Few shows have earned as much viewer respect, affection, devotion and trust as "The Sopranos" (8 p.m. Sunday, HBO). Viewers of a certain age await the new season with the same awe and anticipation that once preceded the unwrapping of a new Beatles album. You know you're going to be entertained, amused and challenged all at the same time.
You know you're going to cheer a little when you hear the theme song and watch Tony emerge from under the Hudson River.
You're going to be amused when Christopher Moltisanti returns to form. "You know what a coincidence it is," he muses, "that Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig's disease?"
But when the mob drama enters its sixth season using a recording of a mystical poem/dirge/chant by beat poet surrealist William Burroughs to reintroduce the characters and set up the action, you know faithful viewers will go along for the ride.
And what a ride!
It would be wrong to reveal anything about the the first few episodes of "The Sopranos." Just be prepared to be shocked. Consumed. Hooked. Challenged. And bedazzled.
You will be talking about nothing else Monday morning.
And as pivotal as this season-opener will be, it serves only as an introduction to next week's "Sopranos," which, simply put, is as good as television gets.
¢ Scheduled on "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): The posh life ends in murder for a rich Florida housewife. Did her husband do it?
¢ Thrillers don't come much duller than "What Lies Beneath" (7 p.m., ABC), starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
¢ On two episodes of "Little People, Big World" (TLC), a wedding anniversary (7 p.m.), a camping trip goes badly (7:30 p.m.).
¢ Murder and contagion on "Law & Order: SVU" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ Scheduled on "48 Hours Mystery" (9 p.m., CBS): brothers, bookies and murder.
¢ A minor charged as an adult on "Conviction" (9 p.m., NBC).
¢ Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): A Boston mobster tells all; science and sexual preference; an insurgent-held city.
¢ Lisa's story never ends on "The Simpsons" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ Hosted by Vince Gill, "The Grand Ole Opry at Carnegie Hall" (7 p.m., GAC) includes performances by Gill, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood and others.
¢ A teen skater follows her parents' path in the 2006 sequel "The Cutting Edge 2: Going for the Gold" (6 p.m., Family), featuring an appearance by gold medalist Oksana Baiul.
¢ James Purefoy stars in "Blackbeard: Terror at Sea" (7 p.m., National Geographic), a cinematic profile of the feared pirate.
¢ Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey star in the 2003 romantic comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ The eight-episode series "Cheerleader Nation" (9 p.m., Lifetime) follows 22 competitors and their parents.