“Miley Cyrus: Live in London” (7 p.m., ABC) marks the first network special featuring the popular recording artist. It’s interesting to note that the words “Hannah” and “Montana” go unmentioned in the network press release.
Once best known for playing a singing sensation passing as a normal girl on a cartoonish cable kids comedy, Cyrus recorded this performance before a sold-out crowd in London’s O2 Arena. She performs some of her best-known work, “Seven Things,” “Party in the USA” and “The Climb,” and promotes her forthcoming CD, “Can’t Be Tamed.”
Tonight’s other notable musical offering, “Crossroads” (9 p.m., CMT), presents collaborative performances by John Mayer and Keith Urban. Over eight years and 35 installments, “Crossroads” showcases a musical admiration society, with popular artists singing each other’s work and performing duets of agreed-upon favorites. Look for renditions of Urban’s “If Ever I Could Love,” “’Til Summer Comes Around” and Mayer’s “Perfectly Lonely” and “Gravity.” “Crossroads” wraps up with a shared cover of George Michael’s pop hit “Faith.”
• Daytime soap operas may be waning, but the genre continues to evolve and thrive in primetime. ABC’s Family network has recently launched “Pretty Little Liars,” a showcase for young beauties so formulaic that I thought I was watching ABC’s Soapnet by mistake.
As a network, ABC remains soap-heavy. “Desperate Housewives,” the “Private Practice,” ”Grey’s Anatomy” franchise and “Brothers & Sisters” all lean heavily toward melodrama. And for all of its mysterious geekdom, the narrative of “Lost” was often propelled by soap opera.
But the best soap opera on television doesn’t even look like one. “Friday Night Lights” (7 p.m., NBC) is one of the smartest, most beautifully shot and intelligently written series on television. But let’s face it: Any story about a high school rivalry between a rich district and a poor one; a painful, shattered love affair between the coach’s pretty daughter and the brooding bad boy former star; the gushing admiration of a geeky teacher for his pretty, married principal; and a potential star quarterback from a dangerous neighborhood has all the makings of a compelling soap. And tonight’s “Lights” even features a subplot about football star from a poor ranching family who learns that “mending fences” is more than a metaphor.
Perhaps the ratings for “Lights” remain modest because of its reputation for quality. Perhaps people are just intimidated by good scripts, believable acting and credible situations. Maybe if NBC stopped asking us to admire it, and just sold it as a soap opera, “Friday Night Lights” might become the hit it deserves to be.
• U.S. Open Golf (4 p.m., ESPN).
• Evidence points to a planned massacre at a cult compound on “Flashpoint” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Trailed by whale spotters, the Sea Shepherds go on the offensive on “Whale Watch” (8 p.m., Animal Planet).
• The big day looms for Dave and Nessa on “Gavin and Stacey” (8 p.m., BBC America).
• Tensions on the staff float to the surface while treating victims of a boating accident on “Miami Medical” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Katherine Heigl, Frankie Boyle and Diddy appear on “Friday Night With Jonathan Ross” (9 p.m., BBC America).