On tap: sports for the body and mind

Tonight, for a change, you don't need cable to be entertained.

Postseason baseball begins on CBS, while PBS offers cerebral counter-programming, and ABC offers the third episode of "NYPD Blue."


* "American League baseball playoffs" (8 p.m.-conclusion, WBAL, Channel 11) -- Partly because CBS wants to delay as little as possible the start of "Late Show With David Letterman," the the first pitches in this series are scheduled to be thrown out at 8:12 p.m., rather than after 8:30.

So pregame chatter will be briefer, which always is good news.


Then again, because Toronto is one of the two AL teams playing tonight, there will be twice as many national anthems as usual.

Tonight's opener, from Chicago, has the White Sox as host to the Blue Jays. CBS.

* "Nova: 'The Nova Quiz' " (8-9 p.m., WMPT, channels 22 and 67) -- This show opens the 20th season of "Nova."

In one way, it's a definite sign of the changing tide at PBS that for this new "Nova" quiz that the host is Mark Summers, he of the Nickelodeon "slime" quiz shows; the original "Nova" quiz, years ago, was fronted by former "Jeopardy" host Art Fleming.

Even so, despite this show's glitzier sheen, it's still a fun show, presented so that even kids will like it -- and, like adult viewers, will marvel at the complexity of the questions and challenges.

Quick: What's the only marsupial native to North America? If you think that question is opossum-able to answer, make sure to tune in. PBS.

* "NYPD Blue" (10-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- If you've been following this series (and you should be), a lot of conflicts reach a climax tonight, including two featuring Dennis Franz's hot-tempered Sipowicz. In one, he manages to serve his nemesis some just deserts; in the other, he confronts his police captain (played by James McDaniel, a veteran of Steven Bochco's "Cop Rock") in hopes of returning to active duty.

Also, watch for the beginning of a series of guest appearances by Wendie Malick, who plays Martin Tupper's ex-wife on "Dream On." David Caruso stars. ABC.



* "Favorite Films" (7:30-8 p.m., MAX) -- Martin Scorsese, who has been introducing various samples of his favorite foreign films on a monthly basis for Cinemax, gets to pontificate at greater length, about domestic and foreign ones, in this half-hour film-buff's special.

* "Biography: Madonna" (8-9 p.m., A&E;) -- As if Madonna doesn't have enough publicity.

Now, on the spiked heels of the opening of her "Girlie Show" tour, A&E; presents this one-hour biographical study of the chameleonic entertainer.

David Bianculli is the author of "Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously."