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TV Bulletin Board (March 21)

New faces of CBS: Kimbo Slice and "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler.

Saturday's a throwaway night for network TV anyway. So why not really throw it away with the new CBS EliteXC Saturday Night Fights.

It premieres May 31st, with mixed martial arts champ "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler scheduled to defend his middleweight title against Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith.

The intriguingly named Kimbo Slice also is on the card, although his opponent hasn't been named yet. Perhaps Homeboy Hamhock?

CBS programming exec Kelly Kahl says the network is "excited" to showcase "the unique personalities, world-class athleticism and raw power and emotion that characterizes mixed martial arts." All righty then.

*** On a somewhat higher plane, ABC News will be hosting live verbal combat between Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Fight night is April 16th, just six nights before the possibly pivotal Pennsylvania primary.

ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos will moderate the 90-minute debate from Philadelphia's National Constitution Center.

***The first two chapters of HBO's exceptional John Adams miniseries got off to a solid start Sunday with 2.7 million viewers. That's not much by conventional broadcast standards, unless you're the teeny CW network. But it's considerably better than the 1.1 million who watched the previous Sunday's series finale of The Wire.

John Adams, adapted from the David McCullough bestseller, starts Paul Giamatti in the title role and Laura Linney as his wife, Abigail. It will continue for the next five Sundays on HBO.

Meanwhile, the network knows how to both stick it to The New York Times while at the same time paying handsomely for a full-page color ad in the newspaper's Friday "Weekend Arts" section.

The ad is loaded with rave reviews from all of the Times' Big Apple competitors plus other publications. Notably missing is anything from the Times itself, whose reliably addled TV critic, Alessandra Stanley, may have been the only reviewer in the world to flat-out pan Giamatti's performance.

She also somehow confused measles with smallpox in her critique. And that's not easy to do.