Tonight's offerings qualify as ladies' night

"Television promotes feminism."

"Television prefers plastic, chipper women, preferably wearing lip gloss and swimsuits."

Stop! You're both right! Tonight's TV offerings run the gamut, including a profile of an exciting and frightening radical, an animated explorer, a bevy of beauty queens and a group of women who willingly, and desperately, submit to surgery to change their lives.

  • It's difficult to imagine a contemporary figure as outrageous, popular and controversial as the early 20th-century anarchist Emma Goldman, profiled on "American Experience" (8 p.m., PBS). A Russian Jewish immigrant who fled Russia in her teens, Goldman soon abandoned a loveless marriage and took up with radicals in New York's Lower East Side. She became a fiery speaker who advocated subversive notions, including the elimination of the state, and women's economic and sexual liberation. Her ideas were considered intoxicating to some and dangerous to those in power.

Goldman's revolutionary circle would include men who did more than talk. Her friend, "comrade" and lover Alexander Berkman served a 14-year sentence for the attempted assassination of union-crushing industrialist Henry Clay Frick. A radical named Leon Czolgosz attended a Goldman lecture and subsequently assassinated President William McKinley. Goldman shocked her own friends by defending Czolgosz.

  • For those who prefer their feminist influences more two-dimensional, "Dora the Explorer" goes on "Dora's Super Silly Fiesta" (7 p.m., Nickelodeon) with her pals.
  • Don't go looking for any anarchists among the contestants for "Miss USA 2004" (8 p.m., NBC). Instead, look for pageant owner Donald Trump to show up and promote the season finale of "The Apprentice." Let's just hope he doesn't say "You're fired" to each eliminated contestant.
  • And what would Emma Goldman and her adherents make of "The Swan" (8 p.m., Fox), the show that allows us to watch, and pity, women who submit to surgery, liposuction and other quick fixes to transform themselves so that they can enter a beauty pageant?

Tonight's other highlights

  • CBS celebrates the ratings success of "Two and a Half Men" (CBS) with a minimarathon. On four consecutive episodes: Charlie feels snubbed (7 p.m.), Thanksgiving (7:30 p.m.), a sickening date (8 p.m.), a friend's transformation (8:30 p.m.).
  • On back-to-back episodes of "Bernie Mac" (Fox): a visit from a TV therapist (7 p.m.), practical jokes (7:30 p.m.).

Late night

Billy Crystal is on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes John Travolta on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Bow Wow appears on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC).

Ben Stiller appears on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Cedric the Entertainer is booked on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 a.m., CBS).

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