Fox's 'Skin' done in; new millionaire 'Joe' needs to go

When asked how he felt about his party denying him its nomination for a fourth term as New York City's mayor, Ed Koch replied, "The people have spoken." He then mischievously added, "And now the people must be punished."

That's a little how I felt after reading about Fox's decision to pull "Skin" from its schedule. Audiences voted with their remotes, and "Skin" was shredded in the ratings. But now, in a perverse act of programming retribution, Fox will air two hours of the unendurable dating contest "The Next Joe Millionaire" (Fox). In tonight's first hour (7 p.m.), the action returns to faux Joe's Tuscan mansion. In the second (8 p.m.), the nervous cowboy takes his beauties to Rome.

What can Fox and the other networks learn from the "Skin" disaster? For starters, network viewers don't want to watch dramas set in the pornography industry. The writers should also start creating real teenage characters and not just treat them like cheesecake.

The loud and over-caffeinated Chris Matthews is host to a week of "Hardball" (6 p.m., MSNBC, tonight through Friday) devoted to "Iraq: The Real Story." Matthew will have live special reports from correspondents in Iraq and neighboring countries. Stories will focus on the day-to-day life of American soldiers as well as group of ambitious Iraqis trying to start their own TV station.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Ray's little fib gets out of control on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Lounge denizen Wayne Newton guest stars on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC). What took him so long?
  • There's not a set of six-pack abs to be found on "Average Joe" (9 p.m., NBC), the best and funniest new reality show since "Joe Schmo."

Late night

Norm MacDonald and Jack Hanna appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Hugh Grant and Jonny Lang on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Colin Farrell appears on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Kelsey Grammer visits "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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