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Counter Plays

According to ABC, Super Bowl XXXIV is expected to draw a
domestic audience of 130 million. Facing ratings annihilation,
some other networks have already surrendered (NBC, The
Beautician and the Beast, 9 p.m.), while others are fighting
back with thematic counterprogramming. Here's our survey of
Super Sunday viewing alternatives, rated on a scale of I (don't
bother) to X (a good choice if the pregame show or game is a dog).

Matlock marathon (TBS, 24 hours, beginning at 6 a.m.): "For
years The Andy Griffith Show was our man of steel on Super Bowl
Sunday," says TBS vice president of programming Bill Cox.
Unfortunately for TBS, it no longer owns that show. Mayberry
mavens, take note: Don Knotts guests on the 8 p.m. Matlock
episode as a murder suspect. Fer cryin' out loud, Andy! Rating:

Behind the Music marathon (VH-1, 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.): We'll
name the trauma, you guess the artist or artists (answers
follow): 1) Andre Rison's inferno, 2) bus crash, 3) Reuben
Kincaid, 4) death of disco, 5) stage fright & postpartum
depression, 6) orphaned, 7) former hubby skis into tree and 8)
Shanghai Surprise. (1 TLC, 2 Gloria Estefan, 3 Partridge Family,
4 Donna Summer, 5 Donny & Marie, 6 Shania Twain, 7 Cher, 8
Madonna.) Rating: V(H)I.

Murder, She Wrote marathon (A&E, noon to 4 a.m.): Jessica
Fletcher (Angela Lansbury, left) will battle Matlock for the
AARP crowd. In the 6 p.m. episode, "Another Killing in Cork," a
corpse is found in the wishing well of a character named Tom
Dempsey, who does not kick a 63-yard field goal. Rating: VI.

The Big Game: Roadrunner vs. Coyote (Cartoon Network, 1 p.m. to
5 p.m.): This is a Spinal Tap trip, using vintage Roadrunner
cartoon clips, around the Super Bowl's bloated artifice. HBO's
Inside the NFL crew of Len Dawson, Nick Buoniconti and Cris
Collinsworth plays it over the top (Jerry Glanville is his usual
self) during the Slate Rock & Quarry Pregame Show. CNN's Jim
Huber investigates Wile E. Coyote's endorsement deal with ACME.
Rating: A Nigel Tufnel-worthy XI.

Brady marathon (Family Channel, 2 p.m. to midnight): Here's the
story. These aren't Brady Bunch episodes but low-quality,
postseries so-called specials, which lack the sitcom's, shall we
say, Wesson-ality. Rating: II.

American Drinks: History in a Glass and American Eats: History
on a Bun (History Channel, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.): Followed, we
presume, by American Indigestion: History on the John. Rating: VI.

The Silence of the Lambs (Lifetime, 7:30 p.m.): What would Super
Bowl Sunday be without a woebegone Buffalo Bill? This one also
loses, on a last-second shot by FBI agent Clarice Starling that
isn't wide right. Rating: IX.

The Sopranos (HBO, 10 p.m.): To stay with the Vince Lombardi
Trophy presentation or tune in to this acclaimed series? Either
way, you'll get a slice of New Jersey. Rating: VIII.

--John Walters

COLOR PHOTO: TONY ESPARZA/CBS If the game drags, call a programming audible for grisly Hannibal Lecter or grandmotherly Jessica Fletcher


College football's signing day on

Next Wednesday, beginning at 10 a.m., will conduct
a 12-hour chat about who won the recruiting wars, with an hour
devoted to each of the 12 major conferences. Scheduled to go
on-line are the site's highest-rated running backs: Sam
Maldonado, from Harrison (N.Y.) High (committed to Ohio State),
and Marcus Houston, from Denver's Thomas Jefferson High
(uncommitted as of Monday).