'Model' conclusion skimpy by reality standards

Unlike every "reality" show in the history of the genre, "America's Next Top Model" (8 p.m., UPN) actually wraps up sooner than it should. Tonight's season finale will see the list go from three to one in the space of an hour. If this were "American Idol" or "The Bachelor," the process would be milked for at least another two weeks. And the finale would be padded out to a two-hour show, with plenty of flashbacks and interviews with rejected wannabes.

A spokesperson for the show said it was always the producers' intentions to leave the audience wanting more. And, with at least two more "Top Model" seasons in the works, viewers will get just that -- but not tonight.

"Model" has become my favorite reality show for a number of reasons. While both "Idol" and "Model" offer the winner a career payoff, "Model" lets us share in all of the overwrought emotional trauma. If "Idol" is a revamped "Star Search," "Model" updates "Stage Door" for the new century. The show reached an emotional high point last week with Shandi's volcanic reaction to her own seemingly casual indiscretion. Arguably, no TV show, be it "reality," comedy or drama, has depicted sex-induced guilt, shame and self-loathing quite so powerfully. Viewers who tuned in to see a hot-tub orgy were treated to Shandi's howls of pain and recrimination. Not to mention her phone calls to her screechy boyfriend, Eric.

Shandi has been my pick to win ever since the first episode. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Her nearsighted-girl-from-Walgreen's image was custom-made for this show's theme of turning ugly ducklings into swans.

Tonight's other highlights

  • The remaining 11 contestants compete on a two-hour edition of "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • A child actor demands his rights on "Century City" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Scheduled on "48 Hours Investigates" (9 p.m., CBS): members of the Kennedy family discuss the future of the "dynasty."
  • A toy tycoon falls under suspicion on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • A creep locks women in his own private dungeon on "NYPD Blue" (9 p.m., ABC).

Late night

Jamie Foxx and Brian Greene appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Owen Wilson and Simple Plan on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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