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Sci-fi and baseball beat Bush-Gore

According to political polls, George W. Bush and Al Gore are locked in a dramatic, too-close-to-call battle for president of the United States.

But according to two of the four biggest US television networks, the candidates lack enough star power to merit prime time.

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Next Tuesday, Fox TV will remire a new science-fiction series, "Dark Angel," instead of showing the first presidential debate. NBC will air a baseball playoff game.

CBS and ABC, along with PBS and some cable channels, will cover all four scheduled debates.

Fox is planning to ignore all of them. "The debates are there," Jeff DeRome, a vice president of Fox Broadcasting Network told Reuters news service. "I don't think it's incumbent on every broadcast network to carry the same program."

In the era of only three commercial networks, and no cable, the networks deemed it a kind of civic duty to cover major political events. Apparently no more.

Fox may reap a financial edge as CBS and ABC run basically identical coverage of the commercial-free debate while Fox airs lucrative commercials and lures away potential debate watchers.

Meanwhile, "the president" is speaking out about Hollywood's low standards. Actor Martin Sheen, who plays "President Josiah Bartlet" on the popular NBC drama "West Wing," says he agrees with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman's criticisms. He's "absolutely right," Sheen told the Associated Press. "A lot of what we do has very little to do with art. It has to do with sleaze and gratuitous sex and unnecessary violence."

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