'Dinotopia' an expensive risk

ABC hopes that the last shall be first. Or at least be competitive. Their lavish new series "Dinotopia" (7 p.m., ABC) is the final new series to premiere this fall. The adventure fantasy picks up where the acclaimed April 2002 miniseries left off, only much of the cast has been replaced. Teenage brothers Karl (Erik von Detten) and David Scott (Shiloh Stong) have been cast away on a mysterious island where humans and at least some dinosaurs live in harmony. Michael Brandon plays their brash father, Frank, who quickly becomes impatient with the genteel ways of the Dinotopians.

In the miniseries, the brothers Scott helped retrieve the magical sunstones that the Dinotopians need to keep the mean carnivorous dinosaurs at bay. As tonight's action begins, a band of rebels stumble upon another, more sinister source of light that threatens the existence of the human/reptile utopia.

"Dinotopia" is an ambitious and expensive gamble for ABC. The Disney-owned network clearly believes that there is room for more family-oriented fare on an evening dominated by the sexual shenanigans on "Friends" and the often-gratuitous gore of "CSI."

Other holiday specials include the repeat of the broadcast of the 1999 space adventure "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (7 p.m., Fox), starring Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and countless digitally created characters.

Country pop superstar Faith Hill performs hits old and new, including her No. 1 song "Cry," on "Faith Hill: When the Lights Go Down" (8 p.m., NBC). Taped in September, the concert also includes performances of her hits "Breathe" and "The Kiss."

The King may have left the building, but his music never dies. "Elvis' No. 1 Hits" (9 p.m., NBC) unites a raft of contemporary musicians, including Bono, Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, Chris Isaak, LeAnn Rimes, the Dave Matthews Band, Norah Jones and Britney Spears to perform songs from Presley's vast collection of hits. The special also includes vintage footage of the King throughout his three-decade career and special reflections on the 25th anniversary of his death.

Fans of TLC's guilty-pleasure series "Trading Spaces" get a chance to catch "Changing Rooms," the British series that inspired the cable hit. TLC will air six hours of "Changing Rooms" beginning at 4 p.m. And just to return the favor, TLC will air a new episode of "Trading Spaces" on Saturday (8 p.m.), filmed in London.

Tonight's other highlights

  • The voices of Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston and Harry Connick Jr. are featured in the 1999 animated feature "The Iron Giant" (7 p.m., WB).
  • Bob Hoskins and Peter Falk star in the 2002 adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's adventure "The Lost World" (8 p.m., A&E;).
  • A successful executive (Arija Bareikis, "American Embassy") walks away from her life and career on the pilot episode of "Without a Trace" (9 p.m., CBS).

Cult choice

James Garner and Julie Andrews, who appeared together in the films "Victor/Victoria" and "The Americanization of Emily," reunite in the repeat 1999 made-for-television holiday romance "One Special Night" (8 p.m., Lifetime).

Series notes

On back-to-back episodes of "CSI" (CBS), a bloody casino shooting (7 p.m.); a poker player loses his life (8 p.m.) ... Monica invites a formerly fat high school pal (Brad Pitt) for Thanksgiving dinner on "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC) ... Wrestling on "WWE SmackDown" (7 p.m., UPN).

Late night

Amy Sedaris and the Strokes appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS).


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