Who said television was mindless? National Geographic devotes three hours tonight to “Brain Games” (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.), a celebration of that most super of computers we all rely on for every waking thought and sensation.
Our brains are so busy that they often make shortcuts and filter out unneeded stimuli in order to make sense of the perceivable world. Illusionist David Copperfield appears in “Pay Attention!” (9 p.m.) to demonstrate how peoples’ focus can be deliberately distracted for the sake of entertainment like his, or for the benefit of pickpockets and thieves.
‘‘Watch This!” (8 p.m.) shows how Hollywood filmmakers and special effects wizards have turned illusion and delusion into a science. Part three, “Remember This!” (10 p.m.), shows how human memory is subject to the mind’s tricks and how the storage of memories — both short-term and long — is so essential to our identity and personality. It also explores the nature of so-called eyewitness accounts and how 20 witnesses can claim, even swear, to have seen something different.
• Of course some people don’t use their brains at all. And for them, there are programs like “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event” (7 p.m., E!).
• As of this writing, “The Simpsons,” one of the smartest shows ever created, is faced with a contract dispute that may make this the final season. That would be sad. Worse still, the absence of “The Simpsons” would probably make room for some new Seth MacFarlane concoction along the lines of “American Dad.”
For years I suspected that the difference in audiences for “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” and its spawn was strictly generational. But the real distinction is about literacy. “The Simpsons” is written by and for people who read books, magazines and newspapers and show an interest in a wider world. “Family Guy” and its ilk depend almost entirely on appealing to viewers whose only frame of reference is television, blockbuster movies and ephemeral pop culture. There’s a vast difference in both references and appeal. And that makes the possibility of losing “The Simpsons” an unfortunate prospect for the thinking viewer.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): Egypt’s military rule; profiles of NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus and White House jobs adviser Jeffrey Immelt.
• The Atlanta Falcons host the Green Bay Packers on “Sunday Night Football” (7 p.m., NBC).
• Game Two of the American League Championship Series (7 p.m., Fox).
• Court-ordered mediation on “The Good Wife” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Mike becomes suspicious on “Desperate Housewives” (8 p.m., ABC).
• Margaret opens up a bit about her past as Lucy (Paz de la Huerta) balks at her incarceration on “Boardwalk Empire” (8 p.m., HBO).
• Once upon a time on “Dexter” (8 p.m., Showtime).
• Maggie plans to meet the president on “Pan Am” (9 p.m., ABC).
• Walt enlists an unlikely ally on the season finale of “Breaking Bad” (9 p.m., AMC).
• New evidence leads to continued surveillance on “Homeland” (9 p.m., Showