Reality of adoption too close to 'reality' TV

When Barbara Walters recently announced her semi-retirement, she declared her intention to focus her efforts on a few specials about people and ideas that she really cares about. And, as fans of "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC) know, the subject of adoption is near to Walters' heart. The mother of an adopted daughter, Walters has used her programs to inform viewers about the plight of Romanian and Cambodian orphans and to celebrate the special bonds between adoptive parents and their children.

Tonight's "Be My Baby" looks at Jessica, a pregnant 16-year-old Ohio girl, and her wrenching decision to give up her child for adoption. Jessica wants an "open" adoption. This requires that the parents who adopt her child allow her access to the baby and allow her family to become part of the child's life. Proponents of open adoption feel that this prevents the feelings of abandonment and confusion that affects some adopted children. Critics argue that it only adds to confusion and places an awkward burden on the adopting couple.

"Be My Baby" follows Jessica through the last two weeks of her pregnancy as she chooses among five couples, each desperate for a child. The similarity between this process of interviews, tears, fretting and hard decisions and "reality" shows like "The Bachelor" is strictly intentional, and more than a little distasteful.

Tonight's other highlights

  • The yearbook is simply divine on "Joan of Arcadia" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • Angelina Jolie co-stars with her father, Jon Voight, in the 2001 computer game-inspired thriller "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • A Marine general's disparaging remarks about Islam land him in hot water on "JAG" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Scheduled on "On the Record with Bob Costas" (10 p.m., HBO): William Petersen, Jim Caviezel and Yo-Yo Ma.

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