ABC goes 'Girl' crazy with new contest series

The makers of "All American Girl" (8 p.m., ABC) promise us that it will be "more than a beauty pageant." Isn't that what they say about every pageant? But while many beauty contests disguise themselves as scholarship funds, "Girl" promises its winner a shot at a modeling career.

This 13-episode series will begin with a two-hour look at the audition process that winnows down a throng of worthies to 45 finalists. The chosen will be coached by former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, NBA veteran John Salley, and television and movie producer Suzanne de Passe.

It should be interesting to see just what the 6-foot-11-inch former L.A. Laker Salley has to teach the "all American girls." Maybe the pageant producers were really looking for former Laker Girl Paula Abdul, but she already has a job.

And it should be noted that while Ms. Halliwell is still officially a girl, she's from the UK, and therefore not "all American." De Passe's impressive resume includes a producer credit for "Lonesome Dove" and the special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever."

  • You know you're knee-deep in Oscar season when all kinds of fake awards ceremonies pop up. Tonight's "TV Land Awards" (8 p.m., Nickelodeon and TV Land) honor the stars, the theme songs, the catchphrases and even the dream sequences from long-departed series. John Ritter, a star of TV shows past ("Three's Company") and present ("8 Simple Rules") hosts this first-ever awards show for the all-rerun network.

The network will bestow tribute awards for TV Legend (Dick Van Dyke); Pop Culture Phenomenon ("Star Trek"); Innovator ("All in the Family"); Groundbreaking Role ("Julia" star Diahann Carroll); and Unsung Hero ("SCTV").

In addition to these tributes, viewer's choice awards will be given in such august categories as "Catchiest Catchphrase," "Best Dream Sequence," "Funniest Food Fight," "Soapiest Show in Primetime," and my personal favorite, "Favorite Second Banana."

  • Another sign of Oscar season is the continuous blizzard of publicity for movies produced by Miramax. "Chicago: Behind the Movie" (9 p.m., VH1) features never-before-seen footage and interviews with stars Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and director Rob Marshall.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Elijah Wood and Ian McKellan star in the 2001 fantasy epic "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (7 p.m., Starz).
  • Tabulation, anticipation and elimination on "American Idol" (7:30 p.m., Fox).
  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (8 p.m., CBS): A Green Beret's wife discusses her husband's death; a look at the effectiveness of the Patriot missile.
  • A night out at the movies on "The Bernie Mac Show" (8 p.m., Fox).
  • Scheduled on two consecutive episodes of "Law & Order" (NBC): A major-league murder suspect (8 p.m.), death at a construction site (9 p.m.).

Series notes

Arsenio Hall hosts "Star Search" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Adventures in baby-sitting on "Ed" (7 p.m., NBC) ... Red threatens to cut off Eric's college fund on "That '70s Show" (7 p.m., Fox) ... Claire's shocking diary on "My Wife and Kids" (7 p.m., ABC) ... The crew sweats the small stuff big-time on "Enterprise" (7 p.m., UPN) ... No Doubt performs on "Dawson's Creek" (7 p.m., WB).

The boss asks a painful favor on "George Lopez" (7:30 p.m., ABC).

A nobody trades identities with a big shot on "The Twilight Zone" (8 p.m., UPN) ... Faith and Angelus tangle on "Angel" (8 p.m., WB) ... Variety follies on "Cedric the Entertainer Presents" (8:30 p.m., Fox).

Late night

Diane Lane and Elvis Costello are on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Cuba Gooding Jr., Fran Drescher and The Streets on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Frankie Muniz, Geri Halliwell and Veronica Vera are scheduled on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Eric Idle and Laura Harring appear on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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