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Sunday, June 29, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The CBS Switch Is On - Again -- Change Is Nothing New For Seattle Television

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

CBS programming switches stations tomorrow, moving from KSTW-TV (Channel 11) to KIRO-TV (Channel 7). UPN programming, which has been on KIRO, will move to KSTW.

Instability might seem like a 1990s phenomenon in Seattle television. There have been two network swaps in as many years. There have been ownership changes this year at three stations. KIRO has had three owners in a little more than two years.

But network switches aren't new here. This will be the third time Tacoma-based KSTW has lost CBS to KIRO.

In fact, you'd think the two stations were playing tennis with the CBS "eye" logo, judging from the last 39 years. Get a load of this timeline:

-- 1953: KTNT-TV (which became KSTW in 1974) signs on as the market's CBS affiliate.

-- 1958: KIRO-TV goes on the air. CBS drops KTNT and switches to KIRO. KTNT sues.

-- 1960: The network finally agrees to let KTNT also air CBS programming. The Seattle-Tacoma market has two CBS stations now.

-- 1962: CBS and KTNT mutually decide to end their affiliation agreement. KIRO again is the lone CBS affiliate.

-- 1995: KSTW, the station formerly known as KTNT, gets CBS back from KIRO by twisting the network's arm: In exchange for carriage in Dallas by KSTW's sibling, CBS agrees to drop KIRO and move to KSTW.

-- 1997: Ownership changes send CBS back to KIRO, with UPN going to "Quest" convention just as Taggart (a k a Jason Nesmith) is losing his patience with fans who take the show too seriously.

Taggart/Nesmith tries to explain to the Thermians that the series is make-believe, that the sets are made out of Christmas-tree lights and other fakery. But the aliens, led by Mathesar (played by the truly otherworldly Enrico Colantoni), have based their society on "Galaxy Quest," building a functional spaceship from glimpses of the crude tiny model on the show. They also believe in Taggart's inspirational one-liner, "never give up, never surrender," which they prayerfully recite.

"Free Enterprise" had the real William Shatner sending up his own image, but "Galaxy Quest" has Allen doing a Shatner impersonation that's just as much fun. Rickman is dryly funny as a Spock-like actor who never gets out of his Klingon-style makeup ("Where's the happy ending?" he whines when they run into real trouble with Thermian enemies). Weaver turns her character's complaints about her underwritten "babe" role into a bittersweet running gag.

The versatile Sam Rockwell locates the goofy heart of Guy Fleegman, who played a special guest victim on the show (devoured by a "lava monster") and has been trying to fit into the "Quest" legend ever since. "Maybe you're the plucky comic relief," suggests the secretly inept Tech Sergeant Chen (Tony Shalhoub), who needs a specific kind of inspiration in order to live up to his reputation as a technical whiz.

Deftly directed by Dean Parisot, who won an Oscar for his 1988 Steven Wright short, "The Appointments of Dennis Jennings," "Galaxy Quest" was written by Robert Gordon ("Addicted to Love") and playwright David Howard ("Electric Roses"). Gordon cites "Westworld," "The Omega Man" and the "Planet of the Apes" series as favorite films. It shows, and we mean that in a nice way.

Warning: "Galaxy Quest" begins with a standard, television-like aspect ratio, then expands into CinemaScope proportions as the tube stars find themselves exploring real outer space. At a preview screening, this confused the projectionist, who let much of the image play on the curtains until a customer complained.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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