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TV highlights Feb. 17 

OSCAR MARATHON American Movie Classics (Comcast Ch. 31) Feb. 21-27 Though it’s all smiles come Oscar night, the difference that handsome gold statuette can make in the career of an actor or actress has led to some of the biggest and nastiest rows in Hollywood history. As one Oscar winner once put it, the Academy Award is Tinseltown’s way of saying they like you, they really like you — a seal of approval that often translates into bigger roles (and bigger bankrolls). Here, AMC holds a weeklong salute to Oscar with a marathon of Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning pictures. Don’t miss beauties like “The Killing Fields” at 2:45 p.m. Feb. 24, “The Grapes of Wrath” at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 25, and “Patton” at 8 p.m. Feb. 25. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: THE EARLY YEARS NBC (Comcast Ch. 5, Broadcast Ch. 4) 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20 While everybody brags on how great the first five years of Saturday Night Live were, I must admit that — for the most part — the gags from the early SNL go right over my head. Chevy Chase falling down the stairs? Belushi as a bathrobed samurai? You must have had to be there. I know this is sacrilege, but I’ll take the Chris Farley/Adam Sandler/Mike Myers era any day of the week. Maybe I can be converted by this special, examining the first five years of SNL. With new interviews with Lorne Michaels, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Garrett Morris and Al Franken — and musical performances by the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Patti Smith, Blondie, Ray Charles and many more — it’s sure to delight fans of the vintage episodes. NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP: SIDE CHAIR 12 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19 AETN (Comcast Ch. 3, Broadcast Ch. 2) As someone who dabbles in woodworking — and someone who has pounded, cut, stabbed, gouged, mashed and otherwise permanently disfigured my digits in that pursuit — I can’t tell you what a frustrating experience it is to watch Norm Abrams make magic every week on PBS’ “The New Yankee Workshop.” With a tool for every occasion and a shop that looks like the cleanroom they build satellites in at NASA, Norm is to woodworking what Martha Stewart is to puff pastry and sachets — someone put on this earth specifically for the purpose of making the viewer feel like a complete and total waste of bodily fluids. This week, Norm travels to Deerfield, Mass., where he finds an early 19th-century side chair to pattern a sturdier modern copy from.
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