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MARTIN, SPELLING BOTH GET TO PLAY BAD GIRLS

Both Kellie Martin and Tori Spelling have become much identified with good-girl characters on television.

Martin was the perky Becca on "Life Goes On," and now she's the title character in "Christy." Spelling is the only virgin left on "Beverly Hills, 90210."Which is why both say they loved being bad girls in the NBC movie "A Friend to Die For."

"That is the reason I took it - because it was a completely different character that I have ever played before," Martin said in a recent interview. "I always play the good girl."

"I did want to do a different sort of character because it's never good for an actress to be stereotyped," Spelling said. "But when I got the chance to play a bad girl, it was fun. I think the bad-girl roles are sometimes easier, and they get the juicy lines."

However, neither play traditional bad girls in this very good TV movie. Spelling's character, Stacy, is a popular high-school cheerleader.

She's also a self-centered snot who enjoys making fun of people less popular than herself.

Martin's character, Angela, is basically a good girl who is desperate to be part of the in-crowd and who idolizes Stacy. But when Stacy threatens to expose her to the school as a social misfit, something in Angela snaps - and she stabs Stacy to death.

"Both of these girls are victims of what is ultimately a very destructive value system," said Dan Bronson, who based his teleplay very loosely on a real-life incident about 10 years ago. "They buy the big lie, which is that who you are depends upon your place on the social ladder and what you have. They buy the big, materialistic, status-seeking lie that the community propagates. And it ends up destroying them both.

"In a very real sense both characters die in this film. We see Stacy die in the first 10 minutes of the film, but you get down to the last act and you see that Angela is dead, too. She's no longer an active character in the film at all."

("A Friend to Die For" opens with the murder, but much of the story is told through flashbacks that explain what led up to the killing.)

The movie is thought-provoking and sensitively handled. While it evokes some sympathy for Angela, it does not make her a heroine.

Nor does it paint Stacy as deserving of death but as an all-too-typical teenager.

For the two actresses, the most difficult part of making the telefilm was doing the stabbing scene. "That was hard," Spelling said.

Martin was armed with a knife that had a retractable blade, but which was sharp nonetheless.

"I kept checking it on my leg just to make sure - oh my goodness, what if they gave me the wrong knife? Like `The Crow' incident," Martin said. "So I had these bruises on my leg from checking the knife because I was so scared to do it.

"And after each take, I'd run back and (ask), `Are you OK, Tori? I didn't kill you, did I?"

"A Friend to Die For" meant that Martin has achieved one of her goals as an actress.

"I've always said I wanted to play a murderer, a blind girl and I want to be killed," Martin said. "So this was like one of the things I wanted to do."

As for Spelling, "I'd like to do more comedy, and I'd like to be in a horror film. Be the heroine in a horror film."

SITCOMS IMITATE LIFE: Tonight's episodes of "Murphy Brown" (8 p.m., Ch. 5) and "Love & War" (8:30 p.m., Ch. 5) are tied together - and both are closely tied to what has become the biggest media story of the year.

First up on "Murphy," the FYI team gets caught up in the story of a much-admired astronaut who is charged with killing his brother. Rather than turn himself in, he flees in a white Ford Aerostar - pursued by both the police and the media in helicopters.

(Hmmm . . . that does sound rather familiar.)

Murphy and Co. provide saturation coverage during a live broadcast - despite the fact that there's nothing new to report.

Then on "Love & War," the gang at the Blue Shamrock is glued to the TV screen watching the chase down the Jersey Turnpike - and everyone's got an opinion about what's happening.

(Hmmm . . . that also sounds rather familiar.)

RUMOR IS: TCI and KJZZ have been fighting . . . trying to come to an agreement for months now about channel placement.

The former owners of Ch. 14 signed off on moving then-KXIV to Ch. 12 on the TCI dial several years ago - a deal that doesn't exactly please the KJZZ staff. They'd much prefer to be on Ch. 14.

But TCI has placed its pay channel Encore on Ch. 14, and insists that it would cost a million bucks or more to make the change.

No one's commenting publicly, but reportedly the two parties may compromise by placing KJZZ on Ch. 3 - the theory being that lower channels are tuned into more frequently.

Of course, that would displace Ch. 30 . . . so stay tuned.

MURDER TRIAL: Steven Bochco ("NYPD Blue," "L.A. Law") is working on a yearlong murder trial for ABC.

The new series titled "Murder One" would follow the course of a single murder trial through 22 episodes, from the point of view of defense attorney. Assuming it went to a second season, a second trial would start.

It might be difficult to imagine anything holding the viewing public's attention for that long, but then there's the O.J. Simpson legal proceedings.