Manhattan Gets Oxygen-ated … Survivor’s Snuffing Filmmaker … Tom Jones Does the Vatican

Wednesday, Nov. 21

You can feel it in the air, can’t you? After the longest of waits, Oxygen is finally on the verge of bubbling into Manhattan.

You remember Oxygen-the super-duper cable network of Oxygen Media, the company founded by X-chromosome power brokers Oprah Winfrey, Geraldine Laybourne, Marcy Carsey, Caryn Mandabach and token Y-man Tom Werner in 1998.

Oxygen was a big deal when it launched. The only problem was-and this was a weensy hitch, as it turned out-you couldn’t see it in Manhattan, the Media Capital of the Planet, since Oxygen had yet to crack through on Time Warner Cable.

As a result, Oxygen became the Canadian girlfriend of television-a network that allegedly existed, though no one you knew had actually confirmed its existence.

But now that’s changing. On Dec. 19, Oxygen is cracking through on Time Warner Cable’s Channel 61.

The Oxygen people, naturally, are delighted that their existences now have meaning in their hometown. “Everyone’s quite excited that they’ll be able to see their product,” said Oxygen spokeswoman Laura Nelson.

The trouble, of course, is that in the time since its launch, Oxygen has morphed from its original format of female-oriented entertainment to 24-hour coverage of dirt-bike racing. “Yeah!” said Ms. Nelson, playing along. “It’s all dirt-bike racing, but with chicks!”

Actually, Oxygen is now a weird mixture of original programming and shows with intelligent, congenial hosts who were all pretty famous, like, eight years ago: Candice Bergen, Isaac Mizrahi, Carrie Fisher ….

Said Ms. Nelson : “We’ve started to really offer some extraordinary original programming.”

Oprah’s got a show on Oxygen, too, called Use Your Life, on which she touts community leaders and friends whose stories have touched her. (Maybe Jonathan Franzen can get his “high art” tooshie invited on this thing.) Oxygen also has sports coverage, animation and full sets of Kate & Allie and Cybill reruns. “It’s a really great mix of entertainment,” Ms. Nelson said.

Tonight on Lifetime (let’s see if Oxygen can take a bite out of them ), Nicolette Sheridan recovers from a stroke in A Time to Heal. [LIFE, 12, 9 p.m.]

Thursday, Nov. 22

Whoopsy-daisy! After leaving the podium at a California speaking engagement the other day, Jeff Greenfield busted his ankle backstage, putting him on the shelf for a few days. The CNN senior analyst is expected back in New York by the end of the week; in the meantime, his substitute on Greenfield at Large has been Keith Olbermann, who’s been plopping down on CNN from time to time in the wake of his (not-so-)kissy-faced parting with Fox Sports.

Tonight is Turkey Night, so argue with your drunk relatives over which one’s which on Hannity & Colmes . [FNC, 46, 9 p.m.]

Friday, Nov. 23

Bark if you missed it, but this week The WB11 News at Ten aired a two-night series on that wonderfully disgusting (and newsy !) topic that rears its ugly head every now and again after a particularly worrisome meal from New Yum Fun: “Hey, do you think there’s any Fido in that?”

“While most Americans may consider it repugnant to eat a pooch, the dish is a delicacy in Korea, where it is believed that more than two million dogs annually are tortured, cooked, and eaten-allegedly for reputed health benefits,” cried a release from Channel 11. “Rumors of a New York black market in dog meat have circulated for years, but with little documentation.”

You know where this puppy is going. Working with the Humane Society, Channel 11 videotaped the sale of what a Flushing restaurant called “boshingtang,” or dog stew. Then a team headed by WB super-reporter Polly Kreisman tracked the “dogmeat trail” to a Wurtsboro, N.Y., farm. The price: $350 cooked, $450 uncooked.

Rarf! Tonight, see what’s cooking on The WB11 News at Ten . [WPIX, 11, 10 p.m.]

Saturday, Nov. 24

Wasn’t there supposed to be some big ABC news show devoted to the new serious age ushered in by Sept. 11?

There was, and it lasted less time than Bob Patterson did! It was called America.01 , and while it was well-intentioned-it aimed to analyze and interpret American life in the aftermath of the terror attacks-hardly anyone watched the thing after it premiered at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2.

