1) “The Voice” season-opener, 8-10 p.m. today and Tuesday, NBC. A perennial ratings-leader returns, with its star and his loved-interest. The star is Blake Shelton; in 18 editions, he’s had seven winners and 11 runners-up – sometimes both at the same time. His life partner is Gwen Stefani (they’re shown here), with no winners in four previous seasons. The other two judges have started strong: Kelly Clarkson has had three wins in five seasons; John Legend has had one in three. The auditions begin, with Carson Daly as the host.
2) “The Conners” season-opener, 9 p.m. Wednesday, ABC. Other shows try to tackle the pandemic, but none are as perfectly suited as this one. Since its start (as “Roseanne”) 32 years ago, it’s been about a blue-collar family, just getting by. Now everything is wobbling – Dan’s drywalling business, Jackie’s restaurant and Darlene’s local magazine. Becky struggles to raise her baby, with its father (Emilio) secretly back in town. The result manages to deftly juggle laughs, despair and brief bursts of warmth.
3) Presidential debate, 9-10:30 p.m. ET Thursday, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and news channels. It’s the second and final match-up, gaining extra importance after the recent flurry of events: With Donald Trump recovering from COVID, the commission planned a virtual debate from separate locations. Trump refused … Joe Biden booked an ABC town hall … the debate was canceled … and Trump booked an NBC town hall. Now – barring another change – the two have their last direct exchange.
4) World Series and more, Fox. This is a mega-sports week for Fox, pushing everything else – “Masked Singer,” debate, wrestling — aside. The World Series is expected to be at 8 p.m. ET (with pre-game show at 7:30) on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and (if needed) Sunday. The other days go to pro football: At 5 p.m. ET today is a Chiefs-Bills make-up game; at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, it’s the Giants and Eagles. There also daytime football on Saturday (the Big Ten finally starts) and on Sunday.
5) “Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10 p.m. today, ABC. “The Voice” gets attention, but ABC strikes back with its star: When Derek Hough was one of the show’s pro dancers, he had a huge streak – six championships in 14 editions. Tonight, he does his first dancing – a duet with fiancee Hayley Erbert – since returning to the show as a judge. Meanwhile, 11 of the 15 “stars” remain; ousted so far are basketball’s Charles Oakley, animal activist Carole Baskin and actors Anne Heche and Jesse Metcalfe.
6) “American Masters: Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip,” 9-10:30 p.m. Tuesday, PBS. Here is an epic life, filled with extremes. The son of low-income Jewish immigrants, Winchell left school in 6th grade for vaudeville. He became a newspaper columnist, mixing gossip and news. He was early in attacking Hitler and supporting the New Deal and civil rights. Later, though, he boosted Joe McCarthy. With 50 million readers and 20 million radio listeners, he struck with a blend of insults and innuendo.
7) More documentaries, PBS. This is a great non-fiction week on PBS. “Independent Lens” (10 p.m. today) has “Feels Good Man.” the fascinating story of a cartoonist whose internet chaeracter, Pepe the Frog, was co-opted by hate groups. “Nova” (8 p.m. Wednesday) has pandas. And “American Masters” has opposite profiles – Winchell on Tuesday and a genial look at Michael Tilson Thomas at 9 p.m. Friday. Once a piano prodigy, Thomas became an innovative conductor in San Francisco and Miami.
8) “Black-ish” season-opener, 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, ABC. Like “The Conners” (its lead-in), this turns topical. It goes back to the start of the pandemic, with Bow (a doctor) considered a hero. Soon, the enthusiasm wears thin … especially when she learns someone is violating the shutdown rules. That’s in a night that also has “The Goldbergs” open its season with two half-hours. At 8 p.m., there’s a take-off on the film “Airplane.” At 8:30, Adam wrestles with the fact that he’s become cooler than his friends..
9) “Scream” (1996), 8-10:30 p.m. Sunday, CBS. For once, a teen horror film got it right A clever script by Kevin Williamson (“Dawson’s Creek”) was beautifully directed by Wes Craven, with a gifted young cast. Drew Barrymore has a great prologue; others include Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and Skeet Ulrich. That’s part of a Halloween-time movie line-up, ranging from Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960, 10 p.m. Tuesday, AMC) to Steve McQueen’s “The Blob” (1958, 6:30 ET Friday, Turner Classic Movies).
10) “The Undoing,” 9 p.m. Sunday, HBO. Here is the combination that scored with HBO’s heralded “Big Little Lies” – David E. Kelley adapting a novel into a mini-series starring Nicole Kidman. This time, she plays a therapist and author whose enviable life suddenly collapses. There’s a violent death and she finds she never really knew her husband (Hugh Grant). This opener arrives at the same time as the finale of PBS’ “Flesh and Blood.” Amid dark moments, we learn what happened at Vivien’s party.