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SUNDAY // "X-Files' lands in alien territory

Tired of the same old female vigilante movies on Sunday? Fox was.

Taking a cue from NBC, which boldly moved comedies to Sundays last year, Fox did the unthinkable: Ripped its most talked-about series, The X-Files, out of a comfortable Friday night time slot right onto Sundays at 9 p.m.

The move pits Mulder and Scully's conspiracy theories against Patty Duke and Meredith Baxter's "kidnapped mothers getting even" genre of made-for-TV movies. It's a big risk, all right, but one with a huge payoff: Twenty-five percent more people watch TV on Sundays than Fridays.

"The X-Files is appointment television," says John Matoian, Fox's now-deposed entertainment chief who orchestrated the move. "We'll know pretty quickly" if fans don't remember to pencil it in on Sundays.

Chris Carter, the show's usually paranoid creator, isn't as worried as fans might expect. For the man who considers X-Files "tantamount to a religious experience" for its faith-testing abilities, the move seems oddly symbolic.

"I know Sunday is a night where people are getting ready to go back to work, and kids might not be able to stay up," he says. "But I'm hoping parents break those rules."

Fox isn't the only network bravely diving into shark-infested Sundays. Last year's feel-good CBS hit Touched by an Angel will do battle with ABC's Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman for family eyeballs at 8 p.m., a move CBS hopes will break the man of steel.

NBC, still trying to create "Must-See TV" on Sundays, moves the spring hit 3rd Rock from the Sun and Boston Common to the 8 p.m. block to compete with Simpsons loyalists. Fox, still looking for the perfect companion to the smarmy Simpson family, has paired it with a real-life odd couple, Ned & Stacey, at 8:30 p.m.

BEST BETS

Comedy: Third Rock from the Sun (NBC) _ Midseason gem last year continues to skewer human folly as only a sitcom about aliens can.

Family comedy: The Steve Harvey Show (WB) _ Promising comedy about life in an urban high school, minus the "lesson-at-the-end" schmaltz.

Drama: The X-Files (Fox) _ Fox's creepiest and most intriguing series. Better time slot should persuade a new audience to "trust no one."

Family drama: Touched by an Angel (CBS) _ Forgiveness, tolerance and finding the will to change are some of the lessons taught by this angel-drama-that-could, last year's break-out hit that has inspired a slew of wannabe do-gooders this year.

WHAT'S NEW

7 p.m.:

Big Deal (already premiered, Fox, WTVT-Ch. 13): Craving a prime-time game show? Fox obviously thought so in reviving Let's Make A Deal for this romp. Hosted by Mark DeCarlo (remember Studs?), the show features comedic games such as "Total Your Car," in which audience members destroy their own clunkers. (Note: This series airs through Sept. 29; eventually, a retooled, renamed L.A. Firefighters will return.)

8:30 p.m.:

The Steve Harvey Show (already premiered, WB, WTMV-Ch. 32): The Warner Bros. network finally taps a true talent in comic Steve Harvey, foolishly let go by ABC after Me and The Boys failed. As a washed-up musician who turns to teaching for a paycheck in this Mr. Kotter's Opus, Harvey's the perfect mix of nerdy grown-up and listening ear for the diverse class of youngsters.

9:30 p.m.:

Life With Roger (already premiered, WB, WTMV-Ch. 32): Man meets weirdo about to jump off a bridge, buys him breakfast, then invites him to be roommates. Sound ridiculous? That's just the first half-hour of this moronic Odd Couple-meets-Perfect Strangers rip-off.

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