“It became too difficult to launch a news-magazine [show] in that time period,” said an ABC spokesperson. “We’ll continue to work on the program during its hiatus as the network tries to find a more suitable time period.”

Two words, people: dog meat! Tonight on ABC, super-snoozy NCAA College Football , featuring Washington and Miami. [WABC, 7, 8 p.m.]

Sunday, Nov. 25

Did you know that Jeff Probst is more than just the mildly grating host of TV’s super-hit Survivor ? He’s also an award-winning independent-movie director!

Mr. Probst called from the Survivor Quatro set in French Polynesia (who’s paying CBS’s Sprint bill?!) the other night on the heels of news that he’d been named one of the “Ten Directors to Watch” by arts organization American Cinematheque. A film Mr. Probst wrote and directed called Finder’s Fee has kicked up a small fuss on the indie-movie circuit.

“I’m extremely proud of it,” Mr. Probst said of the thriller, about a guy who finds a wallet containing a winning lottery ticket. “But it’s a small movie. It can’t compete with Pearl Harbor and Mission: Impossible II. “

Well, neither PH nor M:I II had James Earl Jones-which Finder’s Fee does. Mr. Probst was totally giddy about Darth Vader signing on to do his flick, and credited him with helping to calm some of the more excitable young male actors on the set. Mr. Probst said that on his first day, Mr. Jones leaned across a table to actor Ryan Reynolds “and goes, ‘Luke, I am your father’- slight pause-’ motherfucker .’ And the room broke up, because in one sentence you heard James Earl Jones say the one line everyone wanted to ask him to say, and you heard him say ‘motherfucker.’”

Mr. Probst, who’s still seeking a distributor for Finder’s Fee , said he’s itching to do another film.

But he said he’s having a good time with Survivor . At the end of each episode, Mr. Probst still gets to send the campers packing by extinguishing some rube’s tiki torch. “The snuffer is working just fine,” he said.

No Survivor jokes, please! We’ve had enough of those for the next 3,000 years. Tonight on CBS, the abominable Upper West Side paean You’ve Got Mail. [CBS, 2, 8:30 p.m.]

Monday, Nov. 26

On tonight’s episode of Miracle Pets on fam-friendly PAX, a dog saves a family from a fire ( boring) , a lost cat finds its way home after two years ( zzzzz) , and a girl with a brain tumor recovers with the assistance of a horse (now we’re talkin’ !). [WPXM, 31, 8 p.m.]

Tuesday, Nov. 27

The holiday season is upon us, and you know what that means! Yup: time for a rollicking Tom Jones Christmas concert at the Vatican!

You thought that the Vatican didn’t do Vegas schtick? Think again, Dean-o !Tom Jones shakes his groove thing for the Holy Father tonight in a WLIW 21–PBS jamboree entitled A Musical Christmas from the Vatican . “Tom Jones in Europe is not perceived as having the Las Vegas tiger image,” said one of the show’s producers, Sherman Heinig, sounding slightly protective of Mr. Jones.

Well, he should know. Mr. Heinig, who’s from Germany, is the guy in charge of getting pop stars to perform at the Vatican. The gig is actually tougher to get than you’d think.

“The Vatican actually has a shit list,” he said. “They have their own criteria-like, Liza Minnelli is a no. They don’t tell you why.”

Whitney Houston was also turned down by the Vatican, Mr. Heinig said. They’re apparently down on gay performers, too. “So Elton John is obviously not an option,” Mr. Heinig said. “Neither is George Michael.”

What about Britney Spears? “No,” Mr. Heinig said. Gay? Nope. ” Too sexy .”

Well, who is up to snuff for the Vatican? Mr. Heinig ticked off some of the people booked for the 2001 show, which is not part of tonight’s special: the Cranberries, Lisa Stansfield … Mark Knopfler is apparently close to signing on … Ray Charles is a maybe …

Man, that is one rocking concert! To make matters worse, Paul Anka just canceled.

Before we left him, we wanted Mr. Heinig to settle that long-standing issue of whether or not Baywatch ‘s David Hasselhoff is indeed big in his country.

“Well, he’s not so much a big singer anymore,” Mr. Heinig said. “He only had one No. 1 hit in Germany … but he still gets $50,000 a night.”

To sing ? Tonight on WLIW, jam with the Holy Father. [WLIW, 21, 8 p.m.]