Cover Story

TV saves the world!

While the season's movies fall flat, the small screen flies high!

Pop Quiz: It's a Thursday night, and you're bored. You could drive to your local cineplex to see Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas chase each other around in Assassins, Demi Moore turn The Scarlet Letter into a bodice ripper, or Steve Guttenberg cheer on a peewee soccer team in The Big Green. Or you could stay home and watch Rachel pine over Ross on Friends, George try to wriggle out of his engagement to Susan on Seinfeld, and Dr. Greene try to save lives — and his marriage — on ER.

What do you do?

If you're smart, you stay home. Sure, great movies still come along occasionally (let's see, there was Pulp Fiction — a year ago), and TV still shows a lot of junk (there's no excuse for Coach). But the fact is, on almost any given night, you have a greater chance of finding something good by watching TV than by going out to the movies.

Think about it: NYPD Blue. The X-Files. Frasier. Roseanne. Murder One. Homicide: Life on the Street. The Larry Sanders Show. Law & Order. Hell, even Melrose Place is more entertaining than most movies — at least it has a healthy sense of its own ridiculousness. As opposed to, say, Showgirls.

Still not convinced? Then read these 10 simple reasons why the small screen is superior. And if you're still skeptical, maybe you can run out and catch the late show of Mortal Kombat.

1. Women thrive on TV

With Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, Murphy Brown, Caroline in the City, and Ellen near the top of the Nielsens, there's no shortage of strong TV women. No wonder seven Oscar-nominated actresses joined TV series this season alone: Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope), Mercedes Ruehl (Frasier), Elizabeth McGovern (If Not for You), Mariel Hemingway (Central Park West), Cathy Moriarty (Bless This House), and Madeline Kahn and Mary Tyler Moore (New York News). Now look at the scintillating parts for women in some of the current top movies: Gwyneth Paltrow cooks supper for detectives Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Seven. Julianne Moore plays a cat-loving ''surveillance expert'' who snuggles up to Stallone in Assassins. Meanwhile, Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo get to wear all the best dresses in To Wong Foo.

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