'Hunter' back as a kinder, gentler cop show

Twelve years after its cancellation, the "Dirty Harry"-inspired cop drama "Hunter" returns to NBC's schedule. Last fall, a "Hunter" reunion film scored pretty decent ratings. Can an "A-Team" revival be far behind?

The series opens with another two-hour movie, "Hunter: Back in Force" (8 p.m. today, NBC). Fred Dryer returns in the title role as Sgt. Rick Hunter, a taciturn guy who lets his .44 magnum do most of the talking. Older and grayer since the first series, Dryer's character looks more like a bank vice president than a gun-wielding avenger. Stepfanie Kramer also returns as his right-hand woman, Dee Dee McCall.

With PG-rated dialogue and a more discreet depiction of violence, morbidity and gore, this revived "Hunter" might appeal to fans of older, less-complicated cop dramas, from a television era before "NYPD Blue," "Homicide" and "The Shield."

As in cop shows of yore, the bad guys here are really, really deranged. Hunter is stalked by Randall Skaggs (Gregory Scott Cummins), a paroled murderer out to kill Hunter for sending him up the river. He's the kind of killer who might earn the nickname "Mad Dog," and he's helped out by his crazy brother, who might as well be named "Plumb Loco."

Five additional new, hourlong "Hunter" episodes will run at 9 p.m. Saturdays beginning next week.

  • Taped last month in Chicago, "Dennis Miller: The Raw Feed" (9 p.m. today, HBO) captures the current-events-obsessed comic at his most cranky, smug and arcane. Scanning the headlines from North Korea to the still-to-be-launched war against Saddam Hussein, Miller begins his routine with an esoteric crack about rug weaving, and it goes downhill from there.

At his best, Miller sounds like he's trying out for the job of the court jester for the Fox News Network. For a guy whose reputation is based on a news junkie's savvy, Miller trots out a lot of musty material.

  • Sam Neill gets to live it up in the cable thriller "Framed" (7 p.m. Sunday, TNT). He's Eddie Meyers, a bon-vivant, money-laundering mobster captured on a Caribbean island by quick-thinking vacationing Queens detective Mike Santini (Rob Lowe).

With an accent that jumps from Boston to Brooklyn to "West Wing," the handsome Lowe is less than credible as a blue-collar cop. So you're not terribly surprised when Meyers tricks him, or when Neill steals the movie.

Tonight's highlights

  • Rosie O'Donnell is host of "Kids' Choice Awards 2003" (7 p.m., Nickelodeon).
  • A bookie loses his last bet on "Law & Order" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz star in the 1997 comedy "My Best Friend's Wedding" (8 p.m., ABC).
  • "Less Than Perfect" co-stars Sara Rue and Andy Dick engage in interior decoration on "Trading Spaces" (8 p.m., TLC).
  • Ray Romano is host of "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC). Zwan performs.

Sunday's highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): golf star Annika Sorenstam; Iran; the propaganda war.
  • Homer lives la vida lavender on "The Simpsons" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • James Lipton heaps obsequious praise on John Travolta on "Inside the Actor's Studio" (7 p.m., Bravo).
  • A doctor (Christine Lahti) confronts her actions during the Holocaust in the 2003 drama "Out of the Ashes" (7 p.m., Showtime).
  • "The Jury" continues on "Masterpiece Theatre" (8 p.m., PBS, part two of four).
  • McNorris worries about his actions during a drunken binge on "Boomtown" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • Fifty-something men enjoy a second adolescence in the second season of the British comedy "Manchild" (9 p.m., BBC America).

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