'Fame' a ticket to dullsville

Last week's two-hour premiere of "Fame" (7 p.m., NBC) achieved the near impossible: it actually made me miss the slick production values of "American Idol."

It's interesting to compare the two shows. With producer/host Debbie Allen insisting on the "triple threat" of singing, dancing and personality, the kids on "Fame" are more well-rounded and talented than those on "Idol." Neither Ruben nor Clay would have survived "Fame's" dance numbers.

So why doesn't "Fame" measure up? Maybe it's because it resembles every other talent show you've ever seen. "Idol," like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" before it, offers a unique and instantly recognizable look and sound. As much as I hate to admit it, "Idol's" cheesy style is the real star. "Idol" also wisely instructs each contestant to deliver bite-sized auditions running no longer than a minute and change. Some of the three-minute-long numbers on last week's "Fame" had me screaming for the old vaudeville hook.

And, it almost goes without saying, "Fame" lacks a Simon Cowell, or any real villain. Allen's patter with her co-host Joey Fatone and judges Carnie Wilson, JoJo and Johnny Wright was polite and entirely constructive. In other words, strictly dullsville. The only thing worth jeering is JoJo's tragic hair-do.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Sensing an emptiness in his life, a 50-something Hollywood talent agent travels to Vietnam to adopt an orphan in the often heartwarming home movie "He's Having a Baby" (6 p.m., Cinemax).
  • The Canadian diva performs her hits on the repeat special "Celine Dion: A New Day Has Come" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • The New Jersey Nets and San Antonio Spurs meet in Game 1 of the NBA Finals (7:30 p.m., ABC).
  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (8 p.m., CBS): an interview with Nancy Reagan.
  • The kids balk at extra chores on "The Bernie Mac Show" (8 p.m., Fox).
  • Scheduled on "48 Hours Investigates" (9 p.m., CBS): three generations of women in a New Orleans brothel. Postponed from an earlier date.
  • On back-to-back episodes of "Law & Order" (NBC), a drug dealer's killer cites a religious motivation (8 p.m.), a hit-and-run death leads to another murder (9 p.m.).

Late night

Seth Green, Amy Sedaris and Lucinda Williams appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Harrison Ford, Jay Mohr and Terence Trent D'Arby on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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