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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Answers missing from ‘The Scholar’

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

Reality shows seem to break down into two categories: uplifting and degrading.

ABC has had success with the former, turning the queen-for-a-day construction-site drama of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” into a key part of its successful Sunday night schedule.

The network clearly hopes that aspirations and good intentions will also carry the day on “The Scholar” (8 p.m., ABC), a new contest pitting 10 high school seniors with top grades but modest backgrounds against each other in a contest to win a free-ride scholarship to the elite university of their choice.

The tests will avoid the bug eating and goo spattering of shows like “Fear Factor” and buckle down with academic competitions that resemble classroom versions of “Jeopardy.”

I found the organization of the challenges more convoluted than necessary and slightly confusing to watch. And while we get to hear the questions and see which student wins, we don’t hear the correct answers.

So, unlike “Jeopardy” or even “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” viewers are unlikely to learn anything or enjoy playing along with the smarty-pants.

“Six Feet Under” (9 p.m., HBO) enters its fifth and final season in full soap-opera throttle. The action actually seems more appropriate to a season finale.

Nate and an expectant Brenda plan their wedding ceremony. The ever-bickering David and Keith heatedly debate their adoption options.

Claire’s affair with Brenda’s troubled brother grows deeper as her relationship with her mother, Ruth, goes into the deep freeze as Ruth recoils from her husband’s mental instability.

At least Federico is having fun on the dating scene.

For all of its action, “Six” still manages to engage viewers with smart, if dark, reflections on the nature of life, family and relationships with both the living and the dead.

Speaking of the departed, look for Lisa (Lili Taylor) to return for an otherworldly chat with Brenda that is beyond haunting.

Jesse James and his posse of gearheads attempt to turn a high-priced sports car into a flying machine on the first installment of the two-part season finale of “Monster Garage” (9 p.m., Discovery, concludes next Monday).

Not content to allow the cable “news” networks to monopolize a never-ending story, WE offers a “Runaway Bride” (7 p.m., WE) special of its own. The one-hour report presents an interview with Jennifer Wilbanks’ unfortunate wedding coordinator, who shares details of the ceremony Jennifer fled. Could the choice between chicken or salmon have made her snap?

We also hear from Jennifer’s friends and co-workers, who may or may not have already bought her a gift. You have up to a year, you know.

Other highlights

A casino operator finds his brash protege in bed with his daughter on the pilot episode of “Las Vegas” (9 p.m., NBC).

A woman (Naomi Watts) tries to unravel the mystery of a videotape that kills its viewers in the 2002 shocker “The Ring” (9 p.m., ABC).

Allison confuses a vision with a TV show on “Medium” (10 p.m., NBC).

Cult choice

A writer (Alan Alda) inherits a pianist’s talents, but with a devilish price tag, in the 1971 shocker “The Mephisto Waltz” (7 p.m., Fox Movie Channel), co-starring Jacqueline Bisset, Curt Jurgens and Barbara Parkins.

Series notes

A shocking revelation on “Everybody Loves Raymond” (8 p.m., CBS) … Joe Rogan hosts “Fear Factor” (8 p.m., NBC) … A famous British chef abuses would-be acolytes with obscenities and rudeness on consecutive episodes of “Hell’s Kitchen” (8 and 9 p.m., Fox) … Flex’s ex wants sex on “One on One” (8 p.m., UPN) … On back-to-back episodes of “7th Heaven” (WB), Lucy preaches from her first pulpit (8 p.m.), and a mother’s choice (9 p.m.) … On five consecutive episodes of “Two and a Half Men” (CBS), mother manipulates (8:30 p.m.), show me the alimony (9 p.m.), Strip diversions (9:30 p.m.), fulltime Jake (10 p.m.) and a party ruse (10:30 p.m.).

Good publicity on “Cuts” (8:30 p.m., UPN) … Bad publicity on “Girlfriends” (9 p.m., UPN) … Mona’s beau needs more than a hug on “Half & Half” (9:30 p.m., UPN).