Gumbel wrong for Roswell show

Bryant Gumbel narrates "The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence" (7 p.m., Sci Fi), a two-hour examination of alleged efforts by the U.S. government to cover up the 1947 crash of an alien space craft in the remote New Mexico desert.

Even fans of the Roswell mythology may find this study a tad too exhaustive. Combining contemporary interviews, period photographs and grainy black-and-white re-enactments, "Roswell" revolves around the efforts of University of New Mexico archaeologists to literally dig up evidence of a saucer crash. Along the way, we're pummeled with one conspiracy theory after another and a parade of secondary sources. They all claim to have once talked to an eyewitness who was "forced" to change his testimony. All of the evidence is presented as fact, and no contradictory voices are heard.

The most startling thing about "Roswell" is the presence of Bryant Gumbel. Being host of shows like this used to be the province of "Star Trek" second stringers or "The X Files' Mitch Pileggi. A veteran of "The Today Show" and several expensive CBS news failures, Gumbel is what we used to call a journalist. It looks like somebody abducted Bryant Gumbel's credibility.

While "Roswell" pretends to be a documentary "Abduction Diaries" (9 p.m., Sci Fi) offers only first-person accounts of people who claim to have been visited, and even spirited away, by alien creatures. Both of these programs are part of a build up to "Taken," a 10-part science fiction miniseries produced by Steven Spielberg that airs on the network beginning Dec. 2.

l Whenever networks have a programming hole to fill, they trot out Adam Sandler's 1994 golf/hockey comedy "Happy Gilmore" (7 p.m., Fox).

  • "Party of Five" alumni are everywhere. Matthew Fox stars on UPN's spooky series "Haunted" "currently on hiatus for the duration of the November sweeps. Jeremy London has joined the cast of "7th Heaven," and Jennifer Love Hewitt spent five nights last week as host of "100 Greatest Love Songs" on VH1. Tonight, Lacey Chabert, who portrayed the squeaky-voiced Claudia on the Fox tear-jerker, shows up on "The Drew Carey Show" (8 p.m., ABC) as Drew's teenage tutor. Born on Sept. 30, 1982, Chabert no longer technically qualifies as a teen. But that never stopped Melissa Joan Hart (now 26) from passing herself off as a teenage witch. And Luke Perry ("Beverly Hills, 90210") seemed to play a sullen teenager well into his thirties.

Tonight's other highlights

  • The documentary "Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star" (6 p.m., Turner Classic Movies) chronicles the actress's five-decade career, from her years as silent film hoofer to appearances in B movies like "Strait-Jacket" and "Trog."
  • Scheduled on "48 Hours" (7 p.m., CBS): a prosecutor uses scant evidence to indict a man for killing his wife.
  • Damon Wayans, Adam Sandler and James Caan star in the 1996 cop drama "Bulletproof" (7 p.m., UPN).
  • Mike picks up a naked fare who is missing more than his clothes on "Hack" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Grissom and Catherine infiltrate a kinky demimonde on "CSI" (10 p.m., CBS).
  • Two teens stand accused of killing a patient who cultivated medicinal marijuana on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • Scheduled on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC): Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg discuss the forthcoming film "Catch Me if You Can."

Cult choice

Donald Sutherland stars in the 1994 adaptation of Robert Heinlein's 1950 novel "The Puppet Masters" (10 p.m., Encore) -- not to be confused with "The Puppet Master" horror trilogy.

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