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In Brief

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3rd Rock From the Sun (May 22; 8 to 9 p.m.; NBC) takes a whole hour to wave good-bye, with lots of Elvis Costello. Maybe now John Lithgow will find meaningful work. Again.

Hostage Negotiator (May 22; 9 to 11 p.m.; USA) would seem to suggest that the troubles of Job are a kind of deep-pore cleansing. The more terrible things that happen to FBI agent Gail O'Grady -- her husband is a crook; the bureau fires her when she refuses to testify against him; a maniac tries to run her off the road; and her children are taken hostage in the department store whose security she has been hired to ensure -- the more beautiful she becomes.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor (May 26; 8 to 9:45 p.m.; Showtime) is Neil Simon's fond remembrance of Sid Caesar and Your Show of Shows, with Nathan Lane reprising his Broadway role as the volatile comic genius Max Prince; Richard Portnow as his supportive older brother Harry; Mackenzie Astin, Dan Castellaneta, Victor Garber, Peri Gilpin, Zach Grenier, Mark Linn-Baker, and Saul Rubinek as the supremely neurotic writers; and various empty network suits. Richard Benjamin directs, as he did My Favorite Year. Then stay tuned for . . .

Hail Sid Caesar! The Golden Age of Comedy (May 26; 9:45 to 11:05 p.m.; Showtime), in which Caesar himself, plus Simon, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, Mel Tolkin, and Nanette Fabray, recall 39 shows a year for ten years -- before Lawrence Welk drove them off the air. Best of all are digitally restored classic sketches like the Bavarian clock.

Sister Mary Explains It All (May 27; 8 to 9:15 p.m.; Showtime) is Christopher Durang's revenge on the Catholic Church, as directed for TV by Marshall Brickman, with Diane Keaton in a bravura performance as the gun-waving nun and Laura San Giacomo, Wallace Langham, Brian Benben, and Jennifer Tilly as former pupils who return to the scene of her intellectual crimes twenty years later, in Christmas Pageant drag, to discuss matters like abortion and homosexuality. These young adults are as tedious as Sister Mary is crazy. But Keaton is wondrous.


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