Chicago croons on 'By Request'

Here's a trivia question: Which number is higher, the number of Super Bowls or the number of albums by Chicago? I don't know the answer, and I don't want to know, since I remember both the first Super Bowl in 1967 and the first Chicago Transit Authority album in 1968, and both facts make me feel pretty darn old. Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

The fact that most people I know gave up on Chicago sometime around Chicago 3 has had little or no effect on the band, which appears tonight on "Live By Request" (8 p.m., A&E;). In a career that spans 35 years, Chicago has sold more than 122 million records, including five No. 1 albums.

Just as the title implies, "Live by Request" allows fans to call in requests and even chat with surviving members of the band. And don't even ask me to name them. You need a whole season of "Behind the Music" just to keep up with the deaths, spats and personnel changes that have beset this band, known for their smooth horn arrangements and power ballads.

Mark McEwen hosts the proceedings with a gushing enthusiasm that recalls his early days as an FM disc jockey.

I've had the pleasure of attending several "Live By Request" concerts featuring artists ranging from Tony Bennett to David Bowie, and they are always a good show. The sight of musicians breaking into their old hits on a moment's notice is always exciting. I may have long since given up on Chicago, but "Live by Request" is a hard habit to break.

� Tommy Lee Jones, Kenneth Branagh, Rene Russo, Tim Allen and other performers discuss the films and peculiar personality of filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld on "The Directors" (6 p.m., Encore). Sonnenfeld, whose oddball vision has informed such movies as the "Men in Black" franchise, "Get Shorty" and the "Addams Family" franchise attributes his quirky attitude to his birthday. "Being born on April Fools Day (1953) has been a very influential part of my film career," says Sonnenfeld. "I seem to have an absurdist attitude about life and a shrewd sense of reality."

Tonight's other highlights

� Jonathan Frakes is host of the season finale of "Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction" (7 p.m., Fox).

� Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin star in the 1997 outdoor thriller "The Edge" (7 p.m., ABC).

� The New York Giants greet the San Francisco 49ers (7:30 p.m., ESPN) in the first game of the 2002 NFL season.

� Peter Jennings is host of "In Search of America" (9 p.m., ABC, part 3 of 6) examining the limits of self-expression at a Colorado high school.

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