Picks and Pans Review: American Inventor

updated 04/03/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/03/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET)

BY TOM GLIATTO

REALITY

Dean Kamen, the guy who introduced the Segway scooter in '01, says he hasn't given up hope that the thing ultimately will fulfill its revolutionary hype. The wheels of progress might have spun faster with the backing of American Idol's Simon Cowell, coproducer of this entertaining series. The show celebrates the humble, big-dreaming tinkerer, with inventors auditioning products before four experts. Finalists get $50,000 in seed money, with an ultimate prize of $1 million. But what stood out in the first two hours, which featured such oddities as a walking stick for warding off bears, was the searing, tearful humiliation of the rejectees. Paula Abdul would have withered like sun-dried fruit at such blasts. In a society that loves winners, American losers form an angry, lonely country all their own.

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