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You're not game to watch the Super Bowl? Punt it, with these TV alternatives

| Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

NEW YORK -- Every viewer knows: This Sunday is the biggest sports day of the year.

For one thing, there's Super Bowl XL. With ABC's pregame coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. followed by the main event at 6:25 p.m., it will test the mettle of the hardiest couch potato.

But if you aren't game to watch the Seahawks and the Steelers go at it, don't worry. Other sports are available -- like surfing, as you click from channel to channel in search of an alternative to hours of pigskin pageantry.

Don't get your hopes too high. A bruising extravaganza like the Super Bowl doesn't typically inspire rival networks to put their best shows on the field as counterprogramming.

All isn't lost, though. You do have other choices. Instead of football, you might start warming up for a marathon.

  • Hallmark Channel, for instance, will offer viewers a marathon of "Little House on the Prairie," the classic frontier family drama starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert. It will air from noon Sunday through 3 a.m. Monday.

  • Tony Shalhoub shines as an obsessive-compulsive detective in "Monk," the hit comedy-drama regularly airing Fridays on USA. But Sunday from 4 through 11 p.m., USA presents a viewers' choice of seven favorite episodes. They include "Mr. Monk Takes his Medicine," "Goes to Vegas" and "Bumps His Head." Please wash your hands thoroughly beforehand.

  • Down-home cooking queen Paula Deen is cooking up a "Supper" Bowl marathon on Food Network from 2 to 8 p.m. Along with episodes of her series "Paula's Home Cooking," the course includes encores of her specials "All-Star Kitchen Makeover" and "Paula Goes Hollywood," plus a special edition of "Behind the Bash" with its host, Giada De Laurentiis, covering Deen's movie-premiere party. (Last year, Deen added "film actress" to her resume, performing alongside Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom in the feature "Elizabethtown").

  • From noon to 9 p.m., VH1 is airing nine episodes of the UPN hit, "America's Next Top Model," with supermodel Tyra Banks guiding the transformation of everyday young women into what might potentially be -- well, the title says it.

  • Catch a marathon of personal makeovers as TLC airs five hours of "What Not to Wear" from 7 p.m. to midnight, with a style SWAT team that includes fashion experts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, hair specialist Nick Arrojo and makeup artist Carmindy.

  • Starting at noon, Court TV airs eight hour-long editions of "The Investigators," its documentary series of true stories about law enforcement and the justice system. Then, from 8 p.m. through 4 a.m. Monday, episodes of "Forensic Files" show how legal experts assemble pieces of a crime puzzle to nab the perpetrator.

  • In something more akin to a sprint, Fox News Channel will repeat three hours of "The O'Reilly Factor" from 8 to 11 p.m. From his fabled "No-Spin Zone," host Bill O'Reilly tackles topics including the Enron trial, the NSA wiretapping controversy and U.S. border patrol policies.

  • Host James Lipton huddles with Liza Minnelli for a two-hour exploration of the legendary singer-actress on Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio," airing 9 to 11 p.m. A star whose career has spanned decades and delivered her awards including Oscars, Emmys and Grammys, Minnelli has most recently appeared as a series regular on the comedy series "Arrested Development."

  • And speaking of comedy, Fox is repeating three favorite episodes of "The Simpsons" (a "Treehouse of Horror" installment, a Christmas episode and a visit from villainous Sideshow Bob), followed by three episodes of "Family Guy" (Lois gets arrested; she becomes a model; Peter gets stranded on a desert isle). They air from 7 to 10 p.m.

    In sum, if you don't happen to be Super Bowl material, you needn't be sidelined by TV on Sunday.

    But if these suggestions don't score with you, and no Netflix discs await you in your mailbox, there's always one other option: Dash off to Blockbuster and rent a couple of movies. Chances are, you could use the exercise.

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