The old phrase, "Imitation is the sincerest form of television," has never seemed so timely. Coined by radio star Fred Allen, a professional wit who has been dead for more than half a century, it perfectly sums up the essence of "Splash" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG), a new series that seems anything but. "Splash" offers a diving board variation on the "Dancing With the Stars" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG)
formula. Olympic diver Greg Louganis presides, while U.S. gold medalist David Boudia and Australian Olympic athlete and USA Dive Team director Steve Foley serve as judges.
The "celebrity" divers include the tall Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the portly Louie Anderson, beauties Nicole Eggert and Katherine Webb, former child star
If "Splash" seems vaguely familiar, you must be among the 3 million or so who tuned in earlier this year to watch the Fox special "Stars in Danger: The High Dive." Its disastrous
ratings earned headlines such as "Fox Diving Show Belly Flops."
So why is ABC airing a show based on an idea that has already failed miserably? Sadly, it's at least partly because celebrity diving shows have been hits in Germany and the Netherlands. Many of the biggest reality series ("Survivor," "Big Brother") were popular abroad before infecting our shores. In the imi-
tative world of reality
television, what works overseas seems more important than what American viewers like, or don't like.
The old showbiz question "Will it play in Peoria?" has been replaced with, "Hey, it worked in Utrecht." No wonder so many viewers seem alienated from network television.
---It's official. Nobody watches NBC. Now that "The Biggest Loser" has ended, "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice" is that sad network's most popular show. What does it say when two of the "Apprentice" all-stars (Dennis Rodman and Omarosa) appear (on different nights) on "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" (10 p.m., OWN).
---"How We Invented the World" (9 p.m., Discovery) examines how seemingly unconnected events result in technical innovation.
---TV-themed DVDs available include "Quin- cy, M.E.: Season Five."
---Justin Timberlake hosts "The iHeartRadio Album Release Party" (8 p.m., CW).
---Spencer puts her best foot forward on "Pretty Little Liars" (9 p.m., ABC Family, TV-14).
---Clark and Owen collaborate to find the murderer of an informer on "Golden Boy" (10 p.m., CBS).
---Eileen's daughter may emerge as an angel on "Smash" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14). This series moves to Saturday nights in April.
---A rabid stranger offers a whiff of zombie culture on "Body of Proof" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
---Boyd and the Detroit mob believe they have Raylan cornered on "Justi fied" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).
---"Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" (10 p.m., HBO) profiles Mike Tyson.
An eccentric student (Jason Schwartzman) and a world-weary millionaire (Bill Murray) vie for the attention of a teacher (Olivia Williams) in the 1998 comedy "Rush more" (8:30 p.m., Cinemax), directed by Wes Anderson.
---A Marine's widow asks for help on "NCIS" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
---The season ends for "Betty White's Off Their Rockers" (8:30 p.m., NBC).
---The mysteries of Idaho on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Shaun White guest stars on "Go On" (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
---Jess comes clean on "New Girl" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---A district attorney tries a new approach on "Beauty and the Beast" (9 p.m., CW, r).
---Nanny woes on "The New Normal" (9:30 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
---Birthday blues on "The Mindy Project" (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---Rachel Maddow is scheduled on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central, r).
---Kristen Stewart and Glenn Howerton appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r).
---Steve Carell, Ross Mathews and Sarah Tiana are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!).
---Jon Favreau sits down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central, r).
---Mikaela Shiffrin and Garbage appear on "Late Show With David Letter man" (11:35 p.m., CBS).
---Jay Leno welcomes Jenna Fischer and Black Prairie on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).
---Gerard Butler and
Vanessa Hudgens appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).
---Selena Gomez, David Steinberg and Pinback visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Michelle Monoghan on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at kevin.tvguy@g mail.com.