Writer, serial killer hang out in thriller

Friday, March 21, 2003

The popular fascination with Ted Bundy never ends. How could this smart, handsome man turn into the serial monster responsible for the murder of dozens of women? Billy Campbell ("Once and Again") employs all of his boy-next-door charms to play the yuppie killer in "The Stranger Beside Me" (7 p.m., USA).

"Stranger" concerns the peculiar relationship between Bundy and the budding true crime author Ann Rule (Barbara Hershey). Based on real events, the film shows how Bundy befriended Rule and her daughter while they were both working on a suicide hotline in Seattle. As a trail of murders began to alarm local police, Bundy and Rule even discussed the cases and Rule's worries about the safety of her teen-age daughter.

Nickelodeon celebrates its popular cartoon "SpongeBob Square Pants" (7 p.m.) with a two-hour festival of silliness featuring live action material showcasing Patchy the Pirate (Tom Kenny), SpongeBob's self-proclaimed biggest fan. Kenny is also the voice of the underwater cartoon character.

Patchy is a wonderful postmodern send-up of children's show hosts from television's past. In fact, he often seems to be sending up several send-ups, including Pee Wee Herman. But never mind. Patchy introduces two hours of repeat cartoons, as well as a special "lost" episode, "The Sponge Who Could Fly."

John Crichton's long, strange trip concludes on the series finale of "Farscape" (7 p.m., Sci Fi). "Farscape" pushed the envelope of high production values in a basic cable universe.

Tonight's other highlights

The NCAA Basketball Tournament (7 p.m., CBS) continues.

Performers from three to 15 compete on "America's Most Talented Kid" (7 p.m., NBC).

Spunky 'tweens take up drag racing in the cable movie "Right On Track" (7 p.m., Disney).

Singer Chris Isaak guest stars on "Ed" (8 p.m., NBC).

A child beauty queen's murder on "Law & Order: SVU" (9 p.m., NBC).

Series notes

The hunt for a serial killer on "Fastlane" (7 p.m., Fox) ... Tom Bergeron offers two hours of "America's Funniest Home Videos" (7 p.m., ABC) ... Boy problems on "What I Like About You" (7:30 p.m., WB).

Brock freaks out at a reunion on an hourlong "Reba" (7:30 p.m., WB) ... Death of a space man on "John Doe" (8 p.m., Fox).

Late night

Jay Leno welcomes Nicole Kidman, Dame Edna and Shania Twain on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Andy Richter and Rich Hall appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Regis Philbin, Ja Rule and Kevin McDonald chat on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Ashton Kutcher; actress Alison Eastwood; musical guests The Used appear on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).