With the presidential vote count expected to be a nail-biter, Fox - for the first time - and most of the other major networks and cable channels are gearing up for what could be a big (and late) night of television.
CNN and C-SPAN will provide continuous coverage of the presidential election and key local races around the nation all day. Local returns will dominate prime-time coverage on affiliates of ABC (starting at 6 p.m.), NBC (7 p.m.), CBS (7 p.m.), Fox (8 p.m.), and PBS (10 p.m.).
Turning off politics has paid off in the past for Fox. On election night in 1996, Fox aired the Charles Grodin comedy movie Beethoven, attracting nearly 13 million viewers. That outdrew NBC's and CBS's election coverage. Only ABC posted better ratings that night, with some 14 million viewers sticking with Peter Jennings on the alphabet network for presidential election results last time around.
Louis Rukeyser will anchor CNBC's election reports. The PBS financial expert will focus on how the outcomes will affect the economy and individual investors. On the panel with him: former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, union leader James P. Hoffa, former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, and stock analysts Ron Insana and Maria Bartiromo.
My pick for most watchable punditry is the special live edition of The Daily Show on Comedy Central (10 p.m.) hosted by Jon Stewart and Bob Dole. These guys will be saying what all the other anchors and politicos wish they could. Live satellite feeds will link to the Bush and Gore headquarters.
If you absolutely aren't up to following election returns, there are a couple of nifty alternatives. Ironically, The Real World telecasts its last installment of the season (10 p.m., MTV). And Chippendales Murder on USA Network (9 p.m.) is a new made-for-cable flick featuring some killer abs that barely get in the way of a skimpy plot about male strippers, blackmail, and arson. The WB offers new episodes of Buffy and Angel (8 and 9 p.m.).
The Drew Carey Show works without a script for the show's annual live, almost-totally improvised episode Wednesday (9 p.m., ABC). Carey and crew will wing it to a basic storyline, with producers throwing curveballs at the cast and audience members shouting out suggestions for how to end the half-hour. The show will be performed live three times for three different time zones. Regulars from the improv sketch series Whose Line Is It Anyway? will join the Drew cast.
Former WTVG-TV news anchor Greg Johans has landed at WHP in Harrisburg, Pa., as main anchor. Johans left Toledo's ABC station a few months back, replaced by Lee Conklin.
WTVG's newest reporter is Nina Virdi, who comes from the ABC station in Lincoln, Neb.
Elaine Liner is The Blade's media editor. E-mail her at email@example.com. or call 1-419-724-6126.