THE CHOPPING BLOCK. 8 p.m. tomorrow, Channel 10.

IF NBC WERE in the restaurant business, the way contestants in "The Chopping Block" hope to be, it might be serving day-old bread.

If not crumbs swept from the floors of the other networks.

Which is why, no matter what Donald Trump would like us to believe, the Peacock's not at the top of most viewers' menus when it comes to unscripted TV.

No shame there: Lots of viewers worry that "reality" is ruining television. I'd argue, though, that what really hurts NBC is its penchant for reheating other networks' successes.

Fox hit big with "American Idol." NBC answered with "America's Got Talent."

ABC scored with "The Bachelor." NBC countered with a string of bad dating shows, the most recent of which, "Momma's Boys," made even "The Bachelor" look classy.

CBS long ago won immunity from talk of aging viewers with "Survivor." NBC's reportedly considering reviving a U.S. version of "I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here" - a series ABC abandoned six years ago.

Fox has "Hell's Kitchen," where a potty-mouthed Scotsman named Gordon Ramsay whips would-be chefs into shape, and "Kitchen Nightmares," where he does the same for failing restaurateurs. (And NBC sibling Bravo has "Top Chef.")

Starting tomorrow, NBC forces its way into the kitchen with "The Chopping Block," where Marco Pierre White, one of Ramsay's old bosses and his successor in the British version of "Hell's Kitchen," slices and dices his way - metaphorically speaking - through eight teams vying for $250,000 to open their own restaurant.

One pair, Philadelphia's Angie Brown and her daughter, Samantha Johnson, recently opened Soul in Chestnut Hill, which isn't mentioned in the show. For now, all you need to know is that Brown is the kind of character "reality" shows add for spice.

Johnson, who in the premiere gets the same short shrift as the rest of the eight non-chefs, is a former Miss Pennsylvania USA, and according to NBC, had a brain tumor removed in 2007.

Even more interesting, considering the show's title: a contestant who years ago lost several fingers to a food processor.

The show's format will seem plenty familiar to anyone who's seen "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares." But what about White, whose temper's advertised to be as hot as Ramsay's?

"Reality" show contestants are used to cowering before people with British accents by now, but White's the first torturer whose hair I feared might find its way into the food.

I get that he's too busy to shave - but shouldn't he be wearing a hair net?

Though perhaps slightly more rational than his Fox counterpart, who's increasingly becoming a caricature of himself, White's given to ponderous pronouncements that make every decision on "The Chopping Block" sound like a matter of life and death.

Instead of mere garnish for a dish we've been offered before.

Ghost riders come here

You won't find "paranormal investigator," much less "ghost hunter," listed among the occupations tracked in the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' "Occupational Outlook Handbook."

Yet those who claim to be able to monitor those things that go bump in the night - and tell you which ones might be just mice - appear to be part of a growing profession, at least on cable TV.

A&E has its "Paranormal State" (10 p.m. Mondays), in which Penn State students investigate hauntings, and plans later this year to add "Paranormal Cops," which will follow Chicago police officers who moonlight on the ghost beat.

Meanwhile, the Sci Fi Channel's "Ghost Hunters" spun off into "Ghost Hunters International" a while back, adding foreign travel to the short list of perks for a job that necessarily involves a lot of night work.

But as the original opens its fifth season (9 p.m. tomorrow, Sci Fi), members of New England-based TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) are checking out some of our local haunts, with visits to Hannum House, a home built in 1695 in Glen Mills, and to the Betsy Ross House in Old City.

"Ghost Hunters" doesn't seem interested in debunking the Ross legend but is intrigued by reports of odd disturbances - one of which is supposed to have sent a former director climbing out the window, and, appropriately enough, onto the flagpole.

My DVD screener having become eerily frozen just at the moment TAPS members were reporting to the current director, Lisa Acker Moulder, I can't really tell you what's going on down at 239 Arch St.

But whether or not you believe in ghosts, it's hard not to be amused by these doggedly earnest investigators, who converse in the same self-conscious way as the plumbers and electricians do on "This Old House," even when they're trying to raise the dead. *

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