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`FRESH PRINCE' COMES TO AN END - FINALLY

Popularity has nothing to do with quality. Neither does longevity.

Which is why tonight's farewell episode of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" (7 p.m., Ch. 5) is hardly worth watching, let alone mourning. True to form, this is just one more dopey installment in a remarkably dopey series that managed to hang on for six seasons.We're talking serious stupidity here.

"Fresh Prince" has always substituted mugging and dumb jokes for wit and humor, so why stop now? And not only are the jokes dumb, but they include big laughs for a line about a teenager who's a bit too familiar with alcohol and a bit of physical violence that's sadly outdated and inappropriate.

Not that that stops the screeching and hooting and hollering from the audience - or is that from the laugh track?

The setup for the "Fresh Prince" farewell has the family breaking up and moving on. Hilary (Karyn Parsons) and Ashley (Tatyana M. Ali) are headed for New York City. Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) is headed for Princeton. And, with the rest of their family moving back East, Philip (James Avery) and Vivian (Daphne Maxwell Reid) decide to sell the house in Bel Air and move to New York themselves.

Which leaves Will (Will Smith) in somewhat of a bind. He assures his uncle that he's found an apartment, but in reality, he's got nowhere to go.

So, in typical "Fresh Prince" fashion, Will steals a plot line right out of an old "Brady Bunch" episode - he decides to keep prospective buyers from making an offer on the place.

And in another stunningly derivative development, those prospective buyers include Arthur Drummond (Conrad Bain) and (Gary Coleman) of "Diff'rent Strokes" and George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford) - as well as their maid, Florence (Marla Gibbs).

Of course, all this leads up to so maudlin, overdone farewells with the requisite "aaaahs" from the audience.

"These walls have heard our laughter and our tears," Phillip says. "Walking away from it is like leaving a grand old friend."

But, of course, they couldn't leave it at that. It's somehow sadly appropriate that the final moments of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" have Carlton running out of the bathroom with his pants down around his knees. That's the level of humor that the show has inflicted on audiences for the past six seasons.

The end of "Fresh Prince" is not time to mourn, it's a time to celebrate.

DAVE'S VIEWS ON RELIGION: "Dave's World" (7:30 p.m., Ch. 2) ends its season tonight with Dave (Harry Anderson) poking fun at religion in his newspaper column.

Really.

It's not that anything he says is exactly original - he makes comments like most wars have been fought in the name of religion and that sort of thing. But Dave's character exudes antipathy toward religion throughout the episode as his wife, Beth (Delane Matthews) decides it's time for their kids to learn more about it.

The overall message of the episode - which is at times extremely heavy-handed - is one of tolerance. Tolerance for seemingly everyone but the religious.

Nearly everyone who is pro-religion in the episode is made out to be some sort of extremist or fanatic or - at the very least - to have taken some leave of his or her senses.

In other words, the show certainly doesn't practice the tolerance it preaches.

MILES TO GO: "Murphy Brown" (8 p.m., Ch. 2) bids farewell to one of its regulars as it wraps up its eighth season tonight. Miles Sil-ver-berg will be departing, because the man who plays him - Grant Shaud - has decided to leave the series.

Unfortunately, this isn't one of "Murphy's" better episodes. Oh, it's a nice enough farewell and there are some laughs along the way. But it's not a first-rate episode.

On the other hand, perhaps the departure of Miles isn't such a bad thing. Presumably, a new actor will have to come aboard to replace Shaud next season, and "Murphy" could use an injection of fresh blood.

Stay tuned . . .

GOOD MORNING, UTAH: So, exactly how desperate are you to appear on "Good Morning, America?"

Desperate enough to get up before dawn?

If so, get yourself to the State Capitol on Thursday morning by 5 a.m. A "Good Morning, America" camera will be there on the south steps, taking in whatever Utahns arrive and wave foolishly at the cameras.

Hey, you can make a sign, too. And yoiu might even be chosen to talk with Joan Lunden and Charles Gibson via satellite!

Can you stand the excitement?

Just be warned - such appearances have a tendency to make everyone look equally foolish.

SUMMER CHANGES: ABC has announced some scheduling changes for the summer, although don't expect all of these shows to be around come fall.

Tony Danza's "Hudson Street" will begin airing Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. on May 29. The show still has some previously unseen episodes from when it was yanked off the air earlier this season. (But it is not expected to make the fall cut at the network.)

"Second Noah," another long, longshot to return in the fall, returns on Saturdays at 7 p.m. as of June 1.

"The Drew Carey Show," which might be on ABC's fall slate, moves to Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. as of May 28.

And "Coach," which has already been renewed for next season, made a last-second switch to Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. last week - and will stay there.

The way things have been going at ABC lately, these changes do bear some resemblence to moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.

MORE "PICKET FENCES": CBS aired the series finale of "Picket Fences" a couple of weeks ago.

In another couple of weeks, it will start airing the episodes it never got 'round to during the regular season.

The Emmy-winning-but-canceled series returns on Wednesday, June 5 at 8 p.m. with the first of four episodes that have not yet seen the light of broadcast day.

In other scheduling moves, CBS has announced that it will air new episodes of the failed prime-time soap "Central Park West" on Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 p.m. "Nash Bridges" will return on Fridays at 9 p.m. in July.

VIDBITS: Beginning tonight (11:35 p.m., Ch. 4), ABC's "Night-line" begins a weeklong series of reports on race relations in America under the banner "America in Black and White."

Who else but "Nightline" could we expect to take on such a topic and devote this much time to it?

- So, John Tesh is quitting after 10 years as host of "Entertainment Tonight" to devote more time to his music career.

Well, that's not necessarily bad news for schlocky celebrity "journalism." Nor is it necessarily good news for the music industry.

- Cable's USA Network will spend $12 million on a four-hour miniseries version of "Moby Dick" for next season.

Which begs the question - will USA be able to turn Herman Melville's classic novel into something full of screaming, scantily clad women? You know, something that in the same vein as most of their made-for-cable movies.

- Fox has renewed its Saturday-night show "Mad TV" for next season, ordering a total of 25 epi-sodes.

That's both bad and good news. The bad news is that the lame "Mad TV" will be back. The good news is that the even lamer, Roseanne-produced "Saturday Night Special" might not.

- MTV has named Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo as hosts of the 1996 MTV Movie Awards, which air June 13.

Gee, this could actually be sort of a fun pairing.

- USA's sister cable network, the Sci-Fi Channel, has obtained the rights to three recent network series - "Earth 2," "seaQuest DSV" and "M.A.N.T.I.S."

OK, so not everything on Sci-Fi is worth watching, but it would still be nice if TCI would ever decide to actually add the channel to most of our systems.

- Jerry Seinfeld told network executives and advertisters last week that he hasn't ruled out the possibility of his hit sitcom continuing past next season.

In other words, he's wondering exactly how much money the network and the advertisers would be willing to pay for such an eventuality.