'Idol' runner-up joins Miss America pageantry

Clay Aiken performs at the Miss America pageant (8 p.m. today, ABC) for the second consecutive year. Give the kid a couple of decades and he could become the next Bert Parks. The "American Idol" runner-up will warble Parks' signature ballad, "There She Is," as the tear-stained winner totters under her tiara for the very first time.

This year's beauty contest (er, make that the talent show/scholarship competition) marks the 50th anniversary of the first televised Miss America pageant, which also aired on ABC. Fans of vintage contests who can find Trio on their cable lineup are in luck. That pop-culture network will broadcast vintage pageants, including the one from 1983 (4 p.m. today, Trio) that crowned Vanessa Williams and the 1958 Miss America pageant (6 p.m.) featuring runner-up Anita Bryant.

  • Not every girl grows up to be Miss America. In the 2004 horror flick "Darklight" (8 p.m. today, Sci Fi), Shiri Appleby plays a confused 24-year-old with no knowledge of her past. She's also has marks on her arms written in some ancient language. Heavens to Betsy, it turns out she's actually Lilith, the legendary first bride of Adam, chased out of the Garden of Eden for being a strident feminist or something to that effect.
  • Speaking of comic books, Paul Giamatti shines as Cleveland packrat Harvey Pekar in the outstanding 2003 feature "American Splendor" (9 p.m. today, HBO). Based on Pekar's autobiographical graphic novels, "Splendor" offers the sad sack file clerk's ruminations on love, life, jazz and culture, and follows his peculiar route to marriage, family and fulfillment.
  • Garry Shandling will host the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (7 p.m. Sunday, ABC). Once again, HBO has received the greatest number of nominations. Shandling himself is best known as the star of "The Larry Sanders Show," the premium network's biggest draw in the days before "The Sopranos."
  • I don't suspect HBO will get any Emmy nods for "Family Bonds" (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO), the second reality series to document the rough-and-tumble life of a bail bondsman's family.

Like the star of the A&E; series "Dog, the Bounty Hunter," Tom Evangelista rides a motorcycle and sports several tattoos. We see him assemble a team to capture bail-jumpers. We also watch him try to teach his 7-year-old son to ride a bike without training wheels. Big surprise: He frightens the boy.

  • David Suchet returns as novelist Agatha Christie's Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot in the new adaptation of "Death on the Nile" (7 p.m. Sunday, A&E;).


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