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November's TV ballot filled with great candidates

Aaron Barnhart
McClatchy Newspapers

Tony Shalhoub as Monk

I was going to make a joke about all the comedians and actors whose numbers were down and were likely to get canceled within a few days -- election humor, get it? -- but somehow this year it feels wrong to milk laughs out of a national day of decision.

Then again, TV is the great escape, right? The spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down? (See Colbert, Stephen.) And with November being the first big ratings period of the new season, you're sure to find a wealth of diversions on the tube at least 29 out of the 30 days.

"Hacking Democracy," 9 p.m. Thursday, HBO. The vast majority of electronic voting software comes from one company, whose spokesman swears that our votes are as safe and secure as a baby in a bundle. This documentary suggests otherwise.

"The Simpsons," 8 p.m. Sunday on Fox. The annual "Treehouse of Horrors" show concludes with a "War of the Worlds" parody that makes none-too-subtle reference to the current conflict in Iraq. While this has raised the hackles of some bloggers, it's not nearly as unsettling as an earlier bit in which Homer swallows homeless people for sustenance.

If you'd rather not watch election returns, Nov. 7 is the day that two TV classics are released on DVD. "The Best of Carson Volume 1" includes one of the earliest full episodes of "The Tonight Show" still around, and it's a beaut: the 1969 broadcast, featured in every anniversary show thereafter, where Carson barely kept order as George Gobel, Dean Martin and Bob Hope smoked and drank and ad-libbed hilariously. Also, the Edward R. Murrow program that people actually watched is released on shiny discs as Bob Schieffer narrates "The Best of Person to Person."

"Home Front," 7:30 p.m. Veterans Day (Nov. 11) on Showtime. Blind and brain-damaged from his injuries in Iraq, Army Ranger Jeremy Feldbusch struggles to readjust to life back home in this documentary that's been winning raves since its premiere this spring at the Tribeca Film Festival. It's a film that makes you wonder if Vietnam taught us anything about treating our vets with kindness.

"Greg the Bunny," 9 p.m. Nov. 11 on IFC. Turns out that what this failed Fox comedy about a puppet show needed was a new home. A home where the puppets were allowed to curse and go on bloody killing sprees, as one brain-damaged purple monster does in the season premiere.

"Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act," begins 9 p.m. Nov. 12 on PBS. In what has been promoted as her last turn as detective Jane Tennison, the priceless Helen Mirren wears years of job stress and family strain in every scene.

"Dog Whisperer," 9 p.m. Nov. 13, National Geographic channel. Why do I love the "Dog Whisperer"? Is it the fact that it might be the only show in prime time where a Latino with broken English isn't a stereotype? Is it that no matter how many times Cesar Millan tells people they need to stop spoiling their mutts, he never seems to run out of owners who spoil their mutts (and, weirdly, are also "Dog Whisperer" fans)? In this episode, Millan helps L.A. firefighters cope with an out-of-control Dalmatian.

"City of Men," 9 p.m. Nov. 14, Sundance Channel. This remarkable spin-off from the movie (and creators of) "City of God" returns with new adventures featuring two Rio teenage boys with too much time on their hands. Deftly interweaving the dangerous urban culture of Brazil with the universal tribulations of youth, "City of Men" offers sights and sounds literally foreign to American TV. With subtitles.

"Day Break," premieres 9 p.m. Nov. 15 on ABC. "Lost" takes a break, perhaps to go look for those 5 million viewers they lost over the summer, and ABC fills the next three months with this thriller starring Taye Diggs as a cop who's accused of a crime he didn't commit.

Not to be out-premiered, NBC is airing the two-hour "Medium" season premiere, same time, different channel (9 p.m. Nov. 15). Allison (Patricia Arquette) is visited by an old boyfriend who decides to move in with her and hubby Joe (Jake Weber). Did I mention the boyfriend is dead?

"Monk," 9 p.m. Nov. 17 on USA. I'm shocked that it took five seasons of doing the same show over and over until the writers got around to that old chestnut and dragged in Adrian Monk's long-lost father. This holiday-themed show kicks off a new batch of episodes. Dan Hedeya, who looks like Sid Caesar's hippie-dippie brother, guest-stars as Monk Sr.

"Dora's World Adventure," 8 p.m. Nov. 19 on Nickelodeon. Can you find the "Dora the Explorer" polar fleece gown? (Pause.) That's right! Can you say, "Buy me an Extreme Dora gym boot?" (Pause.) Louder! Will you help us ride this official "Dora" 3-wheel scooter? Hooray!

"Frontline," 9 p.m. Nov. 21 on PBS. There's a demographic in America that's big and getting bigger -- but you almost never see it on TV these days. A look at the challenges being faced by the "old old," people over 85, many of whom are in desperate need of care.

"Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends," 7 p.m. Thanksgiving, Cartoon Network. One of the home's invisible pals, the red giraffe-like monster with a bulging eyeball named Wilt, sets off to find his childhood "creator." The hourlong special caps off a daylong marathon.

"March of the Penguins," 8 p.m. Nov. 25, Hallmark Channel. The basic cable premiere of this charming documentary includes a special extra in which filmmakers Luc Jacquet and Emanuel Priou explain how they got all that incredible penguin video without being turned into furry French popsicles.

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