2011 KIDS' CHOICE AWARDS
(Saturday, 8/7c, Nickelodeon) Take bets on who'll be slimed this year as Jack Black returns for his third go-round as host of the annual popularity contest for kid-oriented entertainment. It's the only place where you'll find two Jonas brothers (Joe and Nick) facing off against two Sprouse twins (Cole and Dylan) for Favorite TV Actor honors. Performing live: the Black Eyed Peas and Nick's own house band, the multi-nominated Big Time Rush. If your taste in awards shows is a little more irreverent, tune in a night earlier to E!'s The Soup Awards (Friday, 10/9c), a snarky salute to TV's wackiest moments. Community's Joel McHale hosts, with assists from Jon Cryer, RuPaul and co-stars Danny Pudi, Jim Rash and Alison Brie, among others. Who'll win the coveted "Outstanding Meltdown" award? You'll have to watch. You know you want to.
THE CIVIL WAR
(Sunday, 8/7c, PBS) Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the conflict that tore the nation apart, PBS presents an encore over five consecutive nights of one of its signature series: Ken Burns' landmark 1990 documentary epic, which uses personal narratives, compelling expert commentary (from the late Shelby Foote), music and evocative use of period photography to bring a painful chapter of American history alive. Nobody does it better than Burns, who has just announced he's working on his next sprawling battle chronicle: Vietnam, due in 2016.
(Sunday, 9/8c, Showtime) If you enjoyed The Tudors, you'll want to check out Showtime's latest historical romp bedecked with lavish, lurid pomp. Jeremy Irons dominates this juicy chronicle of devilish debauchery as the ghoulish Rodrigo Borgia, patriarch of a power-hungry family who bribes his way into the papacy while maintaining a mistress on the side. The skullduggery is non-stop, going for baroque as the Borgias scheme to protect their interests "by whatever means necessary." This is the sort of guilty pleasure that may require going to confession afterward.
(Sunday, 9/8c, AMC) Murder mysteries may seem commonplace on TV, but The Killing is anything but. This moody, mesmerizing season-long whodunit takes its time revealing the sinister layers and secrets behind the tragedy of a teenager's murder in perpetually rainy Seattle. (This is based on a hit Danish series, and the bleak Scandinavian tone translates perfectly.) Mireille Enos (Big Love) plays the pensive lead detective with a star-making intensity, and she's matched by Michelle Forbes (True Blood) as the victim's grieving mother. The Killing isn't exactly a thrill ride, but it promises to be an emotional roller coaster.