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'Nova' tackles the tricky question of time

Stop what you are doing and take time out! Are you sure you stopped . . . or are you still in the process of stopping? Now, use what you thinkm is the time you just stopped, to read about time. Or even better, to think about time.

Confusing, isn't it?

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If the idea of time is a bit confusing to you, chances are that a television program about time may be even more confusing. But a TV program with a concept about exlaining the concept of time runs the risk of totally confusing you. And , incidentally, me.

Well, "It's About Time, With Dudly Moore" (PBS, Tuesday, 8-9 p.m., Check local listings for premiere and repeats) is the most delightfully confusing show you are never likely to see.

Well, everm is a long time. Or is it?

In any event, this year's-end WGBH/Boston "Nova" program, hosted by Dudley Moore and prepared under the aegis of a new and apparently thoroughly innovative executive producer, John Mansfield, is an 18-jewel timepiece. It is well worth not only your time, but your effort.

It is intelligent, innovative, imaginative, entertaining television at its most i,i,i, and e. While I watched it I was in a constant state of excitement caused by my belief that I was being enlightened as to the meaning of time, the relativity of time, the place of time in the universe, and who knows what else. Like the bubbles in a glass of Perrier water, the enlightenment snapped and popped and refreshed me for a few moments. But when it was gone, the sense of understanding also disappeared, and I was left with a figurative glass of flat water. Oh well, at least I had quenched a thirst for that moment in time, hadn't I?

Dudley Moore (with the aid of a few fine BBC writers) makes a totally charming serio-comic attempt to get explanations, definitions, and simplified information for all of us from St. Augustine, with stopovers with such experts as Albert Einstein, Isaac Asimov, and several other scientists throughout history. His piano comes and goes, assembles and disassembles, just as the world does on this show.

At one point, during a hokey dramatization and then a pseudospectacular special effect, I had the urge to tell them all to call up Carl Sagan of "Cosmos" and get the answer from the man who seemingly has solved most of those selfsame problems of the universe. For TV, that is.

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When it is all over and you are feeling your most exhausted, but yet satisfied because at last you have understood something about time, Dudley throws you off completely when he says to St. Augustine: "I'm still confused, but at least I know why I'm confused. It's because time is confusing."

Im could have told him thatm at the very beginning. But it wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable.

Thoroughly confused now? Well, you should have known that your own time was too valuable for you to stop what you were doing in the first place, just because I suggested it. 'Omnibus'

You can really celebrate the season with a joyous occasion -- the second edition of what was once TV's finest variety show, "Omnibus" (Sunday, Dec. 28, 8 -9 p.m., check local listings).

Princess Grace of Monaco will read poetry, Aretha Franklin will perform a blues duet with Big Mama Thornton, John Ritter will demonstrate electronic TV wizardry,and a group of youngsters, including a five-year-old violinist, will play a Vivaldi concerto on Suzuki instruments. There will also be a performance by the American Dance Machine.

Produced by Eric Leiber and directed by Bill Davis, this new "omnibus" may not contain as varied an intellectual content as the original series, but it does offer a welcome change of pace from all those Rudolf, the Rednosed Reindeer , "Nutcracker," and Charlie Brown Christmas-season repeats.

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