As you can imagine, I watch a lot of television. And I occasionally get cranky when I see highly paid writers rely on ancient plot devices. Let's take tonight's "Navy NCIS" (7 p.m., CBS), which involves an amnesia victim who may hold secrets about a terrorist plot. Yes, it's 2004, but amnesia still rears its ugly head.
Recently, some other gimmicky plots have arrived to replace amnesia in the hands of lazy writers. Have you ever noticed how many bachelor parties sitcom characters seem to attend? You can judge a show's vulgarity by the frequency of bachelor party episodes. "Rock Me Baby" (8 p.m., UPN) is one long bachelor party.
And no compendium of sitcom cliches is complete without the high school reunion. "I'm with Her" (7:30 p.m., ABC) trots out that tired story tonight, when the famous Alex attends Patrick's reunion in disguise. And, in a new twist on predictable plotting, "Bachelor" Bob Guiney shows up in a cameo.
- Norm and Cliff are back. Not for good, but they're back. Last night George Wendt launched his own reality series, and tonight, "Cheers" regular John Ratzenberger is host of "Made in America" (8 p.m., Travel). Both shows are on basic cable -- where everybody knows your name.
As the title implies, "Made" celebrates the factories and farms where unique products are still manufactured by Americans. He visits the folks who produce Welch's grape juice, the Monopoly board game, John Deere tractors and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
- Jeremy Irons was host of "Reporters at War" (7 p.m., Discovery Times), a powerful four-part series about the dangers faced by journalists covering conflicts from the trenches of World War I to the blood-stained corridors of the Palestine Hotel in downtown Baghdad.
Tonight's other highlights
- The sketch comedy "MADtv" (7 p.m.) joins the Comedy Central schedule.
- After an office worker goes on a shooting rampage, his son needs special attention on "The Guardian" (8 p.m., CBS).
- A new bidder emerges for the deadly virus on "24" (8 p.m., Fox).
- Cheech Marin guest stars as Maxine's new gardener on "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS).
- Undercover work on "Line of Fire" (9 p.m., ABC).
- Viewers who were born during the first season of "The Real World" (9 p.m., MTV) are almost old enough to join the cast. Participants on the 14th installment of the series play house in San Diego.
Jennifer Connelly appears on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Tom Cruise and Tori Amos on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).
Kevin Bacon and Viveca A. Fox are booked on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Michael Imperioli is on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).