Robert Frost, the poet, said: "Good fences make good neighbors." But he's dead. So I say: Good television makes good neighbors.
If we stay home off the streets, watching kiss-kiss, bang-bang, the only people who get hurt are on the small screen. And all of a sudden, all over that, there's plenty of good hurt.
Thursdays, for instance, on CBS, the executive producers who gave us NYPD Blue and Miami Vice team up for a new series called Big Apple. The FBI (David Strathairn and Titus Welliver) has to cooperate with the New York City cops (Ed O'Neill and Jeffrey Pierce) in the investigation of the murder of a stripper, who is somehow connected, not only to all-American bad guys like Michael Madsen and his protégé Donnie Wahlberg, but also to the Russian Mafia.
Nobody likes anybody else, they all watch each other on video surveillance cameras, and the very blonde FBI agent Kim Dickens has to decide who's bent. It's dark and slick.
Whereas The Lone Gunmen (on Fox for the next two Sundays until it switches to Friday) is played for laughs. Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood and Dean Huglund are the computer hackers who help out on The X-Files when the paranoia pollen count gets above a sneeze.
On their own show, instead of aliens, they go after ninjas in the contraband whale-blubber biz and terrorists who want to crash a jet on the World Trade Center. They need lots of help from a bounty hunter in black leather, played by Zuleikha Robinson, whose code name is an anagram of Lee Harvey Oswald.
If you wonder what happened to The X-Files' sense of humor, it was surgically removed and transplanted.
Finally, on March 4, The Sopranos returned for a third season on HBO, with back-to-back episodes. But there is even more Tony if you absolutely need to leave the house. James Gandolfini steals every scene in the big-screen movie The Mexican.
You may not for a minute believe that Brad Pitt is a bagman for mobsters, that Julia Roberts wans to be a Vegas waitress, or that true love will triumph over "relationship issues." But Tony Soprano in Mexico, as a gay hitman named Leroy, is wondrous to behold, like a Grand Canyon in a parking lot.
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