'American Idol' chases the Donald from Wednesdays

Give Americans what they want, and what they are familiar with, and they'll turn out in droves. McDonalds proves this day after day, selling billions of predictably prefabricated burgers. And "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox) came through last week with a familiar quarter-pounder of programming that rocked the ratings.

As expected, Simon was caustic, Paula was nice, and many of the auditions were jaw-dropping. Randy seemed to limit the number of "dawgs" in his vocabulary pound, and Ryan displayed why he has wrested Carson Daly's spot in the "I'm Waiting for Dick Clark to Retire" pantheon.

"Idol" viewers outnumbered "Apprentice" fans by a three-to-one margin, prompting Peacock network honcho Jeff Zucker to reshuffle a large part of the NBC schedule. Original episodes of "The Apprentice" will move back to Thursday nights after the last two must-see comedies ("Friends" and "Will & Grace") and the showing-its-age "ER." "Scrubs" moves back to Tuesdays, displacing "Good Morning, Miami," the show nobody ever cared about anyway.

Speaking of shows disappearing without a bang or even a whimper, "Becker" (8:30 p.m., CBS) airs its final original episode tonight. For a show about a cranky doctor without much charm or a scant iota of critical buzz, "Becker" has enjoyed a long run since debuting in 1998. Don't slam the door on the way out, Dr. John.

"Great Performances" (9 p.m., PBS) presents "Acts of Ardor: Two Dances by Paul Taylor." A former member of the Martha Graham dance company, Taylor, 73, has certainly inherited Graham's reputation as America's most famous and influential living modern-dance choreographer.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes II" (7 p.m., CBS): a half-billion dollar counterfeiting ring; profiles of Clint Eastwood and the father-son team behind NFL films.
  • Jessica throws a surprise party for Nick's birthday on "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica" (9 p.m., MTV).

Late night

Alec Baldwin appears on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Ashton Kutcher on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).


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