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Archive for Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can ‘American Idol’ endure without edge?

January 19, 2011

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Critics and pundits have been predicting the demise of “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox) for the better part of a decade. And sooner or later, one of them is going to be right.

Of the original “Idol” judges, only Randy Jackson remains. He’s joined by actress and pop star Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. And as far as I can see, they are all perfectly nice. And that’s the problem.

From the limited number of auditions made available for review, I can safely declare that some folks will be tuning in just to see how Lopez changes her hairdo from show to show. Lopez is attractive, generally sweet and frequently misty-eyed when confronted with young talent. Tyler seems over-caffeinated and can’t help singing harmony, clapping or rapping out a beat during auditions. Jackson has assumed the elder statesman role by dispensing with many of his familiar ticks and sound bites. I can’t recall a single “dawg,” or even a “yo-yo-yo.”

The departure of Simon Cowell may not prove fatal, but the absence of anyone willing to play the critic, the crab or the leavening tablespoon of vinegar may spell doom. Had Dorothy merely clicked her heels at the start of the movie, there wouldn’t be very much to remember about “The Wizard of Oz.” Sadly, that’s how “American Idol” is starting to shape up: three Glindas and not one Wicked Witch. There isn’t even a flying monkey in sight. Unless you count Ryan Seacrest.

• “Hot in Cleveland” (9 p.m., TV Land) returns for a second season, complete with a cameo appearance by Mary Tyler Moore. Sadly, the reunion of Moore with her “Mary Tyler Moore Show” co-star Betty White is shot through with obvious references to the past and several forced non-witticisms. And sadder still, the writing goes downhill from there. It’s simply pathetic that a series with so many well-loved actresses should so quickly descend to the sexual smarminess of the “Two and a Half Men” variety.

• Just as L.A. women of a certain age can find they’re “Hot in Cleveland,” an overworked New York nerd can find himself considered quite a stud in a Florida retirement community. That, in short, is the slightly creepy premise of “Retired at 35” (9:30 p.m., TV Land).

Tonight’s other highlights

• Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts “Nova ScienceNow” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings). Tonight: the prospect for travel to Mars.

• A drug dealer’s wife takes a deadly stand on “Chase” (8 p.m., NBC).

• An anniversary surprise turns awkward on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).

• A Wall Street operator turns to old-fashioned bank robbery on the fifth-season opener of “American Greed” (8 p.m., and 11 p.m., CNBC).

• A cold case thaws on “Blue Bloods” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Shohreh Aghdashloo guest stars on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m., NBC).

• An anaconda strikes on “Off the Map” (9 p.m., ABC).

• Henry plots war with France on “The Tudors” (9 p.m., BBC America).

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