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‘Top models’ walk runway to obscurity

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Kevin McDonough

United Feature Syndicate

Shows about nanny interventions and professional baby-sitters have become a kind of sub-niche for desperate programmers. Most of these involve brat-whisperers from Britain pounding common sense into derelict American parents.

But I have come to think of "America’s Top Model" (7 p.m., CW) as another example of the genre. In this show, the voluptuous and frequently wise Tyra Banks serves as a surrogate parent for a nonstop slumber party of emotionally fragile youngsters who also happen to be starving themselves and learning to walk, talk and behave in the most unnatural manner under the broiling heat of studio lights and under the tutelage of often brittle and brutal personalities.

Now entering its eighth season, "Top Model" is supposed to churn out talent who will grace magazine covers and stalk runways and worm their way into our general consciousness. But for all I know — and about fashion models I know very little and care even less — the new "Top Model" winners seem to have fallen into the celebrity division of the witness-protection program. Even fourth-rung castoffs from "American Idol" have done a better job of clinging to the slippery "where are they now" slope to oblivion.

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On the other hand, too many famous models who register in the public eye do so because of tawdry behavior and tabloid headlines. So maybe the fact that we’ve never heard of these "Top Model" winners is actually a good thing.

So, as a baby-sitter and role model, Banks should be congratulated.

Also on TV

• If you’re looking for answers to big questions on tonight’s "Lost" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14), you’re out of luck. On the other hand, if you’re up for an entertaining episode that offers a diverting dose of poignancy, heart and humor, don’t dare miss tonight’s episode.

Not to give too much away here, but Hurley discovers an abandoned VW camper in the jungle. Attempts to revive the rusted heap offer the doomed lottery winner a modicum of hope while at the same time triggering flashbacks to his childhood abandonment by his father (Cheech Marin).

Some "Lost" purists will probably recoil at this episode’s frequent detours into the surreal and absurd. The fate of Hurley’s chicken franchise is truly out of this world. But the hour also features the return of Sawyer and Kate to the base camp. And the bearded bad-boy Sawyer seems to have been suppressing his brutal talent for tossing off cruel nicknames during his time in the bear cage. He lets loose with savage abandon tonight.

This might have something to do with the case of Dharma Initiative beer Hurley found in the back of the rusted bus. Or maybe it’s a case of a broken heart. I’ll never tell.

• "Black Sun" (7 p.m., Cinemax) chronicles the life of an artist left blind after a savage mugging.

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• Jake and Johnston search a trading post for power sources on "Jericho" (7 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

• Buddy is ostracized on "Friday Night Lights" (7 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• The top 10 female singers perform on "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox).

• A murderer thought killed by Katrina resurfaces on "Criminal Minds" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

• Jeff Foxworthy hosts "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).

• An illusionist runs into some hard luck on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

• A killer (Eric Stoltz) that Allison helped put away escapes from prison with revenge on his mind on "Medium" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

Cult choice

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Fred Savage plays a campus heartthrob with a violent temper in the 1996 made-for-cable drama "No One Would Tell" (8 p.m., Lifetime), co-starring Candace Cameron.

Late night

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., appears on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS). Jay Leno hosts Tim Allen and Diana Ross on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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