ABC's Thursday nights need an extreme makeover

Have the folks in the ABC programming department fallen asleep? Or have they just hung up a "gone fishin"' sign? How else do you explain the return of back-to-back episodes of "Whose Line is It Anyway?" (7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., ABC)? This comedy improvisation showcase was run to death by ABC and has been airing on cable since Coolidge was president. As always, Drew Carey hosts and Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady perform.

Seriously, just what are they doing at the Mickey Mouse network? Did anybody notice that, last weekend, the network's entire primetime lineup consisted of "Patch Adams" and "Bicentennial Man," two bad Robin Williams movies? OK, "Bicentennial" only aired because the NBA finals didn't run for seven games. But that was the best they could offer? The geniuses at ABC now program as if they don't care who's watching. Or, worse, as if they presume that nobody is watching.

Ironically, ABC's Thursday nights were beginning to look quasi-competitive. Last week, a combination of two helpings of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "PrimeTime" actually beat NBC's once-praised "must-see" lineup. And that hasn't happened since the days when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. But with the smell of success in the air, ABC returns to form with "Whose Line is It Anyway?" -- a show so tired that most viewers will think they've lost track of their remotes and wandered into basic cable.

  • Yellowcard performs on "Pepsi Smash" (7 p.m., WB). Their single "Gifts and Curses" is featured on the "Spider-Man 2" soundtrack. The Hives will also perform on the soda-pop special.

Tonight's other highlights

  • A television reporter vanishes on "Without a Trace" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • Aisha Tyler and Greg Kinnear guest star on "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Beauty pageants can be murder on "Tru Calling" (8 p.m., Fox).
  • Kirstie Alley guest stars on a second episode of "Without a Trace" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • British television's king of bawdy talk launches his one-hour American series "The Graham Norton Effect" (9 p.m., Comedy Central).

Late night

Shawn Wayans and The Secret Machines appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Will Ferrell, Graham Norton and Uncle Kracker on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Steve Garvey and Jadakiss with Anthony Hamilton appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC).


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