Prime time is right for Barker

Do not adjust your television set. You have not entered a time warp. But it may seem that way because at least two networks appear to have set tonight's clock back to 1972. And you wonder why the networks are losing young viewers to "The Osbournes."

1972 was the year that Bob Barker began hosting "The Price is Right." Tonight on CBS, the ageless game show host presents the first of six special episodes honoring the men and women of America's armed forces. These specials feature contestants drawn from all four military branches, beginning this evening with an all-Navy audience. Subsequent shows will appear on five consecutive Thursday nights, from May 30 to June 27.

Barker also hosts The 29th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards (8 p.m., CBS). Daytime television's best soaps and gabfests, including "The View," "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," and "Life with Regis and Kelly" vie for top honors in a show telecast from Madison Square Garden. Susan Lucci has been nominated once again, one of the 21 nominations for her show "All My Children."

� Fox also returns to 1972 with "MASH: 30th Anniversary Reunion" (7 p.m. Fox). There are several odd things about this nostalgia fest. For one thing, the show's 30th anniversary will not arrive until September. And why is Fox feting a CBS drama? Fox network shows didn't even appear on television until the 1987 season. Maybe they didn't think the world was ready for the 15th anniversary of "21 Jump Street" or the 10th anniversary of the "Ben Stiller Show." Come to think of it, a glance back at those shows might be more popular and timely than most retrospectives. This "MASH" special isn't the first example of multi-network cross-pollination. Earlier this year NBC celebrated "Roots," the greatest ratings success in ABC history.

Unlike the pathetic quasi-"Cheers" reunion staged a few weeks back, this "MASH" alumni meeting will include most of the original cast, including Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit and others. Don't get me wrong, "MASH" was a great and innovative series. But I could easily wait another 30 years for a chance to see Jamie Farr.

� What do you call a post-modern send-up of a post-modern send-up? I'd call it "SpongeBob SquarePants House Party" (8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon). The popular underwater cartoon celebrates itself with a live-action parody of old cartoon shows. "House Party" features host Patchy the Pirate (Tom Kenny), who introduces a "SpongeBob" cartoon while putting on a wild party.

Tonight's other highlights

� Scheduled on a two-hour episode of "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): the kinky secret life of a "loving husband" and doctor accused of murdering his wife.

� Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz star in the 1994 comedy "The Mask" (7 p.m., WB).

� Al Pacino affects a Cuban accent in his role as an unhinged drug dealer in director Brian DePalma's ultra-violent 1983 drama "Scarface" (8 p.m., A&E;).

� Eric Stoltz guest stars as a priest accused of sexual abuse on the season finale of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).


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