Stossel takes reins on '20/20'

Journalist and professional contrarian John Stossel joins Barbara Walters as permanent co-anchor on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC) beginning tonight.

Over the years, Stossel has gained a reputation for outspoken commentary. In his "Give Me a Break" segments, he has criticized excessive regulation, creeping governmental and corporate controls on personal liberty, and the spread of so-called "politically correct" thinking.

Stossel's stances have earned him scorn from many, who see his "libertarianism" as thinly disguised support for rich and powerful corporate interests. (Come to think of it, have you ever met a poor libertarian?) Three years ago, Stossel was forced to retract statements made during a "Give Me a Break" segment after he questioned the safety of organic produce. Media critics and environmentalists produced evidence that Stossel had seriously misinterpreted data to make his case. ABC executives forced him to offer an on-air apology, and suspended the producer of the segment.

At his best, Stossel tries to provoke original thinking with segments like "greed is good." At his weakest, Stossel confuses the obvious and self-evident ("bullies are bad") with the profound.

Stossel kicks off his co-anchor tenure with an extended piece about parents who go to extreme lengths to spy on their children to make sure that they are not taking drugs or having sex.

  • Few "sex symbols" of the 1960s are still strutting their stuff. Early in that decade, a Welsh crooner named Thomas Jones Woodward capitalized on the 1963 movie adaptation of the Henry Fielding novel "Tom Jones" by changing his name and sporting a ponytail and breeches. He had a No. 1 hit with the song "It's Not Unusual" in 1964 and he's never looked back. Within a year, Jones was so famous he was chosen to sing the theme song to the James Bond blockbuster "Thunderball."

Tonight's concert "Tom Jones Live at Cardiff Castle" (7 p.m., A&E;) showcases TJ belting out 27 hits from his four-decade career, including "Delilah," "Help Yourself," "She's a Lady," "What's New, Pussycat?" and others.

Tonight's other highlights

Note: Scheduling may vary because of sports coverage.

  • Harm, Mac and Turner await word of Roberts' fate on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • After a horrific premonition, a teen's pals start dying one by one in the 2000 chiller "Final Destination" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eric Stoltz star in the 2001 drama "Harvard Man" (7 p.m., UPN).

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