TV's next wave of talent shows

Since Hollywood copies success until it fails, expect endless TV talent shows until America runs out of contortionists and 8-year-old comediennes. Enter the two latest cavalcades of wannabe stars, NBC's America's Got Talent (Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EDT) and ABC's Master of Champions (Thursdays at 8 p.m. EDT).

"Talent" is good-old-fashioned vaudeville with overtones of the Gong Show (loud buzzers) and, of course, "American Idol" (buzzard judges). No surprise there, as it's produced by Idol's Simon Cowell. It features unknowns doing every imaginable act (and some that will fall outside the imagination), including male strippers, bike-horn tooters, and pirate shadow dancers (told you so). They're choreographed to feature the weird (aforementioned shadow dancers) alongside the occasionally wonderful (a California dog trainer) and the downright pathetic (you decide). The panel features a now de rigeur lovely lady (singer Brandy) and her two snarling sidekicks, who take turns being the meanie – actor David Hasselhoff and Cowell clone, snarky British journalist Piers Morgan. Host Regis Philbin conjures up Ed McMahon's more avuncular talent show, "Star Search," as he laments, "Aren't those judges mean" while ushering the dismissed from the spotlight.

"Champions," on the other hand, actually plucks the genuinely skilled from their, um, normal worlds of, say, human fireworks, interpretive pizza tossing, and blindfolded foot archery by Princess Elayne, and makes them do even weirder stuff like shave a cheese block while driving a race car. Olympic gold medalists Oksana Baiul and Jonny Moseley join baseballer Steve Garvey as they drop jaw like the rest of us. Tune in if you must – at least you're only paying with your valuable time. "Talent": B; "Champions": C–

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