Topic One: Dancing with the Stars. One long grin, that show is. I'd forgotten what a fun lark it can be, after the last few months of watching American Idol take itself way too seriously. Nothing's really at stake on the Dancing show, except minor issues like dignity and rescuing B-list reputations from the celebrity coal bin. Early front-runners: Joey Fatone (especially if he keeps shedding the pounds as he dances) and Apolo Anton Ohno, the closest thing the show has to a hottie. (Possible miscalculation of keeping up his skating schedule when he should be perfecting his dance moves. He wasn't nearly as electrifying as he needs to be.) And because a female is overdue a win on this show, let's not count out Laila Ali, an interesting mix of athleticism, aggression and (when it matters) unexpected grace and charm.

Charm really is the selling point of this ABC phenom. Even a klutz like Billy Ray Cyrus probably earned a few pity points for being a good sport. And I'm personally rooting for Paulina Porizkova, who's not only gorgeous but hilariously self-deprecating, and if she can rise above the insecurity, she could be a sleeper. Honestly, I'm not that invested in who wins or loses, and I'm not the sort of voyeur who's watching to see if Heather Mills can keep her balance or locate some charisma. But as harmless TV pastimes go, I'm more than willing to go along on this ride. (I was pleased to see it took a big bite out of the ratings for NBC's insipid-by-comparison Deal Or No Deal.)

Topic Two: 24. Show of hands: Who really thinks Audrey Raines is dead? And I take back whatever nice thing I said last week about Ricky Schroder's character. He's now just another blah bully, and racist to boot. How long before we discover Nadia was just being set up by (sigh) the latest CTU mole? Last question: Should Dick Cheney sue over Powers Boothe's snarling caricature of Vice President McEvil, now nuke-mad like a castoff from Dr. Strangelove? Jack downed the drone, but even that wasn't enough to stop him from ordering a retaliatory strike against Assad's patsy nation. Next move: Wake up, Wayne Palmer. All is (almost) forgiven. Won't it be nice to be able to put this season behind us?

Topic Three: The Amazing Race, All-stars. A week ago, I said it would be a "minor miracle" if Charla and Mirna weren't the next to go. Guess what? Miracles happen. And just as Rob and Amber went from first to worst the week before, the crabby cousins vaulted from worst to first, courtesy of a breezy manicure challenge they wisely chose over filling bags with coal. (Imagine if they'd gone that route. They'd have been toast.) Choosing the right challenge can make or break you on a show that's sometimes as much about luck as skill. The fact that, for a change, Charla and Mirna actually seemed to be enjoying themselves as they painted nails and mixed it up with the locals may have had something to do with it as well. I'm still rooting overall for the Cha-Chas. Chasing Phil to give him a grimy hug gave the episode a nice blast of comic relief. They truly are all-stars in my book.

Topic Four: CBS' Sunday overrun. I'm an NCAA fan, so I have no real gripe about the games going long and pushing back Sunday's schedule. But when the final buzzer sounded, CBS should have gone immediately to 60 Minutes (a strong installment, with a disturbing Iraq story and an entertaining Simon Cowell profile). Instead, we got a not-brief-enough recap and something like a 10- to 15-minute block of promos and ads droning on unfathomably until the actual prime-time lineup kicked in at around 7:45 pm/ET. I'm a realist when it comes to CBS' sliding Sunday schedule most weeks, but this was beyond aggravating.

Topic Five: Next Sunday. Not a night to go out, trust me. Finales galore, most notably on Rome (ending its two-season run on a very satisfying note) and Battlestar Galactica (one jaw-dropper after another in the season finale). Plus, if you're a nature lover, Discovery Channel launches its remarkable 11-hour spectacular, the visually hypnotizing Planet Earth. Check it out, especially if you have HD, and you'll see why so many disgruntled viewers have ditched the networks for the myriad compelling niches of cable.