While certain sports, action films and nature docs in HD have emerged as early favorites of the earliest HD viewers, it’s as clear as an HD picture that this is just the start. Enter programmers like Mark Cuban, who’s been covering the Iraq war in HD and Discovery HD Theater’s Clint Stinchcomb, who’s constantly searching for scenes worthy of capture in HD. Among his masterpieces was a mesmerizing look last Nov from Antarctica at a total solar eclipse (augmented nicely by specials on Discovery Science). Stinchcomb also went beyond the bounds of Earth, using his palette to paint the first HD images from Mars. Oct 15 at 8pm HD Theater will return to terra firma, but just barely. In a bold move, Stinchcomb’s decided to schedule 10 Fri nights of classical music, opera and ballet in his "Front Row Seat" series. But these won’t be just good musicians at garden-variety venues, more like world-class artists at Covent Garden. And these BBC productions will be spectacles worthy of 1080i HD and 5.1 surround sound, including a star-studded 300th anniversary gala at St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater (Nov 12); the festive finale of Britain’s summer-long concert series The Proms from Albert Hall (Oct 15); and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #8 (Oct 22), known as ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ for the 300+ musicians needed to perform it (gosh, never thought we’d get Mahler into CableFAX). "We’re giving viewers something they just won’t find anywhere else," Stinchcomb says in a tremendous understatement. Another truth: "We think this will help our distribution partners tap into a really passionate and under-served audience; there are 100s of channels out there but not a lot of channels you can go to find performing arts and classical music." Highlights "Tanner on Tanner," Tues, 9pm, Sundance. The return of Altman and Trudeau’s satire about a fictional presidential candidate whacks at reality TV with hilarity and unabashedly blasts pres Bush. — "Degrassi, The Next Gen," tonight, 8pm, The N. Season premiere of teen drama treats date rape with maturity. — "American Casino," tonight, 9pm, Discovery. Rare example of a tasteful reality series ep. Worth a Look "Beautiful Dreamer," Tues, 9pm, Showtime. Great look at Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and his long unreleased album. — "Austin Stevens, Snakemaster," Tues, 8pm, Animal Planet. A less histrionic Croc Hunter journeys to Borneo to face a 30-foot reticulated python.— "McLeod’s Daughters," tomorrow, 10pm, WE. Solid Aussie import series about half sisters running a cattle farm. — "Rockface," tonight, 7pm ET, BBC America. Drama aplenty in this series about a mountain rescue team.— "Cowboy 101," tomorrow, begins 9:30pm, Outdoor Life Net. We have little interest in rodeos, but the students of the rodeo team at Sul Ross State Univ captivated us. — "Manhunt," tonight, 11pm ET, Biography Channel. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery Court TV should be pleased. — "Strong Medicine," Sun, 9pm, Lifetime. Our one-time favorite has limped lately, but episode 100, with Fran Drescher and Camryn Manheim, uses drama well to cover important medical issues. — "Russell Simmons Presents: Hip Hop Justice," Wed, 10pm, Court TV. Simmons has a bias, but the rap impresario raises interesting questions. — "Beyond the Glory," Sun, 8pm, FSN. Good look at Kirk Gibson’s HR in ’88.

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C-band Auction Concludes

The C-band auction officially came to a close Friday after 97 rounds of bidding that grossed just under $81bln, cementing its place as the highest-grossing spectrum auction held in the US. FCC chairman Ajit

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