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Monitor Picks

Toy stories

As the holiday shopping season nears, parents trying to avoid fistfights over TMX Elmo can choose from 500 other "hot" toys reviewed by Toy Wishes magazine (including alternatives to the electronic overload). And if you need help navigating the toy aisles, ask the editors directly for advice on their website: www.toywishes.com. It'll save you from shelling out $5,000 for the latest kid's gizmo on e-Bay.

'Toon lovers, start your engines

Naysayers aside, Cars earns its place in the winner's circle. The tale of self-absorbed speedster Lightning McQueen, who takes a life-changing detour in the sleepy town of Radiator Springs, is the best animated release so far this year. (And adults won't cringe at the content.) Extras are lighter than on past Pixar DVDs, but don't miss the terrific short, "One Man Band," and the new cartoon, "Mater and the Ghostlight."

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Dispatches from the kitty Cam

Ever wondered what your cat does outside at night? National Geographic's Wild Chronicles video podcast surveils creatures both great (Hawaiian monk seals) and small (bullfrogs) in their habitats. In an episode about cats, for example, filmmakers attach a camera to a feline. Subscribe to the information-packed episodes at: www.nationalgeographic.com/podcasts/

Soak up a marathon of Spongebob

Fans of the happy-go-lucky yellow one prepare for Nickelodeon's 24-hour marathon of viewers' Top 100 episodes starting next Thursday at 8 p.m EDT. It's followed by the première of an all new special, "Best Day Ever," on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Then, at 8 p.m., the network debut of the The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie ices this delicious "SpongeBob" cake.

Prime-time pigskin

When the New England Patriots crushed the home-sweet-dome Minnesota Vikings Monday, they set up a midseason classic: Sunday night's clash with unbeaten Indianapolis (NBC, 8:15 p.m. EDT). Will a short week slow Corey Dillon? Will the Colts' Adam Vinatieri boot a game-winner against his old team? Watch.