Showbiz Moms & Dads
Finally, in the midst of this vapid void of mind-numbing entertainment, a show comes along that speaks to the human condition.

No, seriously. Raise your hand if your parents never tried to live vicariously through you, their talented little superstar. Now raise your hand, parents out there in cyberspace, if you never decided that your child was destined for fame before they could even spell the word fortune. Yeah, that's what I thought. (Okay, I confess. My hands never left the keyboard.)

To be fair, Little Ms. Jordan is a success story with a couple of sitcom roles under her belt, but Mama needs to make a choice: Either pay for some therapy now, for yourself, or you'll be paying for therapy for your little girl down the road. Your daughter is doing great, now put down the whip. Sure you're the best of friends and you always will be, but if your social life centers on dragging your 8-year-old to a salsa class — maybe it's time to start dating again, honey.

Poor Emily Tye with her spray-on tan and her caked-on makeup. At the tender age of 4, she's already won 55 pageant titles and she's only been competing since she was 2. Let's do some quick math, shall we? Factor in the pageants where she didn't win a title (let's be generous and say 20). Now subtract that from 104, the number of weeks in two calendar years, take away four or five holiday weekends and what do we have? Three, maybe four months of her impressionable young life that she hasn't spent dressed up like a pedophile's pinup and parading herself in front of... well, I don't know exactly what kind of person watches 4-year-olds in a bathing-suit competition, but they won't be babysitting my children, if you know what I mean.

When Momma Tye tells her exhausted daughter not to cry at six in the morning because she'll ruin her makeup, I tell my wife to turn the channel 'cause I just can't take any more. But then they cut to the Nutters and I'm glued to my seat quicker than you can say dysfunctional narcissistic patriarch.

Aaah, the Nutters, a real showbiz family pursuing the Hollywood dream... What a nightmare! The father, Duncan, earns himself a place in the annals of irony by telling a TV producer that he's not sure if he wants to be involved with anything that is divisive to his family — Hah! This, coming from a man who uprooted his wife and seven children from a spacious Vermont homestead and moved all nine of them into a two-bedroom apartment in Queens so that they could all pursue his dream of becoming a successful actor. No, no, wouldn't want to be divisive, Mr. Nutjob — er, I mean, Mr. Nutter.

Little Isaiah Nutter on the verge of tears sums it all up when he confess to the camera, "I am doing it really because he wants us to and I just don't want to make him feel like he's pushing us too hard... or something." Mon Dieu!

American Idol
George Huff and John Stevens, make room for the ladies, 'cause I guarantee you that the next American Idol will be a Ms.

All five women sounded great, and aside from Diana's pantsuit they had the fashions to match. Then again, Diana's outfit looked just fine compared to the gaudy red leather jacket that Barry Manilow was wearing.

Randy summed up the evening best when he addressed LaToya London after her stellar performance by saying, "I feel like the show is starting now." And it's about time. Clearly Jennifer Hudson has been reading my comments in this column because she blew the lid off that place by letting her voice do the work instead of her eyes or her hands. How cool would it be if Patti LaBelle were a guest judge for one episode?

LaToya will have a career whether she wins this competition or not. She's got the poise of somebody who knows exactly what they're doing, and she does. I haven't heard Simon heap that kind of praise on a singer since... well, ever! Fantasia brought down the house as usual by rockin' it revival style down in the audience. Just don't let your guard, girl, because you've got some talent nipping at your heals.

Now I love to hear Simon rip a performance to shreds as much as anyone because I respect his honesty, even when it's merciless. But there wasn't a shred of insight in his observation that John Stevens looks like Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame. I'm not saying Simon's wrong, but c'mon. One night in college I was introduced to a fellow by the name of Jose Cuervo. Jose had a way of encouraging people to speak without thinking and after about three shots in 10 minutes, I felt the regrettable urge to be candid with someone who, until that point, had considered me his friend. Much like Simon, I told him what I'd been thinking since I met him, "Has anyone ever told you you look like Skippy from Family Ties?" Apparently they hadn't and apparently he didn't consider it a compliment. My point is, some observations are better kept to oneself, Simon.

The V-Chip commercial
What a great commercial! It's catchy, it's cool and it reminds you that your television comes with a built-in censoring device to protect your children from offensive content. Hey FCC guys, here's an idea. Invent a C-Chip that blocks any commercial that pushes sugar-filled foods with zero nutritional value to eager young consumers like drugs. Last time I checked, diabetes was more of a threat to our youth than questionable language or content.

Finally, we learn what the bad guy is after. A gazillion dollars? Nope. World domination? Nah. He wants "to make America clean again." Leave it to the producers of 24 to introduce an altruistic evil genius. His next demand from President Palmer? The release of the names of covert intelligence operatives. Paging Robert Novak...

Back at CTU, Chloe is asking too many questions trying to get access to everything. She may have Tony and the rest fooled but I smell a rat.

Meanwhile, Kim is recruited to impersonate the bad guy's daughter, and winds up wearing a wig that looks more like real hair than the blond chop job she's been sporting all season. At least Elisha Cuthbert finally gets to exercise her acting chops after three seasons. Is her undercover stint a little contrived? Yeah, but not nearly as hard to swallow as her tech-savy computer jargon back at CTU. And hey, at least she didn't step in another cougar trap!

So I guess Chapelle really is dead, huh. Damn! I lost five dollars betting that Jack wouldn't put a bullet in him. I figured Jack had a plan, you know, like the prison break and the double-cross with the drug cartel. And what about Michelle? I was pretty certain we were going to find out that she's immune to the nasty nosebleed that never stops, but after what happened to Chapelle, all bets are off.

The Shield
A professor of mine in college maintained that, broken down into its basic components, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was in fact a comedy and not a tragedy. Absurd, huh? Well I'm going to go out on that same limb and suggest that The Shield is actually a farce disguised as a gritty cop drama. How else to explain the Keystone Cop antics of the decoy squad as they try to swap a dummy safe with the real deal from Aceveda's office? Vic and the strike team sneaking around the precinct trying not to get busted is hilarious and nerve-wracking, and more reminiscent of The Breakfast Club than NYPD Blue.

Or consider Shane's response when Vic tells the team they have to cancel any plans for the weekend so they can swipe the safe from Aceveda's office. "Aww, I've got tickets to Journey," Shane says with a pained look on his face.

But the best line of the night comes courtesy of Trish on the decoy squad. When Vic casually propositions her, she casually rebuffs him saying, "Don't worry. I haven't needed a slutbuster yet." Now that's comedy.

Of course, it's not all grins and giggles, especially for Aceveda who is clearly suffering from some serious post-rape rage. Typically calm and collected, the captain takes a frightening turn and kicks the crap out of a suspect during an interrogation with a bad-cop routine that makes Vic look like Dr. Phil by comparison. Later on, Aceveda breaks down and through tears, tells his brother about the rape and how he's "losing control," to which his brother responds, "If it was me, I'd kill 'em." Of course, the old Aceveda would have dismissed such a notion as reckless and beyond the realm of acceptable police conduct, but something tells me that the new and abused Aceveda is about to cross the line between justice and retribution. I doubt anyone will be laughing when he does, but I cannot wait to see this one play out. — Daniel R. Coleridge is on assignment. Today's column was written by Daniel Roberts.