'American Idols' usher in holiday television season

According to my unscientific and completely fabricated survey, 47.9 percent of Americans have not yet thawed their Thanksgiving turkey. A surprising 32.9 percent of the population is still coping with an uneaten and, for most of them, unwelcome surplus of Halloween candy corn. And a full 87 percent of the population resents the early arrival of Christmas programming.

Ready or not, the first Christmas musical extravaganza is upon us. "An American Idol Christmas" (7 p.m., Fox) features performances by winners Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard, as well as runners-up, including Clay Aiken, from the past two seasons of the amateur hour.

  • Television's treatment of small-town America vacillates between the twinkly Capra sentimentality of "Ed" and "The Gilmore Girls" and the dark, doomed atmosphere of "Twin Peaks" and "The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire." The truth lies somewhere in the middle, closer to the northern California town depicted in the documentary "Livermore" on "Independent Lens" (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings).

Tonight's other highlights

  • Drew Barrymore and Michael Vartan star in the 1999 comedy "Never Been Kissed" (7 p.m., WB).
  • A hairy postal worker whose children have never seen him clean-shaven gets a makeover on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Scientists climb to the top of Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro to determine why its distinctive snowcapped glaciers are disappearing on "NOVA" (7 p.m., PBS).
  • Jack incites a prison riot on "24" (8 p.m., Fox).
  • The parents of an Amish teen and her secular boyfriend clash in court on "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • The gang says au revoir to Paris as "The Real World" (9 p.m., MTV) ends its 13th season.
  • "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" (9 p.m., HBO) explores the NFL's complaints about the ESPN football drama "Playmakers."

Late night

Tom Ridge and Puddle of Mudd are booked on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Greg Kinnear and Bette Midler on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

Ron Howard and The Strokes are booked on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC).


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