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Perhaps it’s time for ‘Journey’s’ end

By Kevin McDonough

United Feature Syndicate

Charles Gibson and friends salute an esteemed colleague on "Audition: Barbara Walters’ Journey" (9 p.m., ABC). Walters discusses her family, her decades in the business and the friends and lovers she has met along the way. They’ll be joined by Hugh Downs and Sam Donaldson, and Walters’ daughter, Jackie Danforth.

At this special moment, I’d like to make a personal plea to Walters and everyone associated with this commemoration: Could we please stop using the word "journey?"

"Journey" has been beaten into meaninglessness by "American Idol." Every singer’s "journey" is celebrated when he or she is given the boot. I’m sorry, but six weeks on "Idol" is not a "journey;" it’s barely a gig. And it hardly behooves Walters to use a word already worn out by Ryan Seacrest.

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"Journey" is the perfect word for people who want to infuse the ordinary with vague spirituality. No wonder Oprah Winfrey uses it so often. Nobody goes to the store to buy a quart of milk anymore. It’s a "journey." More than a cliche, the word slips out unconsciously. It’s become as meaningless and ubiquitous as "random" and "actually."

And this is hardly a recent phenomenon. Four years ago, while attending my wife’s niece Mary’s high-school graduation in Houston, Texas, I suggested that we amuse ourselves during the four-hour ceremony by counting every time students or faculty members used the word "journey" in their remarks. Mary even got some of her teachers in on the count, and by the end we came up with a rich harvest of "journeys." That was 2004.

Four years have passed, and Mary is graduating from college. We’re so proud. But the "journey" abuse has not abated. In fact, it’s gotten worse. So I make this plea to Walters and anyone who will listen. Enough "journeys" already! Some of us are counting on you to cut it out.

Now, if we could only get people on television from abusing the word "surreal."

  • "American Masters" (9 p.m., PBS) salutes one of great artists of the Motown era on "Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On." Even by the sad standards of superstar biography — violent family dysfunction, meteoric success and rapid self-destruction — Gaye’s story is startling.

The profile celebrates Gaye’s triumph, the album "What’s Going On," which elevated Motown from dance singles to serious social commentary. It also showcases one of Gaye’s more curious creations. He produced "Here My Dear" only after a court ordered him to give his ex-wife the proceeds of his next record. The resulting double album is a painful and frequently beautiful musical meditation on divorce, betrayal and personal anguish that, according to one expert, sold "about six copies." (I own one!) But others, including Mos Def, see it as ahead of its time, and a key to understanding an artist who could turn even a miserable moment and legal embarrassment into a minor masterpiece.
Other highlights

  • "Secrets of the Dead" (8 p.m., PBS) looks at evidence of doping on the East German Olympic teams of the 1970s.
  • The quartet becomes a trio on "American Idol" (8 p.m., Fox).
  • Murder keeps the meter running on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
  • Murder walks the picket line on "Law & Order" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

Cult choice
Jesse L. Martin, star of "Law & Order" and narrator of tonight’s "American Masters" profile of Marvin Gaye, appears in the 2005 adaptation of the Broadway musical "Rent" (7 p.m., FX).

Series notes

Drew Carey hosts "The Price Is Right" (7 p.m., CBS) … Howie Mandel hosts two more hours of "Deal or No Deal" (7 p.m., NBC) … Second acts and curtain calls on "’Til Death" (7 p.m., Fox, TV-14,D,L) … Incompatible women on "Wife Swap" (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) … Tyra Banks hosts "America’s Next Top Model" (7 p.m., CW, TV-14) … Under new management on "Back to You" (7:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14,D,L) … An interstate stalker earns attention on "Criminal Minds" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … With Dad deployed, Mom needs "Supernanny" (8 p.m., ABC) … A contestant refuses to leave on "Farmer Wants a Wife" (8 p.m., CW, TV-PG,L).

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Late night

Emile Hirsch, Tom Dreesen and Dirk Arthur appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) … Christina Ricci, Mario Batali and Lil Mama appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC) … Liam Neeson, B.J. Novak and the Duke Spirit chat on "Late Night with Conan O’Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) … Craig Ferguson hosts Felicity Huffman and Mike Doughty on "The Late, Late Show" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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