Sally Field on trial in 'Court'

It seems like yesterday that President Bill Clinton was announcing that "the era of big government is over." On television, government jobs are a growth industry. The success of "The West Wing" has inspired two new dramas set on the Supreme Court. CBS was the first out of the docket with the mediocre "First Monday," and now ABC pleads its case with "The Court" (9 p.m., ABC).

Academy Award winner Sally Field stars as Kate Nolan, a politically savvy former Ohio governor who is appointed to the Supreme Court. There she finds herself caught in the middle of two ideologically divided camps. (Gee, that's exactly what happens to Joe Mantegna's character on "First Monday.") She also has to contend with an ambitious reporter (Craig Bierko) who is determined to uncover scandals from her earlier political days. Diahann Carroll guest stars as a fellow justice.

"The Court" is the latest drama from John Wells Productions, the creative team behind NBC's "ER." They also produced the political drama "Citizen Baines" about a recently defeated senator who must readjust to civilian life. Viewers never warmed to "Baines," which was yanked from CBS's fall schedule after only a few episodes. A review tape for "The Court" was not provided in time for this column.

� In late 1914 the already famous polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left England with 22 men. They planed to make the first trip across Antarctica. Instead, the Endurance got frozen in an ice flow, forcing the crew to endure two years of sub-zero hell on the bottom of the world. Their story unfolds on a special two-hour "Nova" presentation "Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance" (7 p.m., PBS).

� "The Shield" (9 p.m., FX) offers its third, and best, episode to date. Like "The Sopranos" this series offers a heady mix of violence and humor in a morally ambiguous atmosphere. When Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his rogue strike force raid a drug den, they discover a visiting NBA superstar hiding in the bathroom. Rather than arrest him, or let him go, they detain him just long enough to miss his game with the Lakers, allowing them to place bets with their bookies. The episode concludes with a new subplot that may shed needed light on the mercurial officer.

Tonight's other highlights

� Dean gets jealous when Rory is cast to play Juliet in the school play on a repeat of "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).

� Ben flirts with another woman (Sherilyn Fenn) on "Watching Ellie" (7:30 p.m., NBC). Postponed from an earlier date.

� A trip to a "Sound of Music" sing-along on "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" (7:30 p.m., Fox).

� Nick's client (Kathy Baker) wants her missing daughter declared dead on "The Guardian" (8 p.m., CBS)

� Jack calls on a member of Palmer's staff to track down a killer still at large on "24" (8 p.m., Fox).


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