`Jackie Thomas Show': The Other Arnold Has A Winner

Roseanne Arnold now owns the 9 p.m. Tuesday spot on ABC with "Roseanne," the network's (and often the nation's) highest-rated series.

Now she and her husband, Tom Arnold, will attempt to take over the following half hour with the introduction of "The Jackie Thomas Show," premiering at 9:30 p.m. tomorrow on KOMO-TV. Arnold, who has played a recurring character on "Roseanne," is turning up as the star of this new series, playing an egotistical, domineering star of a fictional comedy sitcom.

The first episode indicates "The Jackie Thomas Show" could do for TV sitcoms what Garry Shandling's "The Larry Sanders Show" on HBO did for TV talk shows. It has a good cast, in addition to Arnold, whose brash persona resembles the person he seemed to be on his several comedy specials on HBO with his wife. Dennis Boutsikaris plays the show's head writer, Martin Mull is a nervous network executive and breezy Allison La Placa play Boutsikaris' secretary and a woman who knows where all the bodies are buried. It's good, clean nasty fun and Lord knows the world of TV sitcoms deserves a skewering.

The two shows make an interesting pairing but while the troubles of the Connor family in Illinois resonate throughout America, dealing with situations with which far too many American viewers can identify, "The Jackie Thomas Show" has a sort of inside feel to which not everyone may relate. Still, showbiz has become such a part of American life that the Arnolds are probably counting on viewers getting references to the minutiae of TV as easily as they respond to plots about unemployment, ungrateful children and the rest of the headaches that make up everyday living and which have been explored, often brilliantly, on "Roseanne" thus far this season.

Short takes: Imagine! A docudrama that doesn't concern a fatal disease, child abuse or rape! Too good to be true? Not at all - it's NBC's excellent "A Town Torn Apart" at 9 tonight on KING-TV. It stars Michael Tucker as a New York teacher who retired to New Hampshire, only to get back in harness when a crisis developed in the nearby high school. Believing education should be relevant to students, he instituted all manner of changes, many of which had the local citizenry up in arms. The enthusiasm with which a good cast tells the story compensates for the story's predictability and it's nice to have the good guys winning for a change.

History buffs and Lincoln students may enjoy PBS' "Abraham Lincoln: A New Birth of Freedom," airing at 7 p.m. tomorrow on KCTS-TV, a documentary which often looks, in style and tone, like an episode, from "The Civil War."

Neil Diamond fans will undoubtedly love his "Christmas Special" on HBO (being repeated at 7 p.m. tomorrow and again Dec. 6, 9, 17, 21 and 24). All others, however, may find this glitzy hour - oh, so cool and oh, so hip - not much to their liking. I belong in the latter camp.

Glenn Close makes a concerned host for "Broken Hearts, Broken Homes," a moving documentary about foster care, as practiced in one city in California, to be shown at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the Lifetime channel. The stories will touch you - and may anger you as well: In none of the case histories explored is their any presence, financial or otherwise, of the children's fathers.

Christmaswatch: The great Jessye Norman sings a recital of Christmas music, taped in Paris at Notre Dame Cathedral, tomorrow at 6:30 and 10:30 p.m. on A&E. . . . TNT airs the Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life" at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. . . . Channel 28 airs the Concordia College Christmas Concert at 8:10 p.m. tomorrow. . . . Leo Buscaglia hosts a PBS special, "Stories of Christmas Love," at 7 p.m. Wednesday on KCTS-TV. . . . CBS repeats the perennial favorite, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at 8 p.m. Wednesday, followed at 8:30 p.m. by a repeat of "A Garfield Christmas," both on KIRO-TV. . . . KCTS-TV airs the engaging 1983 movie, "A Christmas Story," based on a story by Jean Shepherd, at 8:10 p.m. Wednesday.

Video notes: KCTS-TV repeats its "Over Florida" film at 7 tonight and 10:20 p.m. Wednesday. . . . It's tin-cup time again on KCTS-TV so expect lots of repeats, such as the first two parts of "The Kennedys" on "American Experience," starting at 8:10 tonight. . . . CBS has a new "Schoolbreak Special," "Words Up!," geared to Education First! Week, at 3 p.m. tomorrow on KIRO-TV. . . . KSTW-TV airs a two-part, four-hour Sidney Sheldon potboiler, "The Sands of Time," all about three nuns and a band of revolutionaries, unavailable for previewing, starting at 8 p.m. tomorrow and concluding at the same time on Wednesday. . . . A discussion on the future of Seattle's public, educational and government cable TV channels will be held at an open meeting 8 p.m. Wednesday at 911 Media Arts Center, 117 Yale Ave.