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WATCH-O-RAMA THE HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS OF THE COMING TV WEEK.

Byline: David Kronke

``California's Gold''

(KCET; 7 tonight and 10 p.m. May 26)

Think: Huell Hauser visits Death Valley, which recently received an extreme makeover, thanks to abundant storms. The area suffered some destruction but also received abundant greenery and even a lake, drawing unprecedented numbers of tourists.

Don't think: Isn't kayaking in Death Valley a sign of the Apocalypse?

In a nutshell: Gorgeous visuals and Hauser's trademark charisma and appreciation for kitsch (if not his fashion sense - we first see him in yellow shirt and baggy shorts) make this fun viewing.

``The Simpsons''

(Fox Channel 11; 8:30 tonight)

Think: Bart and Homer find religion through a hip Catholic priest (voice of Liam Neeson). Marge tries to convert Bart back to Protestantism.

Don't think: As Homer says, ``I never heard of someone getting so upset because of religion.'' Unless the religious right gets wind of this episode.

In a nutshell: See the episode knocked off the schedule (albeit briefly) due to the pope's death. Apparently, it's again OK to mock superficial conversion methods and doctrinal misinterpretation.

``DL Hughley: Shocked & Appalled''

(Comedy Central; 10 and midnight tonight and 11 p.m. Friday)

Think: Politics, terrorism and race are among the topics skewered by the smart, topical comic in a concert recorded last summer.

Don't think: Up-front, Hughley apologizes for appearing in ``Soul Plane.'' Apology accepted.

In a nutshell: Occasionally familiar but more often very funny stuff.

``Hercules''

(NBC Channel 4; 8 p.m. Monday)

Think: Effects-crazy teleflick about Zeus' son (Paul Telfer) and his wacky misadventures, featuring Sean Astin, Leelee Sobieski, Elizabeth Perkins and Timothy Dalton.

Don't think: What must longtime producer Robert Halmi Sr. have on network executives that keeps them buying these cheesy productions?

In a nutshell: Here's how much faith NBC has in this: It's been chopped down from four hours to three and scheduled opposite the ``Everybody Loves Raymond'' finale.

``Gilmore Girls''

(WB Channel 5; 8 p.m. Tuesday)

Think: Fifth-season finale of the uber-clever mother-daughter comedy finds Lorelai (Lauren Graham) picking up Rory (Alexis Bledel) at the police department for stealing a yacht, then contemplating selling her inn while her daughter considers major life decisions.

Don't think: Bledel's an angel all this time, then appears in ``Sin City'' and she's got a criminal record. Lesson: Kids, those graphic novels will corrupt your minds.

In a nutshell: Lorelai learns that Luke (Scott Patterson) is the only person she can trust. Graham's wonderful in a strong close to a highly successful season.

``Britney and Kevin: Chaotic''

(UPN Channel 13; 9 p.m. Tuesday)

Think: Reality show starring those tabloid and snarky-fashion-Web-site staples, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline. She was famous for something else before this, but for the life of us, we can't remember what.

Don't think: Can you spell ``train wreck''? In Federline's case, the question's intended literally.

In a nutshell: Not available for review; you know what that means. But here's hoping there's plenty of footage of the ultra-romantic wedding, where Federline's groomsmen wore track suits with the word ``pimp'' elegantly printed across the backs. (Honest. They're a classy pair.)

``That '70s Show''

(Fox Channel 11; 8 p.m. Wednesday)

Think: Eric (Topher Grace) prepares to split town - and, with Ashton Kutcher, the show - in the once-nostalgic sitcom's seventh-season finale.

Don't think: Why would Fox renew this after losing Grace and Kutcher while possibly dumping the far superior ``Arrested Development''? (Actually, if you're a Fox executive, please think about this hard.)

In a nutshell: You know a show's running on fumes when it makes jokes about ``jumbo shrimp'' and cribbing Benny Hill. But Grace - who has always been the show's sweet soul - remains game to the end.

``Animal Icons: 'Star Wars' Creatures''

(Animal Planet; 9 p.m. Wednesday)

Think: Just in time to promote a movie that scarcely needs any extra hype comes this ``documentary'' about the film series' sundry colorful (and, yes, goofy) alien species.

Don't think: The Jedi Knights are pretty much erased in ``Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.'' Just think how much more satisfying it would be if George Lucas indulged in Ewok-icide instead.

In a nutshell: More Lucas hagiography in the guise of an Animal Planet show about nonexistent beasties. Nonetheless, essential for fanboys.

``Green Wing''

(BBC America; 11 p.m. Thursday)

Think: Medical sitcom about quirky, self-absorbed physicians, minus actual patients, kind of like the past couple of seasons of ``Scrubs.''

Don't think: Juxtapositions between jaunty fast-motion and sultry slow- motion makes sense on a shallow show like ``Las Vegas,'' but just looks kind of desperate here.

In a nutshell: Actual jokes would've come in really handy.

``The Muppets' Wizard of Oz''

(ABC Channel 7; 8 p.m. Friday)

Think: Kermit and company update L. Frank Baum's classic; Miss Piggy plays witches both wicked and kindly (if somewhat tetchy). Soul singer Ashanti plays Dorothy and Jeffrey Tambor is the Wizard.

Don't think: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain - or, in this case, to anyone in front of it, either.

In a nutshell: There's a reason the Muppets used to make theatrical releases but are today relegated to TV flicks: Scripts devolved from sophisticated wit for the whole family to dopey exercises aimed solely at kids. As Ashanti tells the Wizard, ``Seriously: You're embarrassing yourself.''

CAPTION(S):

5 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) ``THE MUPPETS' WIZARD OF OZ''

(2 -- color) ``HERCULES''

(3 -- color) ``THE SIMPSONS''

(4 -- color) ``BRITNEY AND KEVIN: CHAOTIC''

(5 -- color) no caption (``Animal Icons: 'Star Wars' Creatures'')
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 15, 2005
Words:913
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