Swept away by thrilling new shows
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Laverne and Shirley are back together. The WJM newsroom is on the air again. McKenzie-Brackman is returning to court. Another "Friends" cast member is mothering a child out of wedlock. Dr. Greene is leaving the "ER." And the truth might still be out there, but it will no longer be available during prime time.

Barry Switzer, Tom Osborne
Tom Osborne, right, has to deal with unpredictable neighbors in "The Osbornes."
All this can mean only one of two things: Either the entertainment industry has established another new low, or it's time for May sweeps. Or both.

The May sweeps period is the final big push of the television season, when networks stop at nothing to raise ratings and fight for higher ad rates. Thus, we have the "Laverne and Shirley," "Mary Tyler Moore," "L.A. Law" and "Cheers/Frasier" reunions, anniversary specials, tearful farewells, cliffhanger endings, celebrity guest stars and enough "very special episodes" to force "Entertainment Tonight" to hire six more "reporters."

And the networks aren't stopping there. They're also scheduling a plethora of exciting sports shows to capture that all-important demographic -- the person without a remote control who is just too damn lazy to get up from the couch to change the channel after the big game.

Just look what sports-related programs are waiting for you this month:

"The Osbornes"
The 24/7 behind-the-scenes, no-holds-barred series with former Nebraska football coach and current U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne and his family continues. This episode includes uncensored scenes from the March 18 Farm Bill Conference Committee meeting, in which our favorite Republican family patriarch reveals his position on hemp growers, using such coarse worse as "goldarn" and "dagnabit."

"Everyone loves Ray Lewis"
Ray Lewis
You better hurt from all the laughter when Ray Lewis delivers his special brand of hijinks.
Or at least they'd better, if they know what's good for them, that is.

"A Very Brady Boxing Match"
You'll need a scorecard and a telestrator to keep everyone straight, when New England quarterback Tom Brady, outfielder Brady Anderson, linebacker Kyle Brady and tight end Brady Clark all attend the Barry Williams-Danny Bonaduce celebrity fight.

"See SI"
Go inside America's best-selling sports magazine, when Sports Illustrated's photographers shoot their annual Wimbledon swimsuit issue, begging the question: Are those really Anna's or just balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade?

Sitcom about an aging, grumpy, sex-starved male chauvinist named Becker, who insists that women tennis players are overpaid and overrated.

America's most popular prime-time soap airs its season finale, as Dirk Nowitzki emigrates from Germany, Mark Cuban works the Blizzard machine, Steve Nash styles his hair, and everyone tries to solve the cliffhanger -- who shot J.R. Rider?

"West Wing"
Vice president Dick Cheney assumes power and renames every stadium Enron Field, attorney general John Ashcroft orders cheerleader skirts lengthened to one-inch below the knee and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge places the country on emergency code Forum Blue, when America's Fan in Chief is briefly incapacitated after choking on a pretzel and passing out while watching a football game.

Vladimir Guerrero
Vladimir Guerrero is left to his own devices in "Survivor7 -- Montreal."
"Survivor 7 -- Montreal"
In the newest round of this popular series, Vladimir Guerrero and 24 other talented players are marooned inside Montreal's Olympic Stadium, attempting to survive until the season finale in September, while commissioner Bud Selig, former owner Jeffrey Loria and others cheat, back-stab and plot to brutally kill off the team.

"Baretta Reunion"
O.J. Simpson interrupts his own relentless search for the one-armed killer of his ex-wife to track down the killer of Robert Blake's ex-wife. Includes exciting scenes from Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and Riviera Country Club.

"Just Shoot Me"
Fans react to Selig's latest ideas for baseball.

Programming note: Unfortunately, the above programs are only available to fans subscribing to the YES network.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at cuffscaple@hotmail.com.



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