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‘Fire Me’ signals sorry state of affairs

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

A “Candid Camera”-style show with the malignant heart of a Hilton sister, “Fire Me … Please” (9 p.m., CBS) follows two actors as they embark on new jobs with the express purpose of getting pink-slipped as close to, but not after, 3 p.m. The winner receives a prize of $25,000.

In the opening segment, a burly comedian wannabe acts progressively more deranged at his coffee-shop job, eventually requiring his boss to call the police. His female competitor works at a boutique with an airhead attitude, mishandling the merchandise and generally annoying her colleagues and wasting their time.

The put-on unfolds with the complete cooperation of the businesses involved, but their mere employees remain in the dark. Apparently, we’re supposed to be amused by their discomfort and fear.

“Fire Me” continues on the toxic theme of “The Simple Life” and other shows that tell viewers that celebrities – and, by extension, any performer with a camera crew – can get away with anything. The rest of us deserve what we get.

Yes, class, repeat after me: If you are an average person, you are a loser. You should beg, borrow, steal and prostitute yourself to become a celebrity.

This is not just the lesson of “Fire Me … Please.” On “Hell’s Kitchen,” contestants suffer the tortures of the damned just to remain in the proximity of a famous chef.

On “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump arrives and departs, often accompanied by brass fanfare worthy of a Hollywood Caesar. Contestants cower and flatter him to avoid execution.

They coo with unctuous approval when invited to his gilded palaces.

Not only are these shows a dark and disturbing metaphor for the vanishing notion of American equality and opportunity, they mark a dismal departure from decades of entertainment tradition.

From the silent-movie era through “Animal House” and beyond, Hollywood championed the little guy and questioned the motivations of big shots and bullies.

Times have changed. Hollywood now champions the bullies and is run by increasingly insulated big shots.

Other highlights

A program from 1978 is recalled in the 2005 biography “Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy” (8 p.m., NBC).

Rory’s casual fling stuns Lorelai on “Gilmore Girls” (8 p.m., WB).

House breaks the rules and plays a hunch on “House” (9 p.m., Fox).

Deadlines loom on “The Deadliest Catch” (9 p.m., Discovery).

A self-involved hairdresser caters to a posh clientele on the second-season premiere of “Blow Out” (9 p.m., Bravo).

Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (10 p.m., CBS,): a policeman’s dark theories about his own father.

Mary Stuart Masterson appears on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (10 p.m., NBC).

Diane Sawyer interviews Brad Pitt on “Primetime Live” (10 p.m., ABC).

The documentary “Chavez Ravine” on “Independent Lens” (10:30 p.m., KSPS) looks at the community of Mexican-Americans who were displaced to make way for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Members of the Boston Red Sox undergo a makeover on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” (10 p.m., Bravo).

Cult choice

A polar expedition discovers a flesh-eating alien in the seminal 1951 shocker “The Thing from Another World” (5 p.m., Turner Classic Movies).

Series notes

A drowned officer on “Navy NCIS” (8 p.m., CBS) … Parallel wives on “Trading Spouses” (8 p.m., Fox) … Basketball fantasies on “My Wife and Kids” (8 p.m., ABC) … Fantasia guest-stars on “All of Us” (8 p.m., UPN).

A little fib on “George Lopez” (8:30 p.m., ABC) … A good turn keeps on turning on “Eve” (8:30 p.m., UPN).

On back-to-back episodes of “According to Jim” (ABC), a big act (9 p.m.), and surveillance (9:30 p.m.) … Britney Spears documents her life on “Chaotic” (9 p.m., UPN) … Brooding and cheekbones on “One Tree Hill” (9 p.m., WB).

Sensitivity training on “The Bad Girl’s Guide” (9:30 p.m., UPN).

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