Wintertime shows recycle the yawns

Recycling is in order as TV enters its winter silly season with equal parts imitation and desperation.

With "American Idol" clearly in mind, CBS has exhumed "Star Search" (7 p.m., CBS) from the crypt of cancellation. The syndicated talent show ran from 1983 to 1995 and showcased budding talent. It's almost impossible to think of "Star Search" operating without longtime host Ed McMahon, but CBS hopes that viewers will warm to Arsenio Hall as the new emcee.

During the next month, "Star Search" will air nine episodes featuring live competitions in four categories -- adult singer, junior singer, comic and supermodel -- culminating in the grand-prize-winning "star" in each category. Winners will be determined by a panel of celebrity judges, as well by home viewers who can cast their votes via the Internet.

Viewers liked "The Bachelor" and loved "The Bachelor II." Will "The Bachelorette" (8 p.m., ABC) win the same kind of following? As the title implies, this time it's the guys' turn to grovel and degrade themselves for the chance to woo, and possibly wed, one woman. And the woman in question is Trista Rehn, a former contestant on "The Bachelor."

In my humble opinion, this show is the dumbest idea since "Joe Millionaire." Half the fun -- or half the agony -- of "The Bachelor" was watching the emotional meltdowns of the discarded dates. Unless ABC expects this posse of Lotharios to break into duels or fistfights for the honor of a rose from Trista, I see a long, dull road ahead for "The Bachelorette."

Meanwhile, on "Celebrity Mole: Hawaii" (9 p.m., ABC), seven contestants of varying degree of notoriety spend six weeks on a tropical isle competing in a number of challenging stunts. And, all the while, they try to determine the traitor in their midst. A better title for this exercise might be "Escape from Has-Been Island."

What do you get when you combine "Survivor" with "Junkyard Wars"? Something vaguely resembling the educational adventure show "Escape from Experiment Island" (9 p.m., TLC). This new series pits two teams of brainy sports against each other in challenges to build floating boats, hovercraft and other high-tech gadgets. Tonight's competitors include a Harvard and MIT-educated surgeon, a student of nuclear physics and a former member of a technical team that won a Nobel Prize. While these players are clearly brighter than any Baldwin brother, they're no less enthusiastic.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Mike Myers stars in the 1999 comedy sequel "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (8 p.m., CBS): An interview with George Clooney; psychotic reactions to a common medicine.
  • The administration loses a bitter Senate battle over foreign aid on "The West Wing" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • A jaded journalist (Linda Cardellini, "Freaks and Geeks") turns to a soothsayer (Method Man) on "The Twilight Zone" (8 p.m., UPN).
  • An uptown hit-and-run accident is more than it seems on "Law & Order" (9 p.m., NBC).


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