Doubts that “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox) would remain the “Death Star” and indisputable ratings champ have been laid to rest. Last Thursday, the revamped and Simon Cowell-less “Idol” attracted more than 25 million viewers, with more than 8 million of those in the coveted 18-to-49-age bracket. Presumably, millions and millions more are even younger than that.
By way of contrast, “The Mentalist,” the second most watched show of the night, had a total audience of 10.5 million. That’s not too shabby for a repeat, but fewer than 2 million were between 18 and 49. That’s why the age-obsessed Liz Lemon on “30 Rock” likes to make jokes about being a big fan of that CBS show.
• “Polar Bear: Spy on Ice” (9 p.m., Animal Planet) follows big arctic critters in their home environment. While every great nature documentary has a “how-did-they-get-that-shot” moment, “Spy” has many such takes and makes no secret about its devious techniques.
Using the smallest remote-controlled devices, the filmmakers hid cameras in fake boulders, faux snow piles and even a rolling white ball that cubs played with, licked and kicked around. The filmmakers and remarkable technology behind “Spy” were featured on last Sunday’s “60 Minutes.”
• Tradition and consistency are on display in the visit to the Jack Daniel’s plant on “Ultimate Factories” (9 p.m., National Geographic). The Lynchburg, Tenn. facility produces 150 million bottles a year. And the yeast they use in fermentation process is descended from the very first batch produced more than 140 years ago. Speaking of old recipes, “Ultimate” visits a Coca-Cola bottler next Thursday.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway bring a certain heat to a game of chess in the 1968 thriller “The Thomas Crown Affair” (7 p.m., ABC).
• A cop’s killing leads to a trail of accusations and suspects on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Andy hosts a sales incentive seminar on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).
• Jake the sniper returns to form on “Bones” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Murder on the 19th hole on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Jack tries to stay one step ahead of the news on “30 Rock” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Band members balk when a singer suggests they sell their song for use in a commercial on “Fairly Legal” (9 p.m., USA).
• Pauly and Vinny expand their horizons with a trip to Staten Island on “Jersey Shore” (9 p.m., MTV).
The 1956 western “The Searchers” (7 p.m., TCM) is considered by many to be director John Ford’s best movie and John Wayne’s finest performance, and as a result, many count it among the best Westerns ever made. The movie’s influence transcended the screen. The British pop band The Searchers took their name from the movie and Buddy Holly turned John Wayne’s catch phrase into the hit song, “That’ll Be the Day.”