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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Military elite compete on ‘Best Ranger’

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

“Survivor” fans who miss the physical aspects of the game should check out “Best Ranger” (8 p.m., Military Channel), three hours of coverage of the Army’s Best Ranger competition held annually in Fort Benning, Ga.

But don’t go looking for any Richard Hatch-style snake-in-the-grass intrigue. “Ranger” presents a kind of Army Olympics, a test of physical endurance and mental strength that’s exhausting just to watch.

The “fun” begins with a grueling obstacle course race at 6 in the morning that includes a crawl through worm-infested mud puddles covered with barbed wire. Most of the two-man teams conquer that competition like a walk in the park.

Over the next 60 hours, they must compete in a push-up/pull-up contest that is timed to a metronome, complete a 1-mile run followed by a 200-yard swim in boots and full gear and a 2-mile run in a wet uniform.

At the end of that, they have a “surprise” that requires them to carry their teammate for another half-mile. This all leads up to a 21-mile hike that must be completed in six hours while carrying a 60-pound pack. Other contests include grenade tossing, rope climbing, rappelling, machine gun assembly, and a drop from a helicopter followed by a swim (with full pack and equipment) culminating in a 2-mile buddy-carry.

Proof that viewers are tiring of “The Apprentice” and its clones came with last week’s less than impressive ratings for “The Cut” (8 p.m., CBS). Tommy Hilfiger puts potential proteges through their paces again tonight.

Hilfiger, who presides over the cut with the grim seriousness of Patton leading the 3rd Army, also appears on “The Late, Late Show” (12:37 a.m., CBS). Craig Ferguson also hosts Nikka Costa.

There’s no accounting for taste. Was I the only once in shock last week when the home and studio audience of “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (9 p.m., NBC) proclaimed “rapper” Vanilla Ice the winner?

How many times do we have to witness his “comeback”? Doesn’t his recent “Surreal Life” stint disqualify him for this “Where Are They Now?” showcase?

On the other hand, home voters should be congratulated for giving “Bachelorette” Trista Rehn the first boot from “Dancing with the Stars.” I don’t believe in blacklists or banishing people from the airwaves, but with Trista I’m willing to compromise my principles.

Attracting more than 11 million viewers, Wednesday night’s “Dancing” is more than a campy, guilty pleasure. It’s turning into one of the early summer’s bona fide hits.

Other highlights

On back-to-back episodes of “The O.C.” (Fox), The Thrills perform (8 p.m.), and Kim Delaney guest-stars (9 p.m.).

Chris Berman hosts “Best of” coverage of the U.S. Open on “Sports Center” (5 p.m., ESPN).

Daniel Radcliffe stars in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (8:30 p.m., HBO), the 2004 adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s popular book.

Newly detected evidence puts Grissom’s team on the spot on “CSI” (9 p.m., CBS).

San Antonio and Detroit meet in game four of the NBA Finals (6 p.m., ABC).

A small classic of the Lifetime movie genre, “See Jane Run” (9 p.m., Lifetime) stars Joanna Kerns as an amnesiac seeking answers about her daughter’s death.

Jack’s divorce gets nastier on “Without a Trace” (10 p.m., CBS).

Kovac mentors the interns on “ER” (10 p.m., NBC).

Cult choice

A love triangle turns deadly in the 1945 mystery “Fallen Angel” (5 p.m., FMC), starring Alice Faye, Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell.

Series notes

On back-to-back episodes of “Will & Grace” (NBC), Sharon Stone (8 p.m.), and Blythe Danner (8:30 p.m.) … NBA stars appear on “My Wife and Kids” (8:30 p.m., ABC) … Wrestling on “WWE SmackDown!” (8 p.m., UPN).

On back-to-back episodes of “Blue Collar TV” (WB), medical mirth (8 p.m.), and raising the young (8:30 p.m.).

Gender roles exploded on “Beauty and the Geek” (9 p.m., WB).

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