American Idol

FOX, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT and Wednesdays 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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Despite some very promising singers—and that means you, Kris Allen!—season 8 heads into its final weeks a bit of a mess. Blame tweaks and tinkerings that were meant to freshen the show's format. You can argue that these were merely cosmetic—but considering the massive scale of the FOX hit, that's like doing a little eye work on the Mount Rushmore Lincoln. If the procedure doesn't take, it'll be visible for miles. The introduction of a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, has if anything made the judges seem less significant—an acoustic muddle of snap judgments that de-emphasizes keen-eared Simon Cowell and, unexpectedly, boosts Paula Abdul. Her trembling little speeches of inspirational gibberish stand out from the hubbub. Then there was the "Judges' Save," which allows one loser in the popular vote to be kept in the competition. Ryan Seacrest made it sound like the most momentous twist since the Supreme Court heard Gore v. Bush, but when the rule was finally put into play, the judges rescued Matt Giraud, a bland singer Simon said had no chance of winning. Why bother?

The Fashion Show

Bravo, May 7, 10 p.m. ET/PT |

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With Project Runway officially gone to Lifetime and scheduled to roll out a new season in August, Bravo introduces this knockoff. It's a respectable copy: You have contestants who are both ruthless and flamboyant (one designer, named Merlin, shows up in what looks like the uniform of a gatekeeper from Oz's Emerald City, and another dresses strippers). Everyone sews and sweats their way through bizarre, pressure-cooker challenges (make a little black dress from a T-shirt in an hour).

But what about the show's essential style? Can anything make us forget Runway's elegantly avuncular Tim Gunn or blindingly chic Heidi Klum? In the first episode, no. The presiding figures here are Kelly Rowland, formerly of Destiny's Child, and designer and gadfly Isaac Mizrahi—who at least is never boring. He reacts to fashion miscalculations with a catty but fundamentally amused horror. It's a pleasure to hear him say things like "There isn't a bosom in the world that's going to benefit from that top."

"Adding Kara has if anything made the judges seem less significant."


SUN. 5/3, 11 A.M., 7 P.M. E!

Jennifer Garner is one of the great faces on E! News Brings You PEOPLE's 100 Most Beautiful People. Also airs May 2.


MON. 5/4, 8 P.M. FOX

Is the roof caving in on Dr. House (Hugh Laurie)? He can't sleep, he's having visions—time for some self-diagnosis.


WED. 5/6, 8 P.M. CW

On America's Next Top Model, the girls fly to the Brazilian jungle and dress as birds to be shot—with a camera—by Tyra Banks.


WED. 5/6, 8 P.M. ABC

Season finale. J.D. (Braff) leaves behind that merry medical playground, Sacred Heart Hospital.


THURS. 5/7, 10 P.M. NBC

Det. Adams (Regina King) ticks off a colleague when she warns him against being too friendly with a victim's sister.

>• As announcers, they're as familiar as your living-room sofa. But who the heck are they? PEOPLE unmasks three instantly recognizable voices.

Dancing with the Stars

"Live ... from Hollywood!" —ALAN DEDICOAT

His bracingly enthusiastic intros are actually prerecorded ... in the U.K.! The BBC newscaster, 54, is more famous there for calling out lottery numbers. "I make people very rich," he says. "How fantastic is that?"

Law & Order

"In the criminal justice system ... " —STEVE ZIRNKILTON

"I'm the only person who's been in every episode," says the sometime actor, 50, who's also the cool voice of SVU and Criminal Intent. The married dad of two does voice work from a home studio in Maine.


"Only on Bravo!" —RICK GOMEZ

"I don't have a voice-of-God voice," notes the married father of two, 36, who sounds like an ordinary guy with the volume turned up. In addition to promoting the Real Housewives franchise, he acts on ABC's Cupid.

>• In Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (May 7), he tries to explain why he's so darned happy—and spread the joy around.

ON THE ROOTS OF OPTIMISM There may be some people who are more inclined. Is it environmental? Is it chemical? Is it learned behavior? There are studies being done now on happiness and brain function.

ON A LONG TRIP TO HAPPINESS For the special we traveled to Bhutan, a kingdom in the Himalayas where they measure their Gross National Happiness. It may have been the high elevation, but I took a lot less medication [for Parkinson's symptoms] there!

ON WRITING BOOKS It's a long process. My catchphrase [while writing his latest, Always Looking Up] was, "I'll never finish my book on optimism."

ON SUMMER PLANS I'll feel good about taking it easy.