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STILL MOURNING FOR CARL; GOOD RIDDANCE, SILAS: I had never seen an episode of Survivor _ and was proud of it _ until I dived into entertainment news a few months ago. And I was wary about the part of the job that required me to watch it. I pictured an hour of unending mental torture every Thursday that would leave me pining for an Emeril marathon.

Okay. I was a snob. And now I'm hooked. You can stick the "reality" label on Survivor, but the Africa installment is being edited into a well-crafted drama-soap opera that should leave the likes of Family Law and All My Children embarrassed.

It also is cast well, a touch that becomes more apparent as the weeks go on. And executive producer Mark Burnett's tribal member-switching that threw the 12 remaining contestants into chaos was excellent plot manipulation.

Rachel could give birth to sextuplets on another network in the same time slot and it still wouldn't be as interesting as the finale of Survivor: Africa will be.

SEE THE TALIBAN SHAKING: Geraldo Rivera, who left his CNBC show to be a war correspondent for Fox, tells the Philadelphia Inquirer he's "seen more combat than 99 percent of the armed forces personnel"; he has "a 31-inch waist, a 42-inch chest. I'm still real butch"; and if he finds Osama bin Laden, "I'll kick his head in, then bring it home and bronze it."

ALL THIS WORRY FOR NOTHING: "Those terrorists wouldn't be hip enough to know our "in' places." _ Vanessa Neumann, 29-year-old Venezuelan heiress and part-time girlfriend to Mick Jagger, in the Daily Mail of London.

LUKEWARM ABOUT "HARRY': "I can't imagine that many black kids, or even teenage kids, really, would be all that chuffed (excited). There's hip stuff there, but it's kid stuff, ain't it?" _ Giles Crampton, 17-year-old Briton, with his review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, given to the Detroit Free Press

EDITORIAL COMMENT: If Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect does leave ABC when, or before, Maher's contract expires in 2002, it should go back to where it started, Comedy Central.

The show had much more bite and life _ and, as such, relevance _ when it was on the cable channel from 1993-96. From almost the start of its relocation to network TV in January 1997, the show most of the time has been watered down, slicker and more celebrity-focused, leaving viewers with the feeling they're watching just another late-night talk show.

TV needs sharp political commentary now more than ever, and Politically Incorrect back on Comedy Central would go a long way toward filling that void.

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