August 30, 1999 12:00 PM

ABC (weeknights, 12:05 a.m.)

This show still has a lot going for it: a funny, provocative host; a post-Nightline time slot ideal for topical talk; the chance to find out if celebrities have anything to say besides “I’m really excited about my latest project.” But after some six years on the air (on Comedy Central, then ABC), Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher may be suffering a touch of format fatigue: Four guests discussing three to four issues a night—there’s a certain sameness to it even when the producers add a gimmick. Maher and his panel donned bathing suits for one August program, but a bare torso didn’t make Kato Kaelin any more insightful.

P.I. has tried theme shows, some worthwhile (a group of black comedians addressing racism in TV casting and everyday life) and some not (four American Pie cast members essentially plugging their movie). Special youth panels have been a notable summer innovation. But the main selling point hasn’t changed: Nowhere else are you likely to hear a debate on tort law between Ralph Nader, rumpled consumer advocate, and Evan Seinfeld, heavily tattooed (and lightly informed) lead singer of Biohazard. The question is, has the novelty worn off?

Bottom Line: Enjoyable but slumping slightly

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