NBC (Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET)
BY TOM GLIATTO
REALITY

In this talent show's first few weeks of auditions, no contestant has really seemed worthy of the $1 million prize. A girl from Philadelphia sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" with hurricane-strength lungs—you expected celebrity judge Brandy to blow away like straw—and someone in a cow uniform breakdanced with synchronized milk shooting from the udders. The girl, Bianca Ryan, 11, was bumped up to the semifinals, as was a clog-dancing team of guys with 'N Sync looks. The cow? No.

In other words, viewers' brain synapses will be switching to "conserve energy" summer mode. But the show is expertly put together by American Idol impresario Simon Cowell, among others. Judge David Hasselhoff, not a phrase I ever thought I'd use, vibrates at the same blurty frequency as Paula Abdul. Piers Morgan is the judge likeliest to slap verbally. His putdown of Leonid the Magnificent, a sword-balancer dressed like a Cirque du Soleil angel, prompted Leonid to weep: "For you, I'm [a] Christmas tree. But for somebody else, I can be a god." He's got a talent for rhetoric.

bgwhite bgwhite   



TNT (July 12, 9 p.m. ET)
HORROR

This four-part series adapted from Stephen King short stories starts off with a must-see performance by Oscar-winner William Hurt—the same kind of funny, ferocious, uninhibited turn that gave such a live-wire jolt to A History of Violence. There's not even dialogue in the hourlong "Battleground." It's just a fugue of grunts, groans and growls as Hurt, playing a world-class hit man returning to his apartment after offing a toy mogul, comes under retaliatory assault from a battalion of plastic, matchbox-size soldiers. This is followed by the next-best installment, "Crouch End." Claire Forlani and Eion Bailey are newlyweds lost in a monstrous netherworld in a London suburb. It's one of those queasy tales full of putrid, tarry mutations. Cheap but effective shock: disgusting cat in need of eyepatch. The other episodes (at least the ones provided for review) don't have much oomph. But Hurt towers. Literally.

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



"I understand now why Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell argue—if you really like something and the other judges don't, you hate them," says AGT panelist Piers Morgan, a British journalist (and old pal of Cowell's). Any talent of his own? "When I'm drunk at a family wedding, I like to strip down, put a bandana on my head and sing Guns N' Roses."

The Closer (TNT, July 10, 9 p.m. ET) Kyra Sedgwick has to interrogate her own team over a missing corpse. The show has just been renewed for a third season. Good.

I Love the '70s: Volume 2 (VH1, July 10-14, 8 p.m. ET) Five nights devoted to a decade that can only be called transplendent. That's from Annie Hall, 1977.

Project Runway (Bravo, July 12, 9 p.m. ET) Two-hour premiere of the new season, hosted by Heidi Klum. Tim Gunn ("It's make-it-work time") leads off with an hour special about the casting process.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC, July 9, 10 p.m. ET) Repeat of a good episode from Thanksgiving. George (T.R. Knight) traipses off into the woods for the family's annual turkey shoot.

Woody Guthrie: Ain't Got No Home (PBS, times may vary) American Masters profile of the folk icon who sang of a nation's glories and shames.

Star Jones Reynolds's exit from The View was the best piece of talk show drama since Oprah Winfrey whittled James Frey down into prosciutto-thin slices. Star's on-air announcement, with the ladies linking hands, was sweet. It was like Little Women, although the fact that Joy Behar couldn't think of any better way to sum it all up than "A lotta fun" wasn't a good sign. In the aftermath, I was impressed by Barbara Walters's tone of grave, sad censure. It was the guillotine coming down, quiet and irreversible.

Windfall's Sarah Wynter
Age: 35
Birthplace: Newcastle, Australia
Married to: Details editor Dan Peres
Plays: Florist Beth Walsh on the NBC drama Windfall, about friends who win the lottery.

ON HER JACKPOT ROLE

I love the idea of people winning the lottery and that it connects them as a group. In this day and age people are so obsessed with money. Growing up, you'd aspire to fly first class one day, but now people don't aspire to first class anymore, they aspire to the jet. It's gotten out of control.

ON HOW MONEY CAN'T BUY HAPPINESS

Everyone asks themselves, "What would I do if I won the lottery?" This show challenges the idea that money makes life easier. You still have problems—they just become more expensive. I don't think money would screw me up, frankly. I have a good head on my shoulders.

ON PLAYING THE LOTTERY

The only time I've played was for Christmas when production gave us scratch tickets. I didn't win. But I've won the lottery anyway. To be able to work as an actress and to afford to go on holiday—I already hit a jackpot.

ON HER OWN LUCKY STREAK

I won a raffle once. I was pretty lucky, because other people were winning gag gifts and I won a VHS/DVD conversion machine.

ON WORKING WITH LUKE PERRY

No matter which way you look at it, he's still Dylan McKay from Beverly Hills, 90210. Sometimes I'll look at him in a scene and I'll be out of it because I'll think, "Oh, this must have been what it was like for Shannen Doherty looking into those gorgeous eyes."