Idris Elba

Play ball! Or, seeing that TV hardly rolls over for the World Series any more, should we be saying, "Play hardball?" The showdown between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers begins tonight (Fox, 7:30/et) from Busch Stadium in St. Louis. No matter how many innings the games go, it probably won't seem as long as some of these recent two-hour episodes of The X Factor.

That takes care of sports enthusiasts, but there's plenty else going on. Some highlights:

On the comedy front, NBC's little-show-that-could Up All Night (8/7c) goes into flashback mode for a classic childbirth-as-comedy episode, in which we wait patiently for control-freak Reagan's 18-page "birthing plan" to go awry, while Chris weighs giving up his law career for the daddy track. Ava, naturally, is so phobic about hospitals that she finds a way to make the couple's special day all about her. At least until Reagan lays panicked eyes on the gorgeous young doctor (Sam Page) stepping in to handle her delivery.

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Meanwhile, on ABC's more popular sitcom lineup, the night starts with The Middle (8/7c), which has been on fire lately, finding the Hecks contemplating a move to an apartment because their house has become even more ramshackle than usual. We also get the return of Sue's hilariously giddy "sort-of-ex-boyfriend" Brad, who joins her for a school skit on texting while driving. On Suburgatory (8:30/7:30c), recently (and thankfully) renewed for a full season, Dallas and the frightful Dalia move in with Tessa and George after a burglary spooks the 'burbs. And when Claire goes out on a "boys' night" with Mitchell and Cam on Modern Family (9/8c), she gets more than she bargained for when she encounters guest star Gilles Marini, who doesn't play for her brother's team.

Also getting the early pickup from ABC, guilty pleasure Revenge (10/9c) actually names this week's episode "Guilt," promising to show a more vulnerable side to Madeleine Stowe's ice-queen Victoria Grayson in the wake of another blow-up with spoiled daughter Charlotte. It sounds like the show is really getting its suds on, as Emily's first victim Lydia returns to the Hamptons with a vengeance. Another alert from the guilty-pleasure front: Though currently between seasons, ABC Family's breakout hit Pretty Little Liars airs a special prequel episode (8/7c) to kick off the channel's annual "13 Nights of Halloween" stunt. The episode takes fans back to the time when Alison still ruled the roost, with more tricks than treats in store for her BFFs Aria, Emily, Hanna and Spencer. [For gluttons, a Liars marathon begins airing at 11 am/10c, with the pilot episode airing after the prequel at 9/8c.]

Finale alert: TV's most twisted detective, BBC America's Luther (10/9c) wraps its second season — happily, there will be a third — with Emmy-nominated Idris Elba in rare form. "Look at me. Do I look like I'm joking?" he shouts at the psycho-of-the-week, who turns out to be twins wreaking random havoc on London by the throw of a dice. Doused in gasoline in a volatile cliffhanger, John Luther is absolutely no joke. He's also busy covering up his ward Jenny's murder of the loathsome Toby and compromising his fellow officers along the way. All in a disturbing day's work. Note to BBC: Four episodes are simply not enough.

So what else is on? ... On the guest-star watch, Seinfeld's Jason Alexander appears on NBC's Harry's Law (9/8c) as a teacher fired in a dispute over Darwinism. ... Homicide: Life on the Street's Isabella Hoffman arrives on CBS' Criminal Minds (9/8c) as Rossi's first wife, bearing bad news (is there any other kind on this show?). ... PBS' Nature (8/7c, check local schedules) kicks off its 30th season with a look at Radioactive Wolves and other wildlife that exist within the uninhabited 1,100-square-mile "exclusion zone" surrounding the contaminated landscape of Russia's Chernobyl nuclear disaster. ... Perhaps you'd rather spend time with feral hogs, in which case A&E presents the premiere of American Hoggers (10/9c), the latest and perhaps strangest docu-reality series spotlighting an unorthodox family business. Hoggers profiles the Campbells of Texas, who spend their days chasing wild hogs off of embattled ranches and farms. I'm hoping in a very special episode, they'll eventually set their sights on the Jersey Shore cast.

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