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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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March Madness kicks off on CBS

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

College basketball teams from 64 colleges and universities begin the annual rite of March Madness, otherwise known as the NCAA Tournament (9 a.m. and 4 p.m., CBS).

Not long ago, this college basketball tournament was a ratings salvation for CBS. Of course, that was when NBC dominated Thursday nights with its “must see” lineup of hit sitcoms and “ER,” and when CBS was drawing the more modest audiences that watched “Promised Land” and “Diagnosis Murder.” Now there’s little chance that the playoffs will draw as many viewers as Thursday’s regularly scheduled “Survivor” and “CSI.”

The absence of “Survivor” and “Joey” from tonight’s schedule may inspire some viewers to sample the new comedy “Jake in Progress” (ABC), now in its regularly scheduled spot. In back-to-back episodes, Jake lives out a teen fantasy while trying to surpass his rival (8 p.m.) and then offers a client some sound romantic advice (8:30 p.m.).

“Jake” is not the only new series set in the world of high-powered public relations. “PoweR Girls” (10:30 p.m., MTV) chronicles the day-to-day dramas of notorious superpublicist Lizzie Grubman and her airhead minions.

While “Jake” contrasts the world of selfish celebrity clients with its character’s attempts to live a more sane and grounded life, the girls in “PoweR Girls” don’t seem to have any notion of any substance beyond the glitter.

Last week, we learned more than we needed to about Kelly, a 24-year-old with the mind of a toddler who has patterned her life – from her hair extensions to her diction – on that of Paris Hilton’s emaciated silhouette. When Kelly actually meets Hilton, she’s over the moon and even ditches her dull fiance to hang out in the heiress’s stretch limo. Sadly, she doesn’t have many inner resources to fall back on when she discovers that Paris has been playing her for a fool.

But making fun of Grubman and her assistants is like shooting fish in a barrel. “PoweR Girls” should be seen as a cautionary tale: For a show about the glamour business, it lays bare the soul-deadening drudgery of event planning.

Despite their flighty illusions, Lizzie’s ladies are mere scullery maids in the cafeteria of celebrity.

Lizzie’s lessons are pretty clear: Forget about having a life of your own and don’t dream of finding or keeping a boyfriend. Dim Kelly is ordered to forgo her birthday, her beau and the Fourth of July just to make sure things run smoothly at Puff Daddy’s Hamptons bash.

When the work is done, the girls get to bunk up in some dank motel. And while she claims to be the girls’ sorority sister, Grubman rules over them all like a bleach-blonde wicked stepmother.

Her assistants are all sad Cinderellas for whom the scrubbing and cleaning never ends and for whom the magic pumpkin never arrives.

Walter Cronkite introduces “Harvest of Shame” (8 p.m., Discovery Times), a groundbreaking 1960 CBS Report created and hosted by Edward R. Murrow that exposes the exploitation of America’s migrant workers. Broadcast on Thanksgiving evening in 1960, “Harvest” would inspire a 1962 Migrant Health Act, mandating health clinics and other improvements for farm labor.

“Harvest” remains a powerful film 45 years after its first airing. When was the last time any network aired in prime time a serious news documentary dedicated to something other than politics, gossip or a notorious trial?

Murrow used his evening hour to speak for the powerless, the voiceless and the invisible. Today, we’re more likely to find an hour dedicated to Michael Jackson or Amber Frey.

Other highlights

Seth’s best-laid plans on “The O.C.” (8 p.m., Fox).

The host of “Blue Collar TV” looks back at his roots on “Jeff Foxworthy: The Early Daze” (8 p.m., WB).

A glance back at old clips on “The Apprentice” (9 p.m., NBC).

Christina wants answers from Boyd on “Point Pleasant” (9 p.m., Fox).

A test of commercial potential on “The Starlet” (9 p.m., WB).

Pratt loses control of his vehicle and plunges into the deep on “ER” (10 p.m., NBC).

Scheduled on “Primetime” (10 p.m., ABC): an honor student and Eagle Scout, accused of murdering a local loner may claim to have been insane at the time of the crime.

Cult choice

Catch back-to-back bugsploitation dramas: the 1994 shocker “Skeeter” (7 p.m., Sci Fi) and the 2005 made-for-cable horror film “Mansquito” (9 p.m., Sci Fi).

Series notes

On back-to-back episodes of “Will & Grace” (NBC), movin’ on up (8 p.m.,) and Molly Shannon (8:30 p.m.) … Wrestling on “WWE SmackDown!” (8 p.m., UPN) … A bartender transformed on “Extreme Makeover” (9 p.m., ABC).

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