'Friends' sweeps in a dormant plotline

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Oh boy, February sweeps begin. Once upon a time, this monthlong, ratings-grabbing extravaganza brought original movies, miniseries and genuine excitement. It has become a festival of stunt casting and gimmickry. The best that can be said of sweeps is that at least it forces the networks to run original episodes, and pay some attention to character development and story lines.

Take tonight's "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC). Three weeks ago the popular sitcom took a big step toward its resolution when Chandler and Monica admitted that they were thinking of moving to the suburbs. But having moved forward one step, "Friends" rewarded viewers with two weeks of repeats. Tonight, the series picks up the very intermittent plot thread concerning Phoebe's wedding. This becomes an opportunity for stunt casting as Danny DeVito guest stars as some unorthodox entertainment hired for her bachelorette party. Ah, yes, what would sweeps be without the obligatory bachelor party?

Tonight's other highlights

Late night

Drew Barrymore, Tara Dakides and Fountains of Wayne appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno greets Queen Latifah, Jason Bateman and Lyle Lovett on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Matt Lauer and Harry Connick Jr. chat on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC).