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Titanic Clashes, Now and Then

By RD Heldenfels Published: February 23, 2006

''What are YOU going to watch?'' my boss asked this morning. She was talking about tonight's clash of the TV titans, where ''Survivor,'' ''Dancing With the Stars,'' ''American Idol'' and women's figure skating at the Winter Olympics are all head-to-head for an hour.

Such viewing decisions are often painful, though they have a longer history than you might think. Consider the great February face-off of 1979.

On the night of Sunday, Feb. 11, CBS began a two-part telecast of ''Gone With the Wind,'' which had been on TV only once before, three years earlier. NBC countered with a telecast of ''One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'' Yes, a couple of theatrical films. Remember, this was long before cable movie channels and video players were commonplace.

ABC, the only other commercial broadcast network of that time, had its own contender: ''Elvis,'' the made-for-TV movie starring Kurt Russell. Good movie. And, it turned out, the surprise success of the night.

These days, although viewers have many more choices, we also have many more ways to stay on top of them. Say hello to my little DVR. And its brother.

With the recorders available, here is my plan: ''American Idol'' live, or as close to live as my schedule permits. Not only do I want to see who gets kicked off, I have to report for the Beacon Journal about the fate of Akron native Heather Cox, one of the competitors. Yes, she moved away when she was 9 months old. She is still, now and forever, an Akron native.

Next, depending on negotiations with the bride, the recording of ''Survivor.''  I may hold off on that depending on how NBC spreads out the figure skating; if there's big stuff in the 9 p.m. hour, then ''Survivor'' might have to wait. But I wouldn't be surprised if the star skaters' performances are held until 10 p.m. or later, as was the case with the men's figure-skating finals. (A later note: Because I was insufficiently diligent while online, I caught a glimpse of a dramatic twist and the results in women's figure skating. I may still watch to see how it played out but some of the drama is now gone.)

Then, at some point, ''Dancing With the Stars'' -- maybe while I do the chores I will be putting off during all this TV watching.

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