'Average' Joes help revamp reality TV

The new "reality" show "Average Joe" (9 p.m., NBC) just might be painful enough to save the genre. Let's face it, "reality TV" is in a serious, possibly fatal slump. The new "Joe Millionaire" is unwatchable, "The Bachelor" has devolved into the cult of Bob, and "Survivor" without Rupert will become the island of lost souls. And we have to wait until 2004 to snicker at Jessica Simpson's stupidity again. It's enough to drive viewers back to scripted entertainment.

The premise for "Average" is simple: strand a Miss America wannabe (former NFL cheerleader Melana Scantlin) in a mansion and ask her to find a love connection in a house filled with insecure nerds, less-than-lotharios, and geeks who have spent their lives being the last guys picked for the dodge-ball team.

What "Average" lacks in beauty it more than makes up for in sheer, unadulterated cringe value. It's painful from beginning to end, particularly for those of us in the male population who don't look like Ken dolls or sport six-pack abs. We know we'd never be cast on "Survivor," but we might just eke out a spot on "Average Joe."

  • Diane Keaton has spent the past three decades playing artsy ditzes ("Annie Hall"), yuppies ("Baby Boom") and rich Manhattan matrons ("Town & Country). So it's quite an acting stretch to take on the role of a methamphetamine addict, waitress and impoverished single mom in the true-life tale "On Thin Ice" (8 p.m., Lifetime). You have to admire Keaton's bravery for tackling a gritty role with so much gusto.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "PrimeTime" (7 p.m., ABC): the best-selling book "The DaVinci Code."
  • Peter (Chris Elliott) lingers longer than expected on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • The Denver Broncos meet the New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football" (8 p.m., ABC).
  • The town has a vigil for trapped miners on "Everwood" (8 p.m., WB). James Earl Jones and Beau Bridges guest star.
  • Death by hurricane on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • A crime writer discusses his lifelong fascination with the Black Dahlia murder case in the documentary "James Ellroy's Feast of Death" (9 p.m., Showtime).

Cult choice

Watch Julia Roberts refrain from smiling for two solid hours in the 1996 drama "Mary Reilly" (7 p.m., AMC), adapted from the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Late night

Ashley Judd and Sarah McLachlan are on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno greets Dana Carvey and Snoop Dogg on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Sylvester Stallone appears on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Peter Gallagher visits "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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