For all the attention given to the alleged mass decline of American Idol this season, the show is still topping the ratings by a comfortable margin -- it hasn't suffered any more slippage than any number of veteran shows this spring, as normal viewing patterns haven't returned after the strike. The Idol formula is still irresistible to millions, even as the producers seem intent on sabotaging themselves with strange decisions like the Cliché Overusers Full Employment Plan (you heard me, Randy and Paula) and the show's sudden aversion to having the singers perform any contemporary music.
Tonight, the troubled 2007-08 television season reaches its end, climaxed by the year's traditional cheeseball highlight, the Idol finale (Fox, 8 p.m.). This always resembles some sort of insane special from 1977, with singers wandering on stage to sing a note or two with the starstruck contestants, duets with dead people, random shots of David Hasselhoff in the audience, and enough confetti to bury a moderately sized town. After all this, either David Archuleta or David Cook will take home the crown, and it seems to be legitimately up for grabs. The judges' attempt to steer viewers toward Archuleta last night was unusually blatant (if somewhat merited) and may have provoked a backlash.
A Lyon in the Kitchen (Discovery Health, 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.): At 8, Nathan Lyon gives pointers on how to create a romantic dinner, and also gives advice on the next day's breakfast. Hey, what kind of man do you think I am? At 9, collecting fresh ingredients via a goat cheese farm and salt water fishing.
Lost (ABC, 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.): Your island fix this week must come in the form of these back-to-back repeats of the Jack-has-appendicitis episode and the Locke-enters-Jacob's-cabin episode.
Under One Roof (MNTV, 8 p.m.): Ashley changes things up in order to reconnect with Heather, who has become fascinated by the new neighbors.
All-Girl Getaways (Fine Living, 9 p.m.): Four women commemorate 30 years of friendship with a quick jaunt to Asheville, N.C.
Criminal Minds (CBS, 9 p.m.): This season finale is the only new network show going up against the last hour of American Idol, so look for a quick repeat. The team heads to New York to determine if one person or several are behind a recent spate of murders.
Depression: Out of the Shadows (PBS, 9 p.m.): A look at the history of treatment of this disorder, and new options for dealing with it. Interviews with those who have overcome depression are featured, and Jane Pauley moderates a panel discussion to conclude things.
Boston Legal (ABC, 10 p.m.): Now that we know this perennial bubble show is down to its final thirteen episodes, we might start to see some movement towards various plot resolutions, though since the cast is continually changing I don't know what that might amount to. Tonight, Denny and Alan achieve their season-long goal of being accepted into the Coast Guard Auxillary, but then wind up on opposite sides when Concord, Mass., asks for help in seceding from the Union.
CSI: NY (CBS, 10 p.m.): Season finale: A man robbing a bank has taken hostages, and asks the help of the CSIs in order to prove that a bank manager was already dead in the vault when he got there.
Law & Order (NBC, 10 p.m.): The 18th season of cops & prosecutors ends with a jeweler's murder, which ends up connected to a prostitution ring with some high-profile clients who don't appreciate McCoy's decision to go all out.
The Real World (MTV, 10 p.m.): Greg's parade of women into the house causes tension; Will seeks revenge of the feminine variety against Greg; Sarah complains that someone is stealing her panties.
The Ultimate Fighter (Spike, 10 p.m.): The rivalry between Rampage and Forrest hits new lows; the quarterfinals are set.
Top Chef (Bravo, 10 p.m.): The chefs work the breakfast shift at a diner; the Restaurant War finds the final six split into teams to create a new restaurant idea.
Mind of Mencia (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.): A new season of off-color humor begins with a parody of Indiana Jones and the heartwarming tale of a cop with Alzheimer's.
1000 Ways to Die (Spike, 11 p.m.): A meat packer meets a chilly end; three guys climb on a plane immediately after scuba diving.
Taste of America With Mark DeCarlo(Travel, 11 p.m.): At 11, Mark heads to Bell Buckle, Tenn., to partake of Moon Pies and RC Cola. Assuming he survives this, at 11:30 it's off to Chicago to partake of Italian beef and then to Virginia for a pork festival.
Late Night With Conan O'Brien (NBC, 12:35 AM): Indy is back, and Conan has got him: Harrison Ford, admittedly not the most scintillating of talk show guests, pops in to sell a movie that doesn't really need selling.