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CBS, NBC Plan Country Music Specials

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country music takes its place beside Thanksgiving turkey and football next week as two networks try to lure viewers with the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Vince Gill and other stars.

NBC and CBS will offer a combined four hours of prime-time country music programming with CBS turning over its entire Thanksgiving evening lineup to the music genre.

Next week's shows will be pitted against ``Monday Night Football,'' ``Friends'' and ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.'' But Jack Sussman, vice president of specials at CBS, is confident that country can do well because families tend to watch television together during the holiday week.

``On Thanksgiving, we go from parade coverage in the morning and a football game in the afternoon to Faith Hill and then the 75th anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry,'' Sussman said. ``It's a nice little run for a traditional night. The family is sitting around. You've eaten a lot of turkey and you want to watch a good, fun, entertaining TV show.''

On cable, CBS' sister channel CMT will rerun the ''2000 CMA Awards'' from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST on Friday (Nov. 24) and again on Saturday (Nov. 25), from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m EST.

The week starts with ``Dixie Chicks: On the Fly,'' to air on Monday (Nov. 20), on NBC from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST. It is largely an hour of concert footage.

``We just wanted to get the show across,'' said Dixie Chick Martie Seidel. ``As much work as we've put into this (concert) tour, we're still only going to reach probably around a million people, live. This one special will reach maybe 60 million people. So it's kind of like, `Why not just put our best foot forward, which is our live show.'''

Several comedy sketches featuring comedian Andy Dick are interspersed throughout the show. Dick plays a TV executive who offers suggestions to get the trio ready for prime time.

``We poke fun at ourselves, and we're actually not playing ourselves. We're playing caricatures,'' said Emily Robison. ``I want to make that very clear, because I end up looking like the dumb one in all the skits.''

The pointers from Dick include: hiring a fourth Chick to play triangle, losing the name Dixie Chicks and taking dance lessons.

``The gist of it is, he's trying to mold us into what network television thinks is the big deal,'' said lead singer Natalie Maines. ``So we take dance classes. ... Why does everybody have to be like the Backstreet Boys? Everybody follows those trends. Country music does it, too.''

Hill, who has reached beyond the country market with such pop hits as ``Breathe'' and ``This Kiss,'' also sticks to the concert format. Guests include her husband, Tim McGraw.

For the Dixie Chicks and Hill, starring in a network TV special is recognition of career progress. It is also part of a continuing bid to expand their audience.

``I'm looking forward to sharing a piece of Thanksgiving with (my fans), as well as some other folks who might not already be familiar with my music,'' said Hill, whose special airs on CBS Thursday (Nov. 23), at 8 p.m. EST.

An hour later, ``Grand Ole Opry 75th — a Celebration'' takes a star-studded approach as Gill, Dolly Parton and other country music stars celebrate the longest continuously running radio show in the country.

``There will be some Grand Ole Opry moments, in terms of respecting the history of what that institution is, but it is first and foremost a great music special,'' Sussman said. ``We had some of the biggest names in music show up to celebrate that event.''

Performers include Garth Brooks, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley and Travis Tritt.

``On a night like Thanksgiving,'' said Sussman, ``a show that has the integrity and the artistic clout of the 75th anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry seems like a good choice to us.''

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On the Net:

Dixie Chicks: http://www.dixiechicks.com.

Faith Hill: http://www.faithhill.com.

The Grand Ole Opry: http://208.200.175.236/

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