'Big Brother' a never-ending saga

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Six men and six women submit to the indignity of surveillance and incarceration on "Big Brother 3," (8 p.m., CBS). Julie Chen, who once called herself a journalist, returns to host the series.

Maybe it's the hot weather, but I have absolutely no memory of "Big Brother 2." Will we be forced to endure "Big Brother 49" and "50" as we enter our old age? I've come to liken reality series to albums by Chicago. Interest and popularity tend to decline as the numbers go up. Does anybody really remember anything past Chicago III? Does anyone really care?

� My nomination for the year's worst adaptation of a good book to a pointless series goes to "Worst Case Scenario," (8 p.m. TBS). "The Worst Case Scenario Handbook," by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, hit the best seller lists in 1999. The book explained how to survive encounters with alligators and mountain lions and the best ways to jump off the roof of a burning building. Readers loved its cheeky but informative style.

The television version of "Worst Case" dispenses with the book's low-key approach and employs every graphic gimmick in the book to manufacture fake adrenaline and phony suspense. Mike Rowe hosts the series from a very fake looking laboratory, complete with smoking beakers, laser beams and an anonymous assistant dressed in a micro-mini lab coat. It looks like a made-for-TV knock-off of Dr. No's evil lair.

The scenarios are no less cheesy. A curvaceous stuntwoman demonstrates the best way to jump from a building to a garbage bin conveniently located three stories below. For reasons unknown, she's dressed in gold, skin-tight spandex that just barely covers her glitter-encrusted cleavage. She lands in the garbage bin. And so should this show.

� Samuel L. Jackson hosts the "10th Annual ESPY Awards," (8 p.m., ESPN) honoring the past year's achievement in sports in 35 categories. Participants and attendees include Tom Hanks, Adam Sandler, Matthew Perry, Kiefer Sutherland and Muhammad Ali.

Tonight's other highlights

� Scheduled on "60 Minutes II," (7 p.m., CBS): America's missile defense system; five siblings attend the Juilliard School of Music.

� Jay looks back at a decade of quips, monologues and guests on the repeat special "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 10th Anniversary," (7 p.m., NBC).

� Neve Campbell, Matthew Perry and Dylan McDermott star in the 1999 romantic triangle "Three to Tango," (7 p.m., WB).

� Cal Ripkin, Jr. hosts "Stories from the Hall of Fame: Baseball," (7 p.m., History) profiling Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Leo Durocher, Roberto Clemente and Nolan Ryan.

� Auditions continue on "American Idol," (8 p.m., Fox).

� Scheduled on "48 Hours" (9 p.m., CBS): a profile of the man behind the biggest teen musical acts, including Britney Spears and N'Sync.

Cult choice

Sophisticated sleuths Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) battle bad guys and hangovers as they solve a murder mystery in the 1934 gem "The Thin Man," (7 p.m., Turner Classic Movies). The 1936 sequel "After the Thin Man," (9 p.m.) follows.

Series notes

All are repeats ... On back-to-back episodes of "Bernie Mac," (Fox), Bernie takes in his sister's kids (7 p.m.,), Jordan tries out for football (7:30 p.m.) ... Parenting advice on "My Wife and Kids," (7 p.m., ABC) ... Archer and Dr. Phlox face an ethical dilemma on "Enterprise," (7 p.m., UPN) ... Nicole Sullivan guest stars as Andy's vegetarian girlfriend on "According to Jim," (7:30 p.m., ABC).

Still sleepless, the President consults a therapist (Adam Arkin) on "The West Wing," (8 p.m., NBC) ... On back-to-back episodes of "The Drew Carey Show," (ABC), Drew woos Kate (8 p.m.), Adam West and Max Gail guest star as Drew's boarders (8:30 p.m.).