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War -- huh! -- what is it good for? Certainly not a sweeps stunt. While military/political dramas like CBS' ''The Agency'' and ''JAG'' felt compelled to address the 9/11 tragedy, they have no immediate plans to reflect on a possible war between the U.S. and Iraq. Timing is one reason; many upcoming episodes were penned before Christmas -- well before an invasion of Iraq seemed certain. ''I was very conscious of the possibility of war, so I basically stayed away from foreign policy references in this season,'' says Lawrence O'Donnell Jr., executive producer of NBC's politico drama ''Mister Sterling.'' (''JAG'' creator Don Bellisario also cites timing issues, though he might insert a late reference or two to address the conflict.) ''The Agency's'' executive producer Shaun Cassidy prefers to steer clear of the subject for fear his CIA drama will become too ripped-from- the-headlines. Says Cassidy: ''In the past our show has been more prescient than we wanted to be. In this particular interest, I would rather write an episode about world peace.''

Gender Bias

There's a snake in the grass on the set of ''Survivor: The Amazon'' -- and we're not talking about those anacondas. Creator Mark Burnett didn't decide until well after the 16 Survivors were cast that he would make the show a battle of the sexes. When the women learned of his decision, needless to say they felt blindsided. ''In that kind of harsh environment men have a definite physical advantage,'' says homemaker Janet Koth, 47, the first female castaway to be booted. ''Everybody can starve in similar ways, but when you're required to chop down trees...the only way it would have been a fair fight was to give us a chain saw.'' Burnett has no sympathy. ''A little girl with spirit and drive can do anything,'' he says. ''It's the classic Mars versus Venus. It's the way you would expect men to behave -- juvenile at times and very driven. And the women broke into awful catfights and at other times were very nurturing, washing each other's bodies in a sensual way.'' Okay, now we understand what he was going for.

AND SO ON... If you're looking for a few of the best barbs at Fox's reality shows, look no further than the network itself. Comedian Wanda Sykes -- who plays a television commentator in the upcoming comedy ''Wanda at Large'' (March 26) -- is promoting her new role by taking on-air potshots at her network's unscripted fare. Her first promo debuted during the season finale of ''Joe Millionaire'' (''They should just call that show Bitches Love Money,'' Sykes says to the camera). In future planned spots, she'll take jabs at ''Baywatch Hawaiian Wedding'' (Feb. 28) and ''Married by America'' (March 3). Says Wanda executive producer Bruce Helford: ''She's writing the promos herself and Fox has not censored them. They let her say whatever she wants.'' Good thing too. So far they've been more entertaining than the shows she's interrupting.

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Originally posted Mar 07, 2003 Published in issue #699 Mar 07, 2003 Order article reprints