DANCING WITH THE STARS. 9 tonight, Channel 6.

TOMORROW NIGHT on Fox, we'll learn whether a guy named David can possibly become an "American Idol."

(I'm guessing yes.)

But before David Archuleta or David Cook is sentenced to a contractually designated period of indentured servitude - and at least one bad album - there's a bigger question to be settled:

Can a woman possibly win ABC's "Dancing With the Stars"?

OK, it's not Clinton vs. Obama, whose struggle to make presidential history occupies so much of the front of the paper these days. But isn't this the place you come to escape talk of hope and experience?

There hasn't been a female winner on "Dancing" since Season 1's Kelly Monaco stumbled to a first-place finish that had many fans crying foul (and ABC revamping the voting process in hopes of making things a little clearer).

And while the men's streak since has probably owed as much to the fact that less is expected of the male "stars" - whose professional partners sometimes literally dance rings around them - it's hard not to discount the possibility of an audience voting bias in favor of cute guys.

But is there really a guy out there cute enough to outweigh the expertise of Kristi Yamaguchi, the Olympic gold medalist whose off-ice moves made her the ringer to end all ringers?

I'm afraid there might be.

Certainly when the undeniably adorable Cristián de la Fuente, dancing hurt, left his shirt unbuttoned for the samba, I worried.

And then there's Jason Taylor: cute, tall and the first contestant this season to have actually beaten Kristi's scores.

It's Yamaguchi, though, who's set a show record for the number of weeks she's emerged with top scores (you wouldn't believe the stats they keep on Wikipedia) and who most of those weeks appeared to be dancing in another competition altogether.

If she can't win, they might as well make Season 7 an all-boy affair. It would be worth it just to see guys for once forced to dance backward.

And in heels.

Saving David A.

I haven't forgotten the Davids, the latest rivals to divide the two "Idol"-watchers in our household.

My younger son, whose fondness for David Archuleta appears to be as deep as his early (and ongoing) devotion to Clay Aiken and Taylor Hicks, doesn't care to talk about my preference for David Cook.

Good thing I have a column, right?

I could yammer on about the maturity and musicianship of the 25-year-old Cook, who only gradually emerged from the pack in the early weeks of Season 7, demonstrating just the kind of perceived growth "Idol" fans tend to appreciate even as his 2006 CD was topping the download charts on Amazon.

But really, it comes down to the look the younger David's had too often this season, as if someone were holding one of his loved ones hostage backstage while he sang.

He has an extraordinary voice for a youngster, but sometimes it's impossible to tell if he even knows what he's singing.

Without being there, I can't tell you if the stories we've all heard about his father are true, but I know an exhausted child when I see one - and I'd like to see "American Idol" push its minimum age back up to 18.

Not just because avoiding minors would mean avoiding even the possibility of a manipulative parent running amok backstage, but because a successful recording career is built on more than a voice and a face. Waiting a year or two shouldn't kill any real singer's chances - and might keep preteen girls and their grandmothers from zeroing in on someone who's not ready for the day-to-day demands of stardom.

It's too late now, though, for the young Archuleta, who at this point is probably better off winning than losing.

He'll be 18 on Dec. 28, either way, but as a winner, he'll be 18 with a very pushy record company behind him.

I'll admit I'd been looking forward to reading stories about Jeff Archuleta's first encounters with recording mogul Clive Davis. But now it sounds as if Davis, who might well have found Cook as troublesome as Kelly Clarkson when it comes to knowing his own mind and his own music, won't necessarily be getting the opportunity of working with either of the Davids.

Reportedly sidelined during a shakeup at Sony BMG, he might no longer be in a position to protect David A. from anyone.

Once more, with sound

If you tuned in to the CW's "Everybody Hates Chris" and "The Game" on Sunday, you probably wondered what was up with the sound.

Because of problems with the audio feed, WPSG (Channel 57) will rerun both shows, starting with "Chris," at 8 p.m. Saturday, a station spokeswoman said yesterday. *

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