Tune In Tonight: Unknowns still the real stars of 'Idol'

“American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox) enters its Hollywood round. This is when the competition moves beyond the good-to-awful initial auditions and when possible favorites emerge.

Much of the discussion surrounding “Idol” has centered on its declining ratings. This is to be expected from any series that has been around for more than a decade. And for all of the quibbles, “Idol” still reached nearly 16 million viewers last Wednesday.

The move to add big stars Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban as judges has not helped. At its height, “Idol” was proof of the adage that television does not need stars; it makes them. Nobody had heard of Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson or Simon Cowell when the show began. Paula Abdul, the only familiar face, was seen as a kind of genial has-been. But by the second season, they had all become household names as large as Kelly Clarkson, the first “Idol” winner.

‘‘Idol” shows its flop sweat every time it concentrates on the built-in freak show factor of Carey and Minaj, or indulging in a “reunion” with Tyler.

People still watch “Idol” for moments like Micah Johnson’s recent audition. Clearly saddled with a speech impediment, the contestant explained how his throat had been injured in tonsil surgery. But that handicap vanished when he opened his mouth to sing. Corny? You bet. But that’s the kind of feel-good schmaltz viewers have come to expect from “Idol,” a moment of uplift that offered a nice distraction from a show top-heavy with forced celebrity.

Tonight’s other highlights:

• Sue’s science project requires a change in demeanor on “The Middle” (7 p.m., ABC).

• A recently released con wants to make up for lost time on “Arrow” (7 p.m., CW).

“Nature” (7 p.m., PBS, TV-PG) concludes its three-part salute to nature filmmaker David Attenborough.

• A death row prisoner (Mike Tyson) may shed light on a predator on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Manny vies for a part in the school musical on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).

“NOVA” (8 p.m., PBS) looks at the ancient technology required to build chariots for Egypt’s pharaohs.

• Deacon’s blues on “Nashville” (9 p.m., ABC).


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