"Half the Sky"
Monday, October 1, at 9pm on PBS
PBS' four-hour TV and transmedia special about inspiring women around the world who are working against sex trafficking, forced prostitution, gender-based violence and maternal mortality airs in two parts, with the second showing at the same time October 2. Inspired by the book of the same name from Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "Half the Sky" includes a social media campaign, a Facebook-hosted game component, mobile apps and educational videos. The on-air portion features celebs America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde, who join Kristof and WuDunn to travel the globe telling stories of women who are creating change.
"30 for 30": "Broke": Broadcast Premiere
Tuesday, October 2, at 8pm on ESPN
ESPN's excellent sports documentary series "30 for 30" returns for a new season with "Broke," a new film from "Cocaine Cowboys" director Billy Corben. "Broke" looks at the astounding fact that the majority of pro athletes end up broke within a few years of retirement, thanks to medical bills, bad investments, freeloaders and an inability to adjust their lifestyles. Corben interviews stars such as Jamal Mashburn, Bernie Kosar and Andre Rison and pulls some surprising confessions from them pertaining to the economic realities of life out of the spotlight. This "30 for 30" round, ESPN also is premiering a series of sports-doc shorts in conjunction with Grantland -- check out the first one, about the teen years of Arnold Schwarzenegger, here.
The First 2012 Presidential Debate
Wednesday, October 3, at 9pm on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, Fox News, MSNBC and NBC
In the ultimate reality-show competition (yes, we know that's a horrifying way to put it), President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will discuss domestic policy in the first of three debates between the two candidates. Former "PBS NewsHour" anchor Jim Lehrer will moderate and open each of the debate's six segments with a question to which both candidates will respond. In addition to airing live across the networks, the debate will also be streamed online.
Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) and the "TGS with Tracy Jordan" crew are back for one more season, an abbreviated one that will run only 13 episodes but that will include an hour-long finale. While "30 Rock" may not be quite as sharp as it was in its first few seasons, it's still one of the funniest shows on television, and one that's been a landmark in terms of its female lead and the edgier type of comedy that it's helped make space for at the networks. It's going to be sad to see Liz and Jack leave the air, but Fey's certainly going to be back on the small screen soon -- last week she signed a four-year deal with Universal Television.
The very funny British comedian (and sometime actor who starred in the 2011 SXSW film "Black Pond") Simon Amstell gets his first stand-up special. Amstell, whose one-man show "Numb" had a five-week run in New York this summer, is being tipped as an up-and-comer to watch by various comedy higher-ups. Vegan, openly gay and bearing a vague resemblance to Jesse Eisenberg, Amstell has a style that's far from brash -- the New York Times describes him as having the flavor of “a young Woody Allen." This one-hour special was taped in 2010 in Dublin.
Also worth a look: "Gallery Girls," the latest irresistible reality show about people you love to hate, ends its first season on Bravo Monday, October 1, at 10pm; if you ever doubted they could actually make an entire show based on musical chairs, well, The CW's "Oh Sit!" ends Wednesday, October 3, at 8pm having already been renewed for a second season; and the venerable Hall of Fame-destined reality show "Jersey Shore" begins its final season on MTV Thursday, October 4, at 10pm -- and tears are running down our orange cheeks.