Fox News hype of 'Celebrity Boxing' a low blow

— America's sleaziest network gives viewers another chance to watch "Celebrity Boxing" (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG). Last week, this pugilistic special bested a repeat of "The West Wing" in the ratings. As you may recall, "Boxing" pit notorious has-beens, including Tonya Harding, Paula Jones, Todd Bridges, Vanilla Ice, Danny Bonaduce and Barry Williams, against each other for three rounds.

Among the many sad things about "Celebrity Boxing" is the way Fox used corporate synergy to spread the stink around. On the night preceding the bout, disgraced skater Harding appeared on The Fox news show "On The Record with Greta Van Susteren." The legally trained Van Susteren managed to keep a straight face as Harding discussed her chances and complimented Van Susteren on her face-lift. Then, without missing a beat, Van Susteren turned to her audience to discuss the murder conviction of Andrea Yates and to announce a special Fox News Poll: "Should Yates be put to death?"

I watch a lot of television, but the sight of a "news" person joking about "Celebrity Boxing" and then discussing an execution without missing a beat was a truly chilling experience.

If that wasn't ugly enough, Fox's New York affiliate followed last Wednesday's "Celebrity Boxing" with an "analysis" of the spectacle during the sports segment on the local news. An embarrassed sports reporter had to interview a mortified boxing expert, who dismissed the pugilistic prowess of Bonaduce and Williams.

Fox is not alone in prostituting local news coverage to hype TV events, but this was particularly galling.

� A month after NBC dominated ratings with its Olympic coverage, ABC will air "World Figure Skating Championship" (7 p.m.), featuring men's pairs finals, taped earlier from Nagano, Japan. Participants include gold medalist Alexei Yagudin of Russia and American skater Timothy Goebel.

� "Great Performances" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) explores the life and career of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century.

Even if you've never seen his masterpieces, including "Rashomon," "Seven Samurai," "Throne of Blood," and "Ran," you have definitely felt his influence. "Samurai" inspired "The Magnificent Seven," a film that helped modernize the Hollywood Western. Kurosawa's film "Yojimbo" inspired Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars," a film that launched the "spaghetti western" genre and boosted the career of an unemployed TV cowboy named Clint Eastwood. And while not considered one of Kurosawa's best, "The Hidden Fortress" inspired the young George Lucas when he created "Star Wars."

Sam Shepard narrates this somber, and at times grim recounting of the director's life, which includes his strict upbringing by a Samurai father and the suicide of his older brother. The film does not shrink from Kurosawa's role in creating propaganda films for the Japanese Ministry of Information during World War II. Paul Scofield reads accounts from Kurosawa's own memoirs.

� TNT swims with the sharks. Their great-white marathon begins with the 1975 thriller "Jaws" (7 p.m.), followed by the 1978 sequel "Jaws 2" (9:45 p.m.) and the pale 1987 Michael Caine vehicle "Jaws: The Revenge" (12:15 a.m.). All three received an R rating. If you're still not afraid to go back into the water, there's the 1977 knock-off "Orca" (2:15 a.m., TV-14), starring Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling.

Tonight's other highlights

� The NCAA Basketball Tournament (6:30 p.m., CBS) continues.

� Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson star in the 1971 fantasy "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (7 p.m., Family, TV-G).

� Ross' new girlfriend wants his face on her Christmas card on "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

� Ioan Gruffudd stars in the 1999 TV movie sequel "Horatio Hornblower: The Wrong War" (8 p.m., A&E;, TV-PG,V).

� A would-be novelist finds his imagination running amok in the repeat of the new comedy "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).

� Greene's out-of-control daughter shows up at the hospital on a repeat of "ER" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

Series Notes

� "Will," "Shoot" and "King" are repeats ... Wrestling on "WWF Smackdown" (7 p.m., UPN, TV-PG,D,L,V) ... On back-to-back episodes of "My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star" (WB), on the road in Idaho (7 p.m., TV-14,D,L), money differences (7:30 p.m., TV-14,L) ... Faith lets loose on "Leap of Faith" (7:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

� Will keeps his ballet-dancer boyfriend a secret on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14) ... Paige feels expendable on "Charmed" (8 p.m., WB, TV-PG,L,S,V) ... Finch and Elliott compete for Amy's attention on "Just Shoot Me" (8:30 p.m., NBC, TV-14) ... Bobby feels alone on Valentine's Day" on "King Of the Hill" (8:30 p.m., TV-PG).

Late night

� "Incorrect" and "Conan" are new � Jay Leno hosts James Carville, Robin Williams and Ludacris on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

� Bill Maher welcomes Joe Klein, Matthew Modine and Nancy Pfotenhauer on "Politically Incorrect" (11:05 p.m., ABC).

� Elijah Wood, Rosario Dawson and Tony Bennett appear on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) � Ethan Zohn, Josh Hartnett and Remy Zero on "Late Show with David Letterman" (12:05 a.m., CBS).


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