North to south, night of cops and comics

There's no "Picket Fences" on tonight, which would seem to make tonight's viewing choices painfully simple: Watch "The X-Files" on Fox, then turn to NBC for "Homicide: Life on the Street." But, as is so often the case this season, one quality show attracts another, so tonight HBO launches the season premiere of "Dennis Miller" -- right opposite "Homicide."

* "In the Heat of the Night: A Matter of Justice." (9 p.m.-11 p.m., WBAL, channel 11) -- This first of four final "In the Heat of the Night" made-for-TV movies is the reason there's no "Picket Fences" tonight. George C. Scott guests with series star Carroll O'Connor, who has clocked seven seasons on this show already. Who would have thought? CBS.


* "The X-Files." (9 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- "X-Files" fans who caught the promos for tonight's episode already know to expect the best, and the worst. The best, because this looks like one of the creepiest episodes ever. The worst, because it looks like Scully (Gillian Anderson) is in for the kind of brutal medical treatment not endured by a heroic lead since Dustin Hoffman got unnecessary dental work in "Marathon Man." In other words, viewer discretion is advised -- but viewers enthusiastic about the horror genre are advised not to miss this. David Duchovny also stars. Fox.

* "Homicide: Life on the Street." (10 p.m.-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- I've previewed the entire episode of this (not just the promos), and can vouch for it as a thoroughly engrossing, surprising and tense installment. With two episodes of this series and "NYPD Blue" unveiled so far this season, it's "Homicide" hands down. Don't miss it. NBC.


* "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." (12:35 a.m.-1:35 a.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- Since Conan O'Brien was gracious enough to appear on Tom Snyder's CNBC show after learning that Mr. Snyder would be his new late-night competition, Mr. Snyder tonight returns the favor and appears as a guest on "Late Night." NBC.


* "Northwest Mounted Police." (9:30 p.m.-11:40 p.m., AMC) -- There are enough loyal viewers of "Due South" that the younger fans might want to know what sort of Canadian cop the series is both honoring and lampooning. Here's the real deal: a 1940 Cecil B. DeMille film starring Gary Cooper as a Royal Canadian Mountie.

* "Dennis Miller." (10 p.m.-10:30 p.m., HBO) -- By saying "Homicide" was not to be missed, I didn't mean to suggest that "Dennis Miller," which recently won an Emmy for its writing, was to be missed. This is one of those times it pays to have paid for a VCR.