1) MTV Music Video Awards, 8 p.m. today (Monday), MTV, BET, CMT, VH1, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Comedy Central, Paramount. Assembling a mega-list of stars; MTV lets its sister networks simulcast the show, then reruns it at 10:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Taylor Swift (who ties Ariana Grande with 12 nominations) does two songs; Missy Elliott (shown here), who gets the Video Vanguard award, does a medley. Also performing: Lil Nas X, Jonas Brothers, H.E.R., Normani, Lizzo, Bad Bunny, Shawn Mendes with Camila Cabello, more.
2) “Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music,” 9-11 p.m. Friday, PBS. Here’s music that’s the opposite of the MTV sound … or is it? We hear “Blue Moon of Kentucky” from Bill Monroe (in 1947), from Elvis Presley (on the flip side of his first record in ’54) and from a modern band in Japan. We see high-octane fiddlers and pickers.“It’s a huge, powerful sound,” says music professor Daroll Anger; it brings “explosive creativity,” said Chris Thile, a musician. And it’s done by charming, downhome people.
3) Football, ABC and beyond. Yes, college football is back … even before some of the college students get back. Cable had a couple stray games last Saturday, but now it gets busy on Thursday (starting at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN with UCLA at Cincinnati) and Friday (starting at 6 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network with Rice at Army). Then ABC leads the weekly Saturday splurge. It has Mississippi at Memphis at noon ET, second-ranked Alabama hosting Duke at 3:30 p.m. and then Oregon at Auburn at 7:30 p.m.
4) Finales, 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, cable. Three scripted shows wrap up. First is the “mid-season finale” for “Ambitions” (Oprah Winfrey Network); fueled by ambition, Robin Givens tries to destroy a fellow lawyer. Then come season-finales: “Yellowstone” (Wednesday, Paramount) has Kevin Costner desperate to save his grandson, who may have been taken by Malcolm Beck. “Queen of the South” (Thursday, USA) has Alice Braga ready to solidify a deal and to take down an enemy.
5) “Bring the Funny,” 10 p.m. Tuesday, NBC. Unlike previous comedy competitions, this 10-week series mixes genres. It has standup, sketch and “variety” — a category that in this show has ranged from a purple puppet to a guy in a robot costume. As the semi-finals begin, the contestants (some quite funny) are equally distributed: With three episodes left, there are four stand-ups comics, four sketch groups and four variety acts. Jeff Foxworthy, Chrissy Teigen and Kenan Thompson are the judges.
6) “NCIS: New Orleans,” 10 p.m. Tuesday and Sunday, CBS. For two summer months, this was on the shelf. Now it makes up for lost time by having two reruns a week. In its regular Tuesday spot, Ginny Young (Pride’s assistant) escapes from kidnappers, after learning about an organ-harvesting scheme. And in a bonus spot on Sundays (now that “Instinct” is gone), there’s a deadly car explosion in the French Quarter; the team questions a professor and student who are connected to a protest group.
7) “BH90210,” 9 p.m. Wednesday, Fox. The second-half of the six-week series begins, with “Beverly Hills, 90210” people playing fictional versions of themselves, trying to reboot the show. This time, a script-reading goes badly; the actors clash while trying a quick rewrite. There are more complications: Shannen Doherty has second thoughts about doing the show … Brian Austin Green learns a secret about Zach, the obsessed fan … And Jennie Garth reluctantly lets her teen daughter try out for an acting role.
8) “Jay Leno’s Garage” season-opener, 10 p.m. Wednesday, CNBC. Kevin Hart is proud of his 1976 Bronco … at first. “I bought one for my wife,” Leno says. “She takes it to book club.” It’s time to see some real off-road vehicles – from a $750,000 hurricane-hunter to armored cars with bullet-proof glass; one can jam drones, electrify intruders and hit a pursuing car with smoke or a blinding light. This is contrived and semi-scripted, but entertaining … and a segment with military veterans is also uplifting.
9) “Reef Break,” 9 and 10 p.m. Thursday, ABC. In a slow week for others, ABC gives us two new hours of blue-sky adventure. Poppy Montgomery is Cat, a former thief who’s a crime-solving hero on the island where she grew up. In the first hour, Petra — the surfer who has long hated Cat — has been kidnapped; Cat tries to free her. In the second, it’s her birthday and the entire island plans a celebration. Soon, of course, things go wrong: Cat is ill and, ABC says, is facing her most dangerous situation yet.
10) “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (2019), 8 p.m. Saturday and 7:05 p.m. Sunday, HBO. It’s been a splendid stretch for Melissa McCarthy, going from her original speciality (comedy) to subtle drama. She’s doing that now in theaters, teaming with Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish for “The Kitchen,” a potent drama about crime wives who take control. And she does it here, in the true story of a writer whose career was fading; she began writing and selling letters, supposedly from literary superstars.