What all the TV-loving kids will be talking about this week …
THE SHEEN FACTOR
First, Charlie Sheen gets killed off on "Two and a Half Men" on Monday. Later that night, he lives on — and gets some pointed reminders about the many ways in which he's lived his life to the craziest — as the subject of Comedy Central's latest roast. The question of the night revolves around which Sheen-related show will be funnier, but, as is always the case with the unpredictable actor, the bigger question is whether or not he can salvage his career.
His pre-roast talk show tour included several apologetic remarks about the very public, bitter way his stint with "Men" ended. And he was positively contrite on the Emmys Sunday night. But is the new, self-proclaimed calmer Sheen the real deal, or is this just a brief respite before the crazy train starts chugging along again?
THE X FACTOR
The state of Simon Cowell's face has sparked more chatter than his new show in the past week, but there's certainly a lot riding on "The X Factor" premiere.
Namely, Cowell was so often credited as the main reason behind the success of "American Idol," and then the show went and had a pretty successful season without him; so, can he spark a new TV phenomenon, with basically the same kind of show, but without Seacrest, Randy Jackson and the rest of the "Idol" gang?
He's got Paula Abdul back by his side for "The X Factor" judges' table, and happily, they jumped right back into their roles as The Bickersons. But will music exec L.A. Reid and pop star Nicole Scherzinger measure up to the rest of the "Idol" judges' bench? Can newbie host Steve Jones keep the show flowing with the skill of Ryan Seacrest? Will viewers tune in for yet another talent search series, after "Idol," "The Voice," "America's Got Talent," "The Sing-off," etc.?
And, "The Voice" offered renewed hope that, despite some lackluster contestants in the last few seasons of "Idol," America is still rife with talented singers who have star potential … but will "The X Factor" turn up anyone truly worthy of its whopping $5 million grand prize?
THE "REAL HOUSEWIVES" DRAMA MAMAS
It's official: the "Real Housewives of New York City" cast is smaller by four. Jill Zarin, Alex McCord, Kelly Bensimon and Cindy Barshop will not return for the series' fifth season, tentatively set to air next spring.
But Bravo's confirmation of the cast shakeup that had been rumored for weeks is hardly the only news this week from the franchise that continues to prove that real life is even stranger than reality TV. In the continuing creepiness that is the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," Monday night's new episode will feature even more of the marital meltdown of Taylor Armstrong, but again, without showing any footage of her late husband, Russell.
And if all that feels like something you just shouldn't be watching on TV, it's nothing compared to Taylor Armstrong's Tuesday interview with Nancy O'Dell on "Entertainment Tonight," in which Armstrong discusses Armstrong and the physical abuse claims she's made against him, just a little more than a month after his shocking suicide.
Finally, "Real Housewives" daddy, Bravo exec Andy Cohen, has been mostly mum on the topic of the "Beverly Hills" happenings, but his live post-"Housewives" talk show, "Watch What Happens: Live," returns for a new season on Sunday night. And between outspoken guests and those call-in viewers, there's a good chance someone's going to corner Mr. Cohen into commenting on all the "Housewives" hubbub.
BIG NAMES ON THE SMALL SCREEN
The new TV season is in full swing this week, and some big names and familiar faces pop up to usher in the new year. Ray Romano, fresh off the cancelation of his underappreciated TNT dramedy "Men of a Certain Age," returns to the family comedy scene when he reunites with his "Everybody Loves Raymond" wife Patricia Heaton on the hour-long Wednesday season premiere of "The Middle."
More comedy goodness: James Spader is new Sabre CEO Robert California in the first post-Steve Carell season premiere of "The Office" on Thursday, the same night Patricia Clarkson guest stars as Ron Swanson's first wife, Tammy, on the "Parks and Recreation" season opener. Meanwhile, "Cheers," "Becker," "Bored to Death" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" funny guy Ted Danson switches to drama as he replaces Laurence Fishburne as new head honcho D.B. Russell on "CSI," which moves to Wednesdays from the Thursday night timeslot it lived in for more than a decade.
Grab a pint of Ben & Jerry's Schweddy Balls to celebrate the 37th season premiere of "Saturday Night Live," because Alec Baldwin — whose Pete Schweddy "SNL" character inspired the Ben & Jerry concoction — officially becomes the celeb who's hosted "SNL" most. His season-premiere gig will mark his 16th appearance as "SNL," host, meaning he surpasses fellow funny guy Steve Martin, who has hosted the show 15 times.
Baldwin's musical guest for his record-setting evening will be Radiohead, while the Oct. 1 show will be hosted by newbie Emmy winner, and "Mike & Molly" and "Bridesmaid" star, Melissa McCarthy (with musical guest Lady Antebellum) and the show's holiday episode, on Dec. 17, will be hosted by former "SNL" cast member Jimmy Fallon, with musical guest Michael Bublé.