‘‘Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2011” (8:30 p.m., ABC) has the stale predictability of something that has been kicking around since February. Seriously, Simon Cowell? He could have been on this list in 2002, back when “American Idol” was generating a lot more buzz than “X Factor” ever has or likely will. And while I’m always amused to see Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet from “Modern Family,” their inclusion seems like a shameless plug for Walters’ network.
Why Derek Jeter and not Albert Pujols? Why Katy Perry and not Lady Gaga? At least these choices spark some argument.
You could argue that Pippa Middleton came into some folks’ consciousness this past spring when she looked rather pretty at the royal wedding. But if her chief claim to fame — make that “fascinating” fame — is being somebody’s sister, then she qualified for that role some years back.
And Donald Trump. Does anybody need to hear another syllable from this vain, vulgar serial bankrupt? His knack for transparent self-promotion drove most Republican presidential candidates to RSVP a “no thank you” to his “debate” invitation. Good for them. Barbara Walters should show as much good taste and good sense.
Don’t get me started on NBC’s groveling attitude toward “The Donald.” The network should have fired Trump and canceled his sclerotic “Apprentice” the second he associated himself with the racist “birther” movement. He has a First Amendment right to say stupid things, but NBC and its sponsors have no obligation to be associated with a jerk. ESPN cut its ties with Hank Williams Jr. just three days after he engaged in deranged jeremiads comparing the president to Hitler. And “Monday Night Football” has not suffered for it. The contrast in actions only reminds us that ESPN is a successful, well-run network and NBC is not.
‘‘Fascinating” shows like this make Walters, a pioneering journalist who has sat down with world leaders and recently interviewed Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, seem like just another uninspired hack, intent on promoting reality television exhibitionists. Leave that to Jay Leno. Seriously, if the choice comes down to retirement versus another interview with a Kardashian, Walters should choose retirement. That would be a fascinating move.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Finalists sing to survive on “The X Factor” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A biology teacher (Jason Alexander) finds religion and loses his job on “Harry’s Law” (8 p.m., NBC).
• Any major dude will tell you on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC)
• A corpse in a doctor’s bedroom raises questions on “CSI” (9 p.m., CBS).
• A mail-order bride’s death is investigated on “Law & Order: SVU” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Vivien’s blessed event requires some house cleaning on “American Horror Story” (9 p.m., FX).