It's time for 'Idol' speculation

We're down to five contestants on "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox). That means the show will get more exciting and more annoying at the same time. Fewer contestants means more time for host Ryan Seacrest to fill with dim chatter about his hair, product plugs for corporate sponsors and shameless references to other Fox shows. Did you notice how many times he mentioned "masked men" -- a blatant plug for "Mr. Personality" -- last week?

For what it's worth, here's my predicted order of elimination. Marine Joshua Gracin should go next, but he won't. He's a fine country singer, but can't do too much outside of that genre. But that never stopped Billy Ray Cyrus! I think Joshua's all-American boy appeal will help him survive this week, and Trenyce will be the next to go. She sings with power and passion, but the audience has never warmed to her.

Joshua will be eliminated next, leaving Clay, Kimberly and Ruben in the top three. At the risk of agreeing with Simon, I think Clay will make a great Broadway star some day, or better yet, he will provide the singing voice for a Disney animated musical. One wag from the Cartoon Network even suggested that he looks like a Japanese anime cartoon character. But whatever Clay is, he ain't a pop star. This leaves Kimberly and Ruben, the two most talented contestants, as the final duo. After that, it's anybody's guess.

  • NBC tried to return "Just Shoot Me" to its lineup last week. But the ink was barely dry on their ratings report when they yanked that comedy and scheduled "NBC's Funniest Outtakes 2" (7 p.m.) in its place.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Dr. Phil guest stars on "Frasier" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Palmer confronts the conspirators on "24" (9 p.m., Fox).
  • Scheduled on "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC): an interview with Madonna.
  • Connie faces a tough custody battle on "NYPD Blue" (9 p.m., ABC).

Series notes

Harm faces homicide charges on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS) ... A charity bake sale on "8 Simple Rules" (7 p.m., ABC) ... The gang walks into a trap on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., UPN).

Burton is in a bind on "The Guardian" (8 p.m., CBS) ... Ginuwine guest stars on "Platinum" (8 p.m., UPN) ... Clark loses his powers on "Smallville" (8 p.m., WB).

Late night

John Malkovich is scheduled on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Nigella Lawson and Celine Dion on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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