Heavenly visit for 'State of Grace'

Monday, July 22, 2002

Stephen Collins moonlights on his wife's show tonight, and the results are very amusing. Collins, who plays the patriarch of the long-running, G-rated Aaron Spelling soap opera "7th Heaven," has been married to Faye Grant, the star of "State of Grace" (7 p.m., Family), for 17 years. Grant plays Tattie McKee, Grace's socialite mother on this gentle sitcom about two best girlfriends growing up in North Carolina in the 1960s.

Collins guest stars as Norris Sinclair, Tattie's old friend and a B-movie director with a checkered career and a habit of spilling drinks and tripping over his own feet. Sporting period glasses, a thin tie and groovy jacket, Sinclair resembles "Laugh-In's" Gary Owens, or a clumsy reject from "Playboy After Dark." He arrives in Ashmore from Hollywood while trying to put together his comeback film. Along the way, Sinclair decides to cast Grace in his unnamed picture, a possibility that drives her best friend, Hannah, crazy with jealousy. While Grace gets ready for her screen test, Hannah wages a campaign to convince her protective mother to allow her to get pierced ears.

In its smart and unabashedly sentimental fashion, this episode of "State of Grace" turns these two stories into a wistful meditation on the waning days of childhood, a time when Hannah and Grace can't wait to grow up, and when their parents continue to see them as little girls.

� "Mystery" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) serves up four new episodes of "Murder Rooms" starring Charles Edwards as a fictionalized version of the young Arthur Conan Doyle before he embarked on his career as the author of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Tonight's saga, "The Patient's Eyes," has Doyle setting up his medical practice in a less-than-friendly town. One of his patients, Heather Grace (Katie Blake), complains of astigmatism. But she really wants to talk about troubling visions of a hooded figure that follows her on a bicycle through forbidding woods. Doyle's mentor, professor Joseph Bell (Ian Richardson), helps him investigate this odd apparition and turns up a compelling tale of murder and greed with enough plot twists to keep the most ardent Sherlock Holmes aficionado guessing until the very last clue. Richardson is outstanding.

� Combining elements of "The Dating Game" and reality programming, the new series "Meet My Folks" (9 p.m., NBC) follows one woman's three potential suitors as they spend three days with her mom and dad. Each contestant is tested by contrived conversations and interactions with both his love interest and her folks. The winner gets to squire her on a weeklong Hawaiian vacation.

Tonight's other highlights

� The director of "The Sixth Sense" is host to his own show about popular phobias on "M. Night Shyamaian's Signs of Fear" (7 p.m., ABC).

� "The Great Outdoor Games" (7 p.m., ESPN2) continue.

� The old lodge takes its hold on Jack (Steven Weber) as Stephen King's "The Shining" (8 p.m., ABC, part two of three) continues.

� Scheduled on "48 Hours" (9 p.m., CBS): the murder of the Delaware governor's press secretary.

Series notes

"Dog" is new ... Carrie's eye surgery leaves her blind on "King of Queens" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Joe Rogan is host to "Fear Factor" (7 p.m., NBC) ... On four episodes of "Grounded for Life" (Fox), Claudia resumes her smoking habit (7 p.m.), kung-fu fighting (7:30 p.m.), Eddie tells a fib (8 p.m.), a very bad hair day (8:30 p.m.)

Darryl meets an old flame on "The Hughleys" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Annie quits her job on "7th Heaven" (7 p.m., WB).

A weird neighbor spooks Sam on "Yes, Dear" (7:30 p.m., CBS) ... Lil' Zane guest stars on "One on One" (7:30 p.m., UPN).