WB).

Late night

Isabella Rossellini and Mort Sahl appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Darrell Hammond, Nick Cannon and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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