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Networks hope to sweep "Millionaire'

Here's your question: What are the chances of the other broadcast networks doing anything to stop ABC's ratings juggernaut _ fueled almost solely by one series, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?

Is it: a) not a prayer; b) fuhgeddabouit; c) in their dreams; or d) not much, but that won't stop them from trying.

If your final answer is D, you have a future in network television. Even though Millionaire continues to average about 30-million viewers for each of its three weekly shows, this week marks the start of "sweeps" _ one of the periods during the year when the ratings actually mean something in terms of advertising rates and bragging rights _ and the other networks aren't about to let ABC have a free ride.

Here are some of the highlights and low (but heavily promoted) lights:

TONIGHT:

ER (10 p.m., NBC): Maura Tierney (Newsradio) joins the cast as a regular, playing nurse Abby Lockhart, who helped Carol Hathaway give birth to twins earlier this season. And British actress Judy Parfitt (Ever After) steps into the role of Dr. Corday's mother.

SATURDAY:

The Others (10 p.m., NBC): New series rarely premiere during sweeps, but NBC gives it a shot with one that has a lot in common with the hit film, The Sixth Sense.

Austin City Limits (midnight, PBS): The best of the concert shows starts its 25th season with an appearance by Garth Brooks.

SUNDAY:

The X-Files (9 p.m., Fox): The first of a "mythology" two-parter focusing (one more time) on the disappearance of Fox Mulder's sister, Samantha. (Part 2 airs Feb. 13)

Madame Bovary (9 p.m., PBS): A literate adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's classic novel with Frances O'Connor, marvelous in Mansfield Park, as Emma Bovary. By any broadcast standards, this is pretty steamy stuff so don't invite the kids.

MONDAY:

Mary and Rhoda (8 p.m., ABC): After nearly a quarter century, Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper reunite to play their characters from the legendary Mary Tyler Moore Show.

WEDNESDAY:

The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization (9 p.m., PBS): Liam Neeson narrates this elaborate documentary on the Greek empire.

The West Wing (9 p.m., NBC): Tonight's guests are Karl Malden and the too-rarely-seen Marlee Matlin.

FEB. 11:

Good Grief, Charlie Brown: A Tribute to Charles Schulz (8 p.m., CBS): Walter Cronkite hosts.

FEB. 13:

Homicide: the Movie (9 p.m., NBC): Homicide gets a chance to wrap up loose ends with this two-hour movie. Every member of the squad (including the dead ones) returns for the finale.

Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (9 p.m., CBS): This two-part movie chronicles the 30-year relationship between founding father Thomas Jefferson (Sam Neill) and his slave, Sally Hemings (British actress Carmen Ejogo). (Part 2 airs Feb. 16 at 9 p.m.)

FEB. 16:

The JonBenet Ramsey Story (9 p.m., Fox): Quickie movie on the Ramsey case, an attempt to beat CBS's higher-profile project to the punch.

FEB. 20:

Flowers for Algernon (9 p.m., CBS): An A-list cast led by Matthew Modine remakes the moving story of a man who, through an experiment, has his IQ raised from 65 to genius level.

FEB. 21:

2gether (8 p.m., MTV): An often-hilarious spoof of bands such as the Backstreet Boys.

FEB. 27:

ABC offers up a four-hour, two-day look at the lives of the Beach Boys (9 p.m.).

CBS plays the JonBenet Ramsey game with Perfect Murder, Perfect Town (9 p.m., with Part 2 airing March 1 at 9 p.m.).

And _ last but certainly not least, in terms of length _ NBC unleashes the first part of its 10-hour miniseries, The 10th Kingdom (9 p.m., NBC). (Remaining segments air Feb. 28, March 1, March 5 and March 6.)

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