Hip-hop hoe-down no 'Idol' endeavor

Fans of the kind of rap contests showcased in Eminem's autobiographical movie "8 Mile" might enjoy "The Next Episode" (9 p.m., Showtime). An "American Idol" for the hip-hop set, this six-part documentary series travels to six cities, where the best MCs face off in a lyrical contest before live audiences. The winners will be flown to Los Angeles for a final showdown.

"Next" is certainly not for every taste. The lyrics feature incessant threats of homicidal violence, racial epithets and sexually demeaning language. Frequent use of the terms "dawg," "chill" and "aiiight" may also offend, or at least annoy, those allergic to urban cliches and tiresome stereotypes.

  • Katie Couric sits down with film star Tom Cruise on "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC). Cruise, who stars in the forthcoming epic "The Last Samurai," is an enigma. While legions of fans still find him boyish and sexy, there are plenty who are put off by his highly mannered acting style.
  • Elsewhere on the chat circuit, Barbara Walters talks with Christopher Reeve on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC). The newsmagazine will also examine women who undergo foot surgery to fit into Manolo Blahniks and other expensive designer shoes; worries about Teflon; and the "new" release of The Beatles' "Let it Be" album, cleansed of Phil Spector's studio effects.

Tonight's other highlights

  • An art opening inspires divine intervention on "Joan of Arcadia" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • A helicopter pilot opens fire on civilians on "JAG" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Thanksgiving romance on "Miss Match" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • The team goes undercover as smut peddlers on "The Handler" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • Davis confronts the serial bomber on "Third Watch" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

Late night

Jessica Lynch and Shelby Lynne appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno greets Dennis Rodman and Elvis Costello on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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