ABC (Sun.-Mon., Jan. 27-28, and Thurs., Jan. 31, 9 p.m. ET)

"A white whale in the field of psychic research" is how one character describes the haunted house in this miniseries from the mind of writer and coexecutive producer Stephen King. White elephant is more like it. After two hours of preliminaries that could have been condensed into 20 minutes, an obsessed professor (Nancy Travis) and her team of psychics spend parts 2 and 3 roaming through an old Seattle mansion called Rose Red, arguing among themselves and screaming bloody murder when they stir up evil spirits. King's characters inspire indifference—except for the ones who are actively annoying—so you're unlikely to care that some of the ghostbusters wind up dead. The author has a cheeky cameo in part 2 as a pizza delivery man, but instead of wasting his time acting he should have thought up a satisfying ending. After six hours of Rose Red, it's truly scary to contemplate that the story may not be over.

Bottom Line: Bring on the wrecking ball

CBS (Sun., Jan. 27, 9 p.m. ET)
Show of the week


It could have been a disease-of-the-week weeper, but this restrained Hallmark Hall of Fame production adapts the true story of an art-magazine editor and her mentally ill sister into a generally clear-eyed drama of family dynamics.

In scenes from their girlhood in Virginia, we see Judy (Hallee Hirsh) torn between love for Christine (Kimberly Brown from Rose Red; see page 25) and embarrassment at the behavior brought on by her schizo-affective disorder. The adult Judy (Elizabeth Perkins) works in New York City, while her mother (Lynn Redgrave) tends to Christine (Kathy Bates) back home. When Mom dies, Judy tries to take greater sisterly responsibility without letting Christine dominate her life. It's hard to maintain that balance, and the film doesn't pretend otherwise—though Judy has the aid of an incredibly patient boyfriend (Clark Gregg). The drama is worth seeing just for Bates, who makes her troubled character both exasperating and sympathetic.

Bottom Line: It's a keeper

PBS (Sun., Jan. 27, 9 p.m. ET)

"There she is, Miss America...." Ah, nobody sang it like cornball Bert Parks, who was canned in 1980 after 25 years as host. Yet, despite a dwindling viewership, millions still watch the annual rite live from Atlantic City, and this critical but balanced American Experience documentary acknowledges the pageant's status as a national institution—anachronistic though it may be.

Besides noting the AIDS-education efforts of Kate Shindle, Miss America 1998, the two-hour program offers little of interest on contests of the past decade. It ignores Parks's successors, except for a reference to ex-Tarzan Ron Ely and a fleeting glimpse of Donny Osmond. (What were Regis and Kathie Lee—chopped liver?) Likewise, there's nothing about recent talk of moving the pageant out of Atlantic City.

Nevertheless, Miss America is rich in history, from the pageant's founding in 1921 by tourism-minded Atlantic City businessmen to the nude-photo scandal that cost Vanessa Williams her title in 1984—and hardly seems to have hurt her singing and acting career. Williams, the first African-American winner, isn't interviewed, but the film includes reminiscences by two other mold-breakers: Bess Myerson (1945), who overcame prejudice as the first Jewish Miss America, and Rebecca King (1974), who dared not to shed the customary tears at her coronation and went on to express controversial support for abortion rights.

Pageant clips range from hilarious (square Parks dancing like a crazy rock and roller) to appalling (a 1960 contestant nervously opposing the idea of a woman President). They remind us why viewers keep returning to the Miss America telecast—whether to root or hoot.

Bottom Line: As watchable as a bevy of beauties

Sunday, Jan. 27 BIOGRAPHY: 15 YEARS AND COUNTING A&E (9 p.m. ET) A two-hour special skims through the highlights from a series that has told nearly 1,000 life stories.

Monday, Jan. 28 OTHELLO PBS (9 p.m. ET) Eamonn Walker (Oz) stars in a modern version of Shakespeare's tragedy.

Tuesday, Jan. 29 STATE OF THE UNION ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX (9 p.m. ET) The major networks clear the decks for the President's annual oration.

Wednesday, Jan. 30 HIGH LIFE: AFRICA Travel Channel (12:30 p.m. ET) Your half-hour tour includes a hot-air balloon ride and a safari.

Thursday, Jan. 31 WILL & GRACE NBC (9 p.m. ET) Elliot's mother (guest star Rosie O'Donnell) fumes when Jack (Sean Hayes) lets the teen frost his hair.

Friday, Feb. 1 HER LIFE AND THE NFL Lifetime (7 p.m. ET) CSI's Marg Helgenberger is host for a special on football-loving females.

Saturday, Feb. 2 SIZZLIN' 16 E! (6 p.m. ET) Hayden Christensen and Tom Welling make the list in this special report on rising young stars.