You don't have to look out the window for robins hopping gravely around in the backyard; TV has its own rites of spring. This week MTV travels once again to Daytona Beach for its three-day boogie 'n' babes bacchanalia, Spring Break '92. The lost weekend begins Friday (March 20, 3 P.M. ET). Farther south, ESPN has its first Grapefruit League baseball game on Saturday afternoon (March 21, 1 P.M. ET) as the champion Minnesota Twins take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Fort Myers, Fla. Only two weeks to opening day, sports fans.

CBS (Wednesdays, 11:30 P.M. ET)

C+

Two women, Lise Cutter, who appeared in a number of NBC's Desperado TV-movie westerns, and Michael (New Jack City) Michele play a glamorous team of undercover guards for Personal Touch, an upscale security company in Dallas.

The writing and acting are flat, but the pretty faces and itchy trigger fingers make this a good fit for CBS's late-night rotation, Crimetime After Primetime. As a matter of fact, if you throw out Scene of the Crime on Tuesdays, CBS has fashioned itself a serviceable action wheel.

Like the other Crimetime shows, Dangerous Curves is a foreign coproduction. The galling part is that over in Europe they see a more risqué 48-minute episode with topless scenes. We see a 40-minute version, with the sexy parts replaced by commercials. I don't mind living in a puritanical society, but getting a pile of extra ads seems like a pretty lousy trade-off.

Showtime (Sat., March 21, 9 P.M. ET)

A recently deceased thug (Anthony LaPaglia) materializes to deliver a warning to his cousin (Judge Reinhold): "Whatever you do, never, never go to Istanbul." That's a brackish little town in North Carolina, not the gateway to the Orient. So of course Reinhold heads there posthaste to find a comically accursed place full of superstitions about witches and animal infestations. He also finds himself falling for his cousin's mistress (Rachel Ward), an inordinately beautiful bowling-alley doxy.

The tale of a bumbling hero being led around by the nose by a femme fatale while strange minor characters act out unpredictable behavior to a kooky sound track is reminiscent of Jonathan Demme's Something Wild. But Black Magic's Southern sorcery and dark humor are so delightfully far off the beaten path that you need a flashlight to find your way back. Grade: B+

ABC (Mon., March 23, 9 P.M. ET)

C

There must be some mistake. This dolorous TV movie about family tragedy seems more like the work of Arthur Miller or Eugene O'Neill than of one-liner meister Simon. It's certainly significant that this, the final entry in Simon's autobiographical trilogy (following Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues) is the only one not to be made into a feature film.

Corey Parker, who was Melissa's younger lover on thirtysomething, plays the Simon character, Eugene Jerome (originated by Jonathan Silverman on Broadway), as a 22-year-old living at home in Brooklyn with his domestic martyr mother (Anne Bancroft, taking over for Broadway's Linda Lavin), unhappy father (Jerry Orbach) and scrappy grandfather (Hume Cronyn). Eugene's older brother (Silverman, in an effective role switch) is pushing to get himself and his brother jobs as TV comedy writers. Then there's Bancroft's fur-draped sister (Knot's Landing's Michele Lee), who married rich. As snow falls outside and lugubrious cellos saw away, the cast walks around gushing pain and remorse.

Eugene's brother has reduced comedy writing to a scientific formula: "Wanting plus conflict." Well, this film has plenty of conflict (and table pounding and door slamming and kvetching). But the only thing it'll leave you wanting is to see what's on the other channels.

CBS (Tues., March 24, 9 P.M. ET)

C

On the eve of the Democratic Convention in New York City, the city finds itself battling an outbreak of pneumonic plague. (As if the Democrats don't have enough problems already.) Among the stock characters, you have the selfless and gorgeous contagious-diseases expert (Kate Jackson), her firebrand assistant (Jeffrey Nordling), the capable health commissioner (Jerry Orbach again), an infected Congressman (Howard Hesseman) and the Mayor (Al Waxman), who wants to keep a lid on the situation at all costs.

It's a brisk, often graphic disaster film—at least initially. As the disease spreads, the scope becomes too much for a TV movie to depict, and this project devolves into a strident, poorly acted mess. The more things get away from the filmmakers, the more they resort to that shooting-fish-in-a-barrel sport: New York bashing.

ABC (Tuesdays, 9:30 P.M. ET)

B-

Linda {Alice) Lavin aims for a TV comeback in this sitcom, which gets a tryout in the cushy post-Roseanne slot. (Coach goes into hiatus until May.) Lavin plays an Ohio widow who comes to visit her grown daughter (Patricia Heaton, who at one time worked as a copy clerk at PEOPLE) in New York City and never leaves.

Mom immediately begins sticking her nose in everywhere from the kitchen to the bedroom. In the ultimate act of meddling, Lavin even gets herself hired as an on-air personality on the TV morning show Heaton produces.

Despite its pervasively artificial tone, the show is briskly paced and often funny ("You're thinking of selling Dad's store?" says Heaton. "That store was his life." "No," replies Lavin, "the store was his hobby. Drinking was his life"). And it does present a rather mature (by TV standards) portrait of a mother-daughter relationship of the I love you/You're smothering me stripe.

>I don't know how the FCC or the AM A feel about the recent episode of Geraldo in which the trash-time talk show host had fat removed from his derriere and injected into his face on-air. But I thought it was a compelling study of an ego run amok. First, Rivera went through this charade of debating with himself whether to submit to the procedure, repeating over and over, "I'm a boxer. I can't do this. I'm a boxer." (Somehow I think if vanity and macho were to fight for Geraldo's soul, macho would take quite a beating.) So whom did he consult? Joan Rivers. She's about as likely to say no to cosmetic surgery as Marlon Brando is to turn down an ice-cream cone.

Geraldo also asked his wife, C.C., who produces his show, if he should go through with it. She joked that she'd rather see him consult the other doctor on his panel that day, the one doing penis enlargements. Geraldo didn't appreciate the humor. "Just kidding, right, hon? Right, hon? Just kidding?" he kept repeating with a grim wait-till-I-get-you-home tone.

Touchy, touchy. Then Geraldo twice stood center stage and, with a banner emblazoned GERALDO held up in front of him, flirted with the audience while he dropped his pants to have his posterior first anesthetized and then drained. Right, pal, there's nothing sexier than seeing a lumpy guy bent over while a doctor prods him with a syringe. Then came the big moment. As he lay there with this gross orange goop about to be injected into his forehead, what were Geraldo's thoughts? "Great," he said. "Now the camera is looking right up my nose."

This guy doesn't need any more fat transferred to his head, but is there a euthanasia-ologist in the house?

>ARE YE MAD JOHNNY?

FOR MONTHS CARSON HAS BEEN SAYING, "What do I care? I'm out of here in May." Well, his devil-may-care attitude is getting more pronounced—and seeming less like a joke each week. Just before going to commercial after showing a bleep-filled clip of Mercedes Ruehl in The Fisher King, Johnny turned to the camera and announced, "And, by the way, the mystery words were *$%# and #@*&." The expletives were, of course, deleted again, but it didn't take a lip-reader to see what Carson was saying. Those NBC censors better keep their fingers on the bleepers. Johnny is going out with a bang.