'Anything' Goes

BBC America airs the finale of "I'd Do Anything" tonight at 9 p.m., as one of the three remaining contestants among Samantha, Jodie and Jessie vie for the role of Nancy in a new production of "Oliver."

As with all shows that require votes from the audience to eliminate contestants, I've had real problems with this series, because some of the best contenders have already been eliminated.

That was especially egregious last week when Rachel -- one of the best contenders throughout the entire series -- was eliminated despite opening the show with a rendition of "Life Is A Cabaret" that blew the roof off and drew a standing ovation from the judges. Rachel was drop-dead gorgeous, had a tremendous voice and was the best actress among the contestants -- so naturally, she got voted off.

Meanwhile, mediocre performers like Jessie, who is inconsistent and can't act, manages to survive because she has all of Ireland voting in her corner.

Of the three left, my pick would be Samantha, who has most of the qualities that Rachel had. Jodie is pretty decent, but she can't dance a lick.

"I'd Do Anything" is hardly the first show where the top picks don't advance to the finals. Look at the long list of "American Idol" contestants, such as Jennifer Hudson or Chris Daughtry, neither of whom made it to the finals of that show but have managed to have more successful careers than many of the winners.

I've had this debate with my father about these competitions -- should the public be the final arbiters, often going against the opinions of more knowledgeable judges? Ultimately, I say yes. Even though the public usually has questionable taste, it's also the public who downloads music or buys tickets to shows. In fact, every time they buy a ticket, they are essentially voting for one performer over another.

So if the general public picks Jessie tonight, for example, they are the ones that have to endure seeing "Oliver" with her as Nancy rather than someone who is better. Thanks to the public, we've been subjected to the likes of Fantasia, Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks as "AI" winners -- where are any of them lately?

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Fox continues to burn off "Human Target," running two hours again tonight.

Jeremy Irons makes his TV debut on "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC, 10 p.m.), which follows "Chase" on its new night.

ABC's comedies are all-new, including "24's" Mary Lynn Rasjkub as Mitchelll's old girlfriend on "Modern Family" at 9 p.m. At 10 p.m., the new Shonda Rhimes medical soap opera, "Off The Map," debuts.

CBS has "Live To Dance" at 8 p.m., followed by "The Defenders" at 10 p.m. for one last time before flip-flopping with "Blue Bloods" on the schedule.

Finally, "American Masters" (PBS, 8 p.m.) does a profile of Jeff Bridges called "The Dude Abides," quoting the most overrated movie in history.