'Dreams' will bring nightmare

How can you appreciate a well-produced reality show? Watch a bad one. There are plenty to choose from. But for our instructional purposes, the new series "House of Dreams" (8 p.m., A&E;) will do.

A cross between "Survivor" and "This Old House," "Dreams" assembled a group of 16 players who will build a home over the course of the series. Week by week the group will be asked to eliminate one player from their midst. The last one standing gets to keep the house.

Lacking the budget for the soaring helicopter shots and fancy editing of "Survivor," "Dreams" is visually dull and painfully slow to unfold. The first hour features about 10 minutes of real drama and compensates with a lot of padding and banal chatter.

If you think the immunity challenges on "Survivor" are dumb, wait until you see how they eliminate people here.

Perhaps the weirdest aspect of "Dreams" is the choice of host. Was "Cheers" regular George Wendt simply free for a couple of months? He has no other qualifications to oversee a construction site or baby-sit a summer camp of eager, backbiting potential homeowners. He seems bored and short of breath in almost every scene. And he's not somebody you want to see in shorts.

  • At the risk of being called a Communist, "Average Joe: Hawaii" (9 p.m., NBC) reminds me of my favorite quote from Karl Marx: "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." Having scored a success with the first "Average," NBC tempts fate (and the ghost of "The Next Joe Millionaire") by returning to the well.

This "Joe" stars Larissa Meek, a former Miss Missouri and self-described artist, who never stops speaking in beauty pageant-ese. She talks about finding her soul mate and appreciating the vastness of the ocean, etc. But once she beholds her new bevy of Prince Charmings, she breaks into a tirade of obscenities that might make Eminem blush.

Tonight's other highlights

  • The documentary "The Day I Will Never Forget" (5:30 p.m., Cinemax) examines the practice of female circumcision in Kenya.
  • Adam Sandler stars in the 1995 comedy "Billy Madison" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Tom Hanks stars in the 2001 drama "Cast Away" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • "Antiques Roadshow" (7 p.m., PBS) kicks off its eighth season in Chicago, featuring a new host, Lara Spencer.
  • Debra is a hit at Frank's lodge on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Prizefight jitters and a stolen prosthesis on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).

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