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Originally published Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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"Rosie Live": O'Donnell's got a really big show for us

A look at the week ahead on TV, including "Rosie Live" on NBC; "Al Roker Reporting: Armed in America" on MSNBC; "The Hugo Chavez Show" on PBS (KCTS); "The 2008 World Magic Awards" on MyNetworkTV (KMYQ-22); and "Final Justice," a two-hour edition of CBS News' "48 Hours/Mystery."

The Associated Press

TV Lookout |

Here's a novel idea: a live variety show. Sort of like "The Ed Sullivan Show," which crushed its network competition every Sunday night for decades.

Live variety shows are the kind of TV they don't make anymore. Conventional wisdom says they went out with black-and-white sets and gas at 30 cents a gallon.

But Rosie O'Donnell clearly begs to differ. Her variety special, "Rosie Live," will air at 8 p.m. Wednesday on KING-TV — live! — from New York's Little Schubert Theatre. Just a few blocks south of where Sullivan reigned and where CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" resides.

These days, awards or tribute specials are about the only time when prime-time TV gives the audience what might be called variety: a grab bag of talent and performances, with the-anything-might-happen crackle of live-ness.

Now Rosie, who has an unabashed affection for broadcasting, is dusting off the past with a variety of stars. The bill initially announced includes Alec Baldwin and Jane Krakowski of "30 Rock," recording artists Ne-Yo and Alanis Morissette, comedian Kathy Griffin, plus the legendary-and-then-some Liza Minnelli.

The show will also feature a topical monologue, musical production numbers and comedy sketches. "Brand-new elements" are promised for "a new generation of fans."

And no doubt there'll be surprises, planned or unintended: Did we mention the show will be live?

Other shows to look out for:

Every 18 minutes, someone in America dies from gun violence. Al Roker takes a look at the reasons, as well as some approaches to reducing gun violence, on an MSNBC documentary, "Al Roker Reporting: Armed in America." Roker goes behind the scenes, teaming up with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to investigate how this federal agency is battling the problem. He discovers how firearms can wind up in the wrong hands, how ATF forensic specialists match bullets to guns used for crime and the role that firearms play in drug trafficking and gang violence. Premiering at 10 tonight, this is the first in a series of investigative documentaries from Roker planned by MSNBC in the coming months.

For the documentary "The Hugo Chavez Show," producer Ofra Bikel travels to Venezuela for a portrait of the colorful, and some say, dictatorial leader. Through interviews with former government officials, Chavez associates and ordinary citizens, this edition of "Frontline" charts Chavez's rise to power and his efforts to use the powers of his office to retain it. The film also reveals how Chavez has harnessed the power of the media. "The Hugo Chavez Show" begins by tuning in to "Alo Presidente" ("Hello, President"), a weekly telecast that can run as long as eight hours and features Chavez speaking directly to the people, mixing government disclosures with poetry, songs or whatever strikes his fancy — plus announcing major new initiatives. Chavez was jailed for two years after participating in a failed 1992 coup. But he surrendered in exchange for airtime to address the country, and this media exposure planted the seeds of a folk hero and a ruler in the making. The president since 1998, "he's probably the world's first virtual president in the age of the communication revolution," says journalist Jon Lee Anderson. "The Hugo Chavez Show" airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday on KCTS-TV.

Neil Patrick Harris is not only the star of the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," he is also a magic enthusiast. Now he's hosting "The 2008 World Magic Awards," which airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday on MyNetworkTV (KMYQ-22 in Seattle). Awards will be given in 13 categories, including best escape artist, best classic magic, best contemporary magic, best teen magician and magician of the year. In addition, there'll be appearances by magicians Hans Klok, Lance Burton, The Amazing Johnathan and others in the two-hour special. Presenters include Ernie Hudson, Traci Bingham, Corbin Bernsen and John Schneider.

Tim Masters is 37, the same age as Peggy Hettrick when she was murdered in 1987. Her mutilated, half-naked body was discovered in a field in Fort Collins, Colo., and Masters, who had liked playing with knives and drawing graphic images of death and mutilation, instantly became a suspect. Then 15, he was convicted 12 years later. But his defense attorneys consider him the victim of a relentless investigation by a close-minded cop. His supporters, including some former investigators who initially pursued him, believe this case was built on fear and manipulated evidence. They set out to prove that Masters, sentenced to life in prison for Hettrick's murder, is innocent. "Final Justice," a two-hour edition of CBS News' "48 Hours/Mystery," airs at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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