- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Paula feels their pain

Paula Abdul winces when she sees fellow “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell preparing to pounce on an unsuspecting contestant.

Miss Abdul, once a popular singer herself, said in a press teleconference this week that she feels for the lesser “Idol” contestants on the smash Fox show.

She said one such “victim,” Bay Area warbler William Hung, felt exploited by the process.

“My heart goes out to him,” she said. “Don’t think I don’t know when Simon is licking his chops. … I know what’s going to happen. He was just such a sweet soul.”

Miss Abdul forged her own music career in the 1980s the old-fashioned way — without reality television. She still doesn’t envy any of the “Idol” winners, even if it seems they became famous overnight.

She says she and many other established singers she has spoken with agree that “if reality television would be the basis of getting into the record business, we wouldn’t even try.”

“American Idol” airs at 8 tonight on Fox.

Preserving Lincoln

HGTV shines the spotlight on the historic President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument tonight as part of its running series on the nation’s great treasures.

Formerly known as Anderson Cottage, the President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument spreads across 320 acres on the campus of the armed forces retirement home three miles north of the U.S. Capitol.

President Clinton designated the cottage, where Lincoln drafted his Emancipation Proclamation, a national monument in 2000.

“Restore America: A Salute to Preservation” airs at 11:30 tonight on HGTV.

Retro ‘Beene’ returns

Fox’s “Oliver Beene” reeks so heavily of ABC’s “The Wonder Years,” it would take a sublime presentation to break the former show’s spell.

Expect nothing of the kind.

Both feature time-machine trips to the 1960s, and each centers on a child protagonist who narrates his younger days from an adult perspective.

The biggest stylistic difference is that “The Wonder Years” focused on the heady, crazy days toward that decade’s end, while “Beene” contemplates the more conservative mood at the dawn of the decade.

The show returns with two new episodes this week, the first airing at 9:30 tonight and the other in its regular 7:30 p.m. Sunday slot.

The best part of tonight’s episode is watching Oliver’s parents (Grant Shaud and Wendy Makkena) groove to a local jazz group, unaware that their contact buzz in the smoky bar is the reason why they suddenly “get” jazz.

Miss Makkena may be a talent to watch, but everyone else plays it too broadly, particularly Mr. Shaud, who should know better after years on the infinitely smarter “Murphy Brown.”

Angelic milestone

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” may still get more attention, even post-cancellation, but its spinoff “Angel” continues to fight the good fight versus the undead.

The show celebrates its 100th episode at 9 tonight on the WB.

Former “Angel” mainstay Charisma Carpenter returns for the episode, playing the same character who slipped into a coma at last season’s end.

The show is the network’s second-highest-rated series with adults 18 to 34 and is in its fifth season.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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