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TONIGHT: `TEQUILA AND BONETTI' IS A REAL DOG

Tequila and Bonetti (8 p.m., Ch. 5) has the distinction of being the worst show to air on television this season.

Oh, there are other shows that are as stupid. As offensive. As poorly written. As cliched. But there are none that combine these factors quite as horrifically.The basic premise is this: A New York cop named Bonetti (Jack Scalia), after killing a 12-year-old girl in the line of duty, is transferred to a hip Southern California community. His new partners are a woman (Mariska Hargitay) and a dog, Tequila.

The trick is that the viewers can hear all the dog's thoughts, but the other characters can't. Properly handled, this might have been cute. Or at least interesting. But, instead, it's stupid and incredibly offensive.

In the first few minutes, viewers are treated to a scene with the dog urinating on a car. And many of the so-called "jokes" deal with other bodily functions.

And, believe it or not, there's an extremely sick joke about a suicide (or is that murder?) victim, told as the corpse swings by a rope from the ceiling.

Unfortunately, the only humor here is unintentional. The jokes fall flat, but the action is often so ludicrous you have to laugh.

For example, as the two cops and the dog are driving along in a car, viewers hear the dog thinking that Bonetti should turn at the next left. The female cop actually looks at the dog, then looks at her partner and says, "I think he wants you to turn at the next left." I am not making this up.

This is one of those shows that, if you're unfortunate enough to sit through the whole thing, you just end up sort of incredulous. Incredulous because it's hard to imagine how anyone could have produced it, let alone put it on the air.

- ELSEWHERE ON THE TUBE: Michael Jackson . . . the Legend Continues (7 p.m., Ch. 5) is an attempt by CBS to capitalize on the alleged Michael-mania; Garth Brooks (8 p.m., Ch. 2) is a rousing performance special that even non-country music fans will enjoy; Campaigning for the Presidency (8 p.m., Ch. 7) includes interviews with officials of the Johnson, Goldwater, Nixon, McGovern, Ford, Reagan and Dukakis campaigns; and Gulf Crisis: The Road to War (8 p.m., Discovery) is the first of three parts about the war in Iraq.

- LOOKING TOWARD SATURDAY: NBC broadcasts the NHL All-Star Game (11 a.m., Ch. 2); Montana (7 p.m., Ch. 5) is a 1990 made-for-cable, modern-day Western written by Larry McMurtry, the author of "Lonesome Dove"; the Golden Globe Awards (8 p.m., TBS) are presented; Ritualistic Abuse: The Unthinkable (9 p.m., Ch. 5) explores the possibility of a link between child abuse and Satanism; and Chevy Chase hosts Saturday Night Live (11:35 p.m., Ch. 2). - SDP