The prices of oil and gasoline may be skyrocketing, but reality television's favorite fuel - female desperation - remains dirt-cheap. The new series "Farmer Wants a Wife" (8 p.m., CW) offers a "Simple Life" variation on "The Bachelor" with a a few buckets of "Green Acres" thrown in for good measure.
"Farmer" follows the strict rules of the reality genre. The high-maintenance women arrive in high spirits and wearing high heels. One literally comes down to earth when she steps, or rather struts, into something a cow left behind. The bevy of 10 ranges in tone and personality from a deeply devout virgin to a deranged exhibitionist who annoys everyone with her half-baked ideas about class, politics and religion and the need to marry, or at least date, rich men. Such conversational asides seem distracting when the chicken-catching competition requires both stamina and concentration.
Farmer Matt is a pleasant 29-year-old. He's well-groomed, polite and loves his mother. The women literally quiver and shriek in his wake. They don't seem to mind that he seems too perfectly packaged and overly eager to tear off his tight, sleeveless shirt to show off his chiseled physique. The swooning contestants are either too stunned by his looks or intoxicated by the fresh country air to wonder why he just hasn't yet found the right woman.
¢ With only five crooners to go, we've reached the point on "American Idol" (8 p.m., Fox) when talent is often sacrificed on the altar of popularity. Many viewers were incensed when Carly and Syesha, who gave the most spirited performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber week, were cast in the bottom two.
Anger turned to conspiracy theory when some suggested that Carly got the boot because of her performance of "Jesus Christ, Superstar," a song considered "blasphemous."
Calm down, everybody. "Idol" voters can only vote for somebody, not against. I can't imagine even Karl Rove and Pat Robertson could whip up a "vote for anybody but Carly" campaign in two hours.
And if singing controversial songs were a problem with "Idol" voters, why, then, do they adore little David Archuleta? After all, several weeks ago, he brought down the house with "Imagine," John Lennon's plea for an end to both religion and patriotism. Compared with that, "Superstar" seems like a Sunday-school sermon.
Believers in an anti-Carly cabal are simply thinking too hard. This is the stage where cuteness trumps all. Voters overlooked dreadful performances by Brooke and Jason because they are both pretty and inoffensive in their own ways. But looks won't protect them forever as this worst of all "Idol" seasons drags itself to a close with a battle between the two Davids.
¢ It must be hard for history teachers to explain why a network called the History Channel broadcasts nonsense like "MonsterQuest: American Werewolf" (8 p.m.) and "UFO Hunters" (9 p.m.).
Tonight's other highlights
¢ "Secrets of the Dead" (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) recalls an escape from a concentration camp.
¢ Election tactics come under scrutiny on a repeat of the HBO series "The Wire" (8:30 p.m., BET) from 2006.
¢ A high-school guidance counselor gets a fatal evaluation on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS).