1) Football season-openers, 8:20 p.m. ET Thursday and Sunday, NBC. This is what we need now – the fun and zest of pro football. It starts with the champion Kansas City Chiefs, hosting the team (Houston Texans) they beat to get to the Super Bowl (shown here). On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Rams (9-7 last year) host the Dallas Cowboys (8-8). All the other teams play earlier on Sunday or in ESPN’s doubleheader on Monday. And after a slow first week, college football will have a fairly busy line-up on Saturday.
2) “American Ninja Warrior” season-opener, 8-10 p.m. today, NBC. Here’s another fresh burst of action. After a late start, “Ninja” (usually a summer show) will sprawl across the fall … just as “Big Brother” and “Love Island” will for CBS. Like those two, it uses a “bubble,” keeping everyone in one place. Instead of tryouts around the country, it does everything at America’s Center in St. Louis. Some 150 people will tackle the six-obstacle qualifier. Ultimately, eight will race up the Power Tower.
3) “Holey Moley” finale, 8 p.m. Thursday, ABC. While lots of serious competition begins on NBC, a sillier one concludes on ABC. This has been a miniature-golf tournament, filled with such challenges as Putter Ducky, Frankenputt and Gopher It. Now the 12 weekly winners collide, going for the $250,000 championship. This has been a ratings hit, so ABC won’t drop it at that. At 9 p.m., it will start a two-part special (concluding Sept. 17), “HoleytMoley II: The Sequel: The Special: Unhinged, Part One.”
4) “Masterpiece: Van der Volk” debut 9 p.m. Sunday, PBS. In the stuttering start of the new TV season, this is important – the first new scripted show on a broadcast network. It’s a winner, with compelling characters and a smartly entwined set of plot lines. Van der Volk is a handsome chap – blonde hair, blue eyes – in Amsterdam, solving crimes with some quirky assistants. We see the first one happen, but don’t know why. Getting to the answer takes him through complexities of art, politics and romance.
5) “Jade-eyed Leopard,” 8 p.m. ET today, Nat Geo Wild, rerunning at 11. For three decades, Dereck and Beverley Joubert have been filming African wildlife; they’ve won an Emmy and other awards, while combining beautiful pictures with intelligent narration. This one (narrated by Jeremy Irons) follows a young leopard; it helps launch the 10th “Big Cat Week,” Monday through Friday, including a new “Savage Kingdom” season, from 8-10 p.m. ET (rerunning at 11) on Tuesday through Thursday.
6) “Tell Me a Story,” 9 p.m. Tuesday, CW. All three stories reach high-intensity. Hannah (a combat vet) and her brother are on the run, lugging cash that crooks want. Jordan (crumbling mentally) has seen one robber kill himself and seeks the others. Kayla has broken up with her lover (and high school teacher), who doesn’t take rejection well. “Story” isn’t for everyone: It’s fiercely violent, from gunfire to Hannah’s brutal fight scene. But it’s involving and well-acted, especially by James Wolk as Jordan.
7) “Transplant,” 10 p.m. Tuesday, NBC. Last week’s terrific opener set us up: Bashir was a doctor in Syria who fled to Canada with his little sister. Rejected by hospitals, he was working in a restaurant when a tragedy struck. One person he rescued happened to be the medical chief, who promptly hired him. Still, there are steep problems – unpaid rent, an undocumented friend and something else: The makeshift methods he used to heal rebels in Aleppo are viewed harshly in this by-the-book hospital.
8) “Nova” season-opener, 8-10 p.m. Wednesday, PBS. Here is PBS at its best. Taking an impenetrable subject (the editing of genes), it makes it easy to understand – and even compelling, in a science-fiction way. It also makes it warmly human. We meet David Sanchez, 17, smart and stricken by sickle-cell disorder. And Jennifer Doudna, the Berkeley biochemist who found ways – explained via animation – to improve genes. Will this be in time for David? Where is the ethical line? It’s a compelling subject.
9) 9/11 documentaries, all day Friday, History. A 21-hour marathon marks the 19th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack. It starts with the aftermath – rebuilding the site (7 a,m.) and finding the flag that was hoisted there (8). Then come accounts of the attack; “Escape From the Tower,” at 4 p,m., and “102 Minutes that Changed America,” at 6, are especially compelling. They are reruns, but at 8 and 9 p.m. are new hours viewing other planes – one that hit the Pentagon, the other that crashed in a field.
10) “Coastal Elites,” 8-9:30 p.m. Saturday, HBO. The pandemic can be fun, with the right script. Paul Rudnick (“Addams Family Values,” “In and Out”) wrote about social distancing, filmed in a distanced way, with five monologs. Kaitlyn Dever is a youg nurse who flew from Wyoming to help COVID patients; Bette Midler is someone older and angrier. Also, there’s an actor (Dan Levy) conferencing his therapist … a rich kid (Issa Rae) … and an internet star (Sarah Paulson) doing “Mindful Meditations.”