Re-emerging celebs use TV as landing pad

By Kevin McDonough

United Feature Syndicate

In a world without shame, the search for absolution takes on curious forms. And it gets more curious with each passing year. Faced with a fiasco in the shape of Gennifer Flowers, candidate Bill Clinton and his then-unknown wife appeared on "60 Minutes" to tell their stories. That was so 1992.

Only a few years later, shaggy-haired British actor Hugh Grant turned "The Tonight Show" into his confessional, and both showbiz institutions were enhanced by the experience.

Last week, Britney Spears treated the Monday-night sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" as a step on her "I am not insane" rehab tour.


And tonight, Paris Hilton makes a cameo on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC, PG). What’s next? Will former New York governor Eliot Spitzer show up on "The New Adventures of Old Christine?"

Hilton has already made the rounds of post lock-up interviews, so tonight’s "Earl" stint must be part of her "rebranding" as a post-brat with deeper concerns. As they say: Whatever. It’s not a bad place to start. "Earl" has always been more than the sum of its raunchy gags and has been daring in mining comedy from a spiritual odyssey with redemption at its center. So this is as good a place as any for Hilton to rebrand herself. I never thought I’d be writing these words, but the very small part of me that thinks of Hilton at all wishes her the best. Change is a good thing, and she’s made a very public effort to leave her past behind.

I can’t say the same for NBC honcho Jeff Zucker. Zucker appears on "Earl" as a product placement for himself and offers a recap of the series as it returns from a strikebound hiatus. There was a time when network executives remained behind the cameras and concentrated on making decent shows. But Zucker’s profile has only grown as NBC’s fortunes have declined.

  • Elizabeth Berkley hosts "Step it up & Dance" (10 p.m., Bravo, TV-14). A dozen dancers compete for a gig and a prize of $100,000.

If Berkley didn’t already exist, the Bravo marketing department would have to invent her. She combines the network’s formula for beauty, talent and pop-culture trivia combined with an undercurrent of trashy camp and career revival.
A teen star of "Saved By the Bell," Berkley’s star was forever tarnished by her starring role in the 1995 travesty "Showgirls," a hilariously atrocious backstage drama set in the dog-eat-doggy chow world of Las Vegas nightclubs. But Berkley’s "Showgirls" co-stars Kyle MacLachlan ("Desperate Housewives") and Gina Gershon ("Rescue Me") have moved on. Why can’t she?

Tonight’s other highlights

  • On two episodes of "Miss Guided" (ABC, TV-14), high school musical (7 p.m.), dating advice (7:30 p.m.). Season finale.
  • "Myles of Style" (7:30 p.m., HGTV) shows how to make a chandelier out of old Christmas ornaments.
  • On four consecutive episodes of "The Office" (NBC, r, TV-14), advertising (8 p.m.), Karen woos Stanley (8:30 p.m.), into the woods (9 p.m.), Michael deposed (9:30 p.m.). New episodes return next week.
  • "CNN Presents: Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination" (8 p.m., CNN).
  • Doubts grow on "Lost" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-14).
  • Gang members silence potential witnesses on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14, V).
  • Jack’s risky move on "Without a Trace" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14, V).
  • Eli has an encounter with his late father on "Eli Stone" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
  • "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:05 p.m., ABC) invites viewers to celebrate its 1,000th episode.

Cult choice
A nurse (Pam Grier) takes on the local junkies, pushers and other bad guys in the 1973 thriller "Coffy" (8 p.m., IFC, TV-MA), featuring a memorable theme and soundtrack by jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers.

Series notes

Jeff Probst hosts "Survivor" (7 p.m., CBS). … Jeff Foxworthy hosts a two-hour helping of "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (7 p.m., Fox). … A clash of heroes on "Smallville" (7 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG, V). … Ruby returns on "Supernatural" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14, L, V).


Late night

Renee Zellweger, Gayle King and Paddy Casey appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS). … Jay Leno hosts Sen. Hillary Clinton, Patton Oswalt and Ferras on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC). … Bode Miller and Cobra Starship chat on "Late Night with Conan O’Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC). … Craig Ferguson hosts Jennifer Love Hewitt and Greg Grunberg on "The Late, Late Show" (11:37 p.m., CBS).

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