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1997: Suspects, Usual and Unusual

The old year is slipping away, but there's still time for one more parade. Join me in the reviewing stand as Tinseltown's Winners and Losers of 1997 march by.

Winner: "7th Heaven." This wholesome Monday night show from the fledgling Warner Brothers network is now the fastest-growing drama on prime time television. The conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that family-oriented programming is as popular as the 8-track tape; WB chief Jamie Kellner gambled that the conventional wisdom was wrong - and he was right.

Loser: NBC entertainment boss Warren Littlefield. The new raunch ("Union Square") isn't drawing like the old raunch ("Friends"), and if your Nothing But Coitus network is based on raunch, kiss the ratings goodbye. (In the past year, NBC's prime time viewership has fallen 10 percent.) And it gets worse. He may lose "ER" (to another network) and "Seinfeld" (if its eponym decides to call it quits). Memo to Mr. Littlefield: Try family programming. NBC has aired virtually none of it since the Bush administration.

Winner: Charlton Heston, whose Kennedy Center honor confirmed his status as an American cultural icon. To conservatives, he's also become a political treasure, which raises the hackles of our next...

Loser: New York Times columnist Frank Rich and his smirking, sneering attack on Heston a few days after the KenCen ceremony. Heston's politically irresponsible (for opposing gun control), a lousy actor (his Oscar notwithstanding), and not bright enough to understand the sexuality of "Ben-Hur" (Rich, long obsessed with gay issues, thinks the movie is actually a homoerotic tour de force).

Winner: Drew Carey. Asked by Reason magazine for his feelings about government, he stated, "The less [of it there is] the better... You should never depend on the government for your retirement, your financial security, for anything... All the government should be [is the] Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines." Not only that, but he has no use for Barbra Streisand or the Kennedys.

Losers: Know-nothing actor Alec Baldwin, a self-described "ferocious liberal" and aspiring officeholder, who told New York magazine that the House of Representatives wouldn't be worth his time; he sees himself instead as a U.S. Senator or governor of New York. My, how times change. After John Quincy Adams left the Presidency, he served his country again as a member of the House. One hundred fifty years later, the star of "The Getaway" thinks the House is beneath him. Lord willing, Little Lord Alec will choose to run for office and learn a lesson in humility at the hands of New York voters.

Winner: Nickelodeon, whose nightly half-hour (8 to 8:30) of original children's programming has earned it a million more viewers in the past year. Next fall, the cable web will expand this to the whole 8 o'clock hour. Watch Nick's audience increase even more. Then watch the major networks learn nothing from Nick's example.

Loser: Yoko Ono, for telling Rolling Stone, "I think it's very good that society is getting more and more musical. I really envision a society where?in court, the lawyers would present the case by singing, or the politicians will make a speech and sing it." This from a woman who once recorded an album featuring her yelling, just yelling, into the microphone - and called that music.

Winner: Steve Allen, whose June speech broadsiding the television networks for airing trash (and calling the executives responsible for it "merchants of filth" leading America "down a moral sewer") was a thorough shock to an industry unaccustomed to such criticism.

Loser: The University of California-Berkeley, which offers a class in "The Poetry and History of Tupac Shakur." I wish I were kidding.

Winner of the Year: William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. For his efforts against Disney/ABC's "Nothing Sacred," this perpetual-motion machine deserves a salute from all Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who are fed up with the anti-Catholic bigotry that continues to rear its head in Hollywood.

Loser of the Year: Disney/ABC. Either "Nothing Sacred" or "Ellen" probably would have been enough to win this title for the Mouse. Taking no chances, however, ABC not only aired both these grossly offensive series, but subjected the nation to a massive publicity campaign on behalf of each. One hopes that for Christmas, someone bought Disney a clue.