Fox's 'Idol' waste of time

Why do we need a two-hour episode of "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox) to showcase the final 12 contestants? Simple math boils that down to 10 minutes per finalist. But as every "Idol" fan knows, each singer's performance lasts less than three minutes. That leaves seven minutes to fill for each -- a total of 84 minutes of commercials, filler, bland comments by Ryan Seacrest, scripted sniping between Simon and Paula, and countless on-air plugs for a certain beverage company and a certain phone service.

"Idol" junkies may not mind this exercise in time-wasting, but those of us who enjoy "24" -- which is pre-empted for the extra hour of "Idol"-atry -- have many reasons to fume. Kiefer Sutherland's clock-ticking drama reached a crescendo of sorts last week. But what's a nuclear detonation compared to listening to Randy's tired street patois? Right, dawg?

The geniuses at Fox think "24" fans can wait until March 25 to pick up the story. That's right -- just as "24" gets really interesting, they pull the plug for three weeks. Many viewers tell me they have already given up on the show and will catch up with "24" when it comes out on DVD. "Reality" isn't killing scripted television. TV programmers are.

Tonight's other highlights

  • A mother-daughter dance marathon on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).
  • A kitchen appliance comes to life in the 1987 animated feature "The Brave Little Toaster" (7 p.m. Disney).
  • Amy decides the fate of a violent teen accused of raping his teacher on "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS).

Series notes

A new Navy Secretary orders an investigation of an old cover-up on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Billy Bush hosts "Let's Make a Deal" (7 p.m., NBC) ... Kerry's video bursts Bridget's bubble on "8 Simple Rules" (7 p.m., ABC) ... Love runs amok on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Jim's bluster gets Dana fired on "According to Jim" (7:30 p.m., ABC).

A Crane runs for condo president on "Frasier" (8 p.m., NBC) ... A charity case proves difficult on "Life with Bonnie" (8 p.m., ABC) ... A tabloid writer falls under the spell of a soothsayer on "The Twilight Zone" (8 p.m., UPN) ... Red Kryptonite messes with Clark's personality on "Smallville" (8 p.m., WB).

Dating games on "A.U.S.A" (8:30 p.m., NBC) ... Claude's first party on "Less Than Perfect" (8:30 p.m., ABC) ... Prospective dates get the once-over on "Meet My Folks" (9 p.m., NBC).

Late night

Angie Harmon and Sue Johanson appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Michael Caine, Gisele and Carol Leifer on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).


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