USA offers quality miniseries with 'Traffic' tale

Remember when miniseries used to matter? Discerning viewers should not miss "Traffic: The Miniseries" (8 p.m., USA, continuing Tuesday and Wednesday). While clearly based on the 2000 film (and the British television miniseries that in turn inspired that movie), "Traffic" presents an entirely different cast of characters and updates the drama to reflect the war on terror. But like those two fine dramas, it weaves a complex, overlapping story about the illegal international trade in drugs, weapons and human lives.

Like the best gangster pictures, "Traffic" unfolds with an almost operatic sense of paranoia. In addition to its depiction of global conspiracies of the darkest kind, the film offers the recurring message that the smallest acts of corruption can lead to unspeakable evils.

Dennis Miller is host of "Dennis Miller" (8 p.m., CNBC), a nightly talk-analysis show covering politics and news. Miller faces the prospect of trying to be funny, witty, pithy and quotable one hour a night, six nights a week. That's a tall order for anybody.

Miller, who has professed a rightward tilt in his politics, particularly since Sept. 11, 2001, joins "SNL" veteran Al Franken in the comedian-turned-political-pundit ranks. If Franken's career arc is any indication, a move toward politics may be a great midcareer boost.

"The Wild Ride to Super Bowl I" (9 p.m., HBO) takes a documentary look at the first meeting between the then AFL and NFL teams. What a difference XXXVII games make. In 1967, the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs played before more than 30,000 empty seats. Tickets were priced from $6 to $12 dollars, and television commercials (which now fetch more than $2 million) went for $42,000.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Bruce Willis stars in the 1998 action film "Armageddon" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • Peter (Chris Elliott) crashes with Robert and Amy on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • A murderer strikes during a power outage on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • Murder stalks the pit crew at a NASCAR event on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • The muscular newcomers treat the Joes with disdain on "Average Joe: Hawaii" (9 p.m., NBC).

Late night

Jennifer Connelly and Christopher Paolini appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes David Spade on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Darrell Hammond, Shannen Doherty and Joshua Bell are booked on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Tyra Banks, Tony Siragusa and Phantom Planet are booked on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).


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