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Holiday specials you didn't see

The holiday season is a lucrative time for special programming the networks can load up with lots of commercials. Thanks to my Hollywood mole, I'm letting you in on just a few of the specials that never got off the dry erase board for the 2002 season.

A Salisbury Christmas (C-SPAN). Hometown girl and Senator-elect Liddy Dole stars in a live, downhome holiday celebration featuring caroling, her cook's recipe for red-eye gravy, and a special appearance by her defeated opponent, Erskine Bowles. He and Bob Dole perform a hilarious rendition of "We Both Call Her Mrs. Dole." (Program note: Due to her busy schedule, Dole won't actually be in Salisbury, but will be live from her actual home in Washington, DC.) Sponsored by Pepsi and Viagra.

Pat Potter and the Arena of Doom (CINEMAX). A disappearing basketball team and mysterious dollar figures are the challenges facing the bespectacled young wizard, as he travels toward danger and fiscal irresponsibility in a city ruled by a Queen. Starring Pat McCrory and Pam Syfert. Guest appearances: George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge as the Really Short Elves Who Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank, and Lynn Wheeler as the Highest Authority on the NBA.

The Missing Elf Is Found! (THE SCI-FI CHANNEL). In this sequel to last year's non-hit, a missing elf is found after his mysterious disappearance, a journey that took him to Boston, a drugstore for hair dye, and then Mexico. You won't want to miss his tearful reunion with the FBI. Starring Andrew Reyes.

The Cats Who Spoil Christmas (ESPN CLASSIC). In a familiar tale for the hapless Carolina Panthers, three of their players learn the true meaning of the season, while dealing with unemployment or the coppers. Starring Chris "What Day Was It?" Terry, Steve "Sucker Punch" Smith, and Lamar "I Only Had a Couple, Officer" Smith. Special appearance by Rae "Car Trunk" Carruth via phone hookup.

Rusty Eats! (FOOD NETWORK). Holiday foodfest is tragically cut short by gastric bypass surgery. Instead, star Rusty Page and the more-famous Al Roker have four ounces of fish and a half-cup of green beans and sing the blues. They're joined by guests Carnie Wilson and Sharon Osbourne.

The Carrousel Parade (BET NETWORK). The nation's most notorious B.I.G. holiday parade moves to the national spotlight this year. Mighty white parade organizers and black high-school bands that lean toward stripper dances come together and learn the true meaning of the season, while collaborating on new versions of well-known tunes of the season. Scheduled songs: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Hoochie," Sisqo's "The Big White Underpants Song," "I'll Be Home (in Myers Park) for Christmas," and "Get Yur G-Rated Freak On".

Scanty Claus (PLAYBOY CHANNEL). Two musical giants come together for a night of holiday music, complete with singing and underwear-like attire. Christina Aguilera will sing selections from her newest CD, Stripped, while actress/singer Jennifer Love Hewitt will perform favorites from her new CD, Bare Naked. The pop tarts will be joined by the cast of HBO's G-String Divas. Sponsored by "Glow," the new perfume by Jennifer Lopez.

Amazing Race 4: The Bin Laden Mission (CBS). Banking on the hungry ruthlessness of ordinary people who want to be on TV, the Tiffany Network will award a $1 million prize to whoever wins the worldwide scavenger hunt for a squirrelly-looking terrorist.

Finally, a word or two about a former colleague and a reporter who will be missed by this community when he leaves WBTV before the New Year. Mike Cozza has spent 30 years on the government beat and on the prowl for a good story in this market, and as he leaves to try something new, something goes with him.No longer will we see a beat reporter spend that much time at one station, and no longer will a TV reporter be a watchdog around the halls of local government the way Cozza has been. (And local politicos are probably glad about that.) Just like a Bill Walker, a Doug Mayes, or a Clyde McClain, Cozza's become an institution around these parts, not just for the longevity, but for his dedication to doing his job.

Cozza is a real journalist in a medium that doesn't have as much use for his type of dedication as it used to. These are now the days when younger TV reporters dread being "stuck" in a City Hall beat, and have their day's work jammed into a minute-fifteen after the innocuous live shot.

Was Mike always a box of chocolates to work with? Heck no, but at the end of the day, you always knew you'd been in a fair fight, whether he wanted another 25 seconds from a reluctant producer, or just couldn't find the file tape he needed from that enormous pile on his desk.

"I'm not mad," he'd say. You weren't always sure, but that's Cozza. I was always sure, though, that he still believed in what he did, and scooped the other brothers regularly. One pro gone, and who will take up his gauntlet?

Good luck, Mike Cozza, and thanks from the Queen City.

Shannon Reichley is an independent television producer and former news manager at WBTV. E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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