Yes, celebrities actually have bills

Economic necessity rarely raises its ugly head on episodic television. How, exactly, did Kramer pay his bills on “Seinfeld”? Could Phoebe really get by as a freelance massage therapist on “Friends”?

Let’s face it: Television is an advertising medium, and sponsors don’t want viewers worrying about their phone bills. So I’m always surprised when a little financial reality sneaks into the fantasy world, as it does on tonight’s reality show “Ashley Paige: Bikini or Bust” (9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., TLC).

Paige is a bikini designer with an A-list clientele who lacks business skills, connections and, at times, basic common sense. In last week’s episodes, her designs were a triumph at a really big fashion show. She even got somebody, referred to as “George Clooney’s girlfriend,” to wear one. Her bikinis appear in glossy magazines. She should be the toast of the town.

But tonight she gets a call from her huge and scary landlord, “Big Daddy,” who reminds her that she owes him $4,000 and that he wants it the next day. He offers no hint of what he will do if she doesn’t come up with it, but when you look like “Big Daddy,” you don’t really have to. It’s interesting to note that all of his intimidating conversations begin with the phrase, “You know I love you.” Hollywood.

It’s hard to fear for the physical safety of anybody on a reality show. Nobody’s going to starve to death in front of the “Survivor” crew. But for all of the celebrity trappings, Paige’s predicament still has a ring of truth. All of the press clippings in the world don’t pay the rent, and her frustration at not having the business savvy or the connections to run her business smoothly may resonate with young artists and entrepreneurs just starting out.

But do starving artists watch television? And, closer to home, if appearing on “Bikini or Bust” helps Paige get her business act together, will she still be entertaining when she’s no longer a lovable mess?

¢ Brad Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) guest stars as a nightmare handyman on a new episode of “Monk” (8 p.m., USA). Garrett’s character appears after Adrian (Tony Shalhoub) buys a new house on a whim. At a crime scene, no less.

The episode is dedicated to the memory of Stanley Kamel, the late actor who played Monk’s long-suffering therapist, Dr. Charles Kroger. After painfully acknowledging Kroger’s death, Monk auditions a series of therapists who just don’t pass muster. It looks like a doctor played by Hector Elizondo may have a shot.

Tonight’s other highlights

¢ A jewel burglar without a ghost of a chance on “Ghost Whisperer” (7 p.m., CBS).

¢ Sci Fi now airs repeats of “Joan of Arcadia” (7 p.m., Sci Fi) at the same time it used to air on CBS, from 2003 to 2005.

¢ Rob Schneider stars in the 2001 comedy “The Animal” (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ A cowboy, a hairdresser and a cheerleading coach compete on “Dance Machine” (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ A father of four confronts his fear of dogs on “The Dog Whisperer” (8 p.m., National Geographic).

¢ A father’s desperation turns violent on “Flashpoint” (9 p.m., CBS).

¢ Scheduled on “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC): John Stossel talks about sex in America. For an hour.