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Tonight's TV Hot List: Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009

American Idol8 pm/ET FoxSimon says: It's time for Season 8 to begin. The mega-popular music showcase kicks off with a fresh pool of wannabe stars rendering trial performances in the inaugural audition round. Read on for previews of Chopped, Law & Order: SVU, Leverage and Nip/Tuck.

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American Idol
8 pm/ET Fox
Simon says: It's time for Season 8 to begin. The mega-popular music showcase kicks off with a fresh pool of wannabe stars rendering trial performances in the inaugural audition round. Like auditions past, there will be gleaming diamonds in the rough and then the just plain rough, with new judge Kara DioGuardi and returning arbiters Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson rating (and likely berating) the performances. Among the stops in the arc of early-audition rounds: East Rutherford, N.J.; Jacksonville; Kansas City, Mo.; Louisville; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ryan Seacrest returns as host. — Dean Maurer
Get more Idol in our Online Video Guide.
10 pm/ET Food Network
The ubiquitous Ted Allen serves as host for this savory new cooking competition, which challenges four up-and-coming chefs to transform a basket of mystery ingredients into an extraordinary three-course meal. It's high speed and high pressure, with one cook getting "chopped" each round and the last one standing walks away with $10,000. In the opener, featured ingredients include octopus, duck and animal crackers. Something tells us the vegan chef competing tonight is in trouble. — Karen Andzejewicz
For more Ted Allen, visit our Online Video Guide.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
10 pm/ET NBC
Earlier this season, Benson posed as a call girl. Tonight, she graduates to madam when she goes undercover to catch a sex trafficker. She's hoping to identify the body of a victim that the squad believes was a teenage hooker, however, it turns out the girl was a prodigy, not a prostitute. Soon the detectives are investigating the teen's prestigious boarding school, and her roommate leads them to the girl's father, who has a severe gambling problem. — Jennifer Sankowski
For clips of Law & Order: SVU, visit ourOnline Video Guide.
10 pm/ET TNT
The cool capers continue with Nate's mates undertaking yet another high-tech scam to help the needy against the greedy. This time out, Nate and his do-gooders zero in on a devious mob bigwig by masquerading as wedding planners for his daughter's nuptials. On the surface, it should be a big, fat successful scheme: They cater the big event and also execute a parallel plan to rob their mark. But they didn't count on the appearance of a deadly Russian thug, who proves to be a mighty formidable force. Jonathan Frakes directed the episode. — Dean Maurer
For clips of Leverage, visit our Online Video Guide.
10 pm/ET FX
With all the breast enhancements Christian has done — and given his hyperactive libido — it's a cruel irony (some might call it poetic justice) that he has been diagnosed with breast cancer. So now we can feel sorry for him, sort of, as he battles the disease for the rest of the season. (Since FX is committed to the series through 2011, here's betting he survives.) Meanwhile, Sean has some healing to do himself, both physically and with his family. Look for developments on that front tonight. — Paul Droesch
For clips of Nip/Tuck, visit our Online Video Guide.