Archive for Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Networks face ‘Idol’ onslaught

May 16, 2006


How do you counterprogram against the semifinals of "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox), certain to be one of the most-watched shows of the year?

ABC offers "Celebrity Debut" (7 p.m., ABC), a collection of home movies and performance clips of stars on the cusp of success. The parade of now-famous ingenues includes Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Felicity Huffman, John Travolta and Andre Agassi. Remember when Andre not only had hair but really big hair?

NBC anticipates the Thursday finale of its once-biggest comedy with back-to-back episodes of "Will & Grace" (NBC). It's only fitting that these feature celebrity cameos: Matt Damon (7 p.m.) and Kevin Bacon (7:30 p.m.).

As it has all season, the military drama "NCIS" (7 p.m., CBS) is the only show to compete directly with "Idol," attracting an older audience unconcerned with the amateur-hour competition. On tonight's season finale, Gibbs recovers from his injuries as terrorists threaten naval installations.

The soon-to-vanish WB and UPN networks offer repeats of "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB) and "America's Top Model" (7 p.m., UPN). While schedules have not yet been announced, it's expected these two shows will anchor the new CW network starting in September.

¢ A week after ABC bummed us out with its bird-flu disaster movie, "Frontline" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) asks the question "Can You Afford to Retire?" The answer, "Frontline" suggests, is "not by a long shot."

The documentary focuses on recent efforts by large employers to dump pension plans or get out of them by means of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The result has been to strand millions of Americans with insufficient funds for their golden years. As several experts argue here, 401(k) plans were meant to supplement larger pension plans. With pensions vanishing, they are called upon to be the sole source of retirement income. That, some say, will prove disastrous for millions.

¢ "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC) ends its season with a story ripped from the headlines of Us magazine. After listening to a celebrity's rant against psychiatric drugs, an unstable woman throws away her medication and goes on a vehicular bender, running down 10 pedestrians. Looks like she didn't have Cruise control.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ On two episodes of "The Unit" (CBS), a bomb threat in Atlanta (8 p.m.), a Balkan war criminal escapes (9 p.m., season finale).

¢ A hurricane victim suffers hallucinations on "House" (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ Jeri Ryan ("Star Trek: Voyager") guest stars on the two-hour season finale of "Boston Legal" (8 p.m., ABC).


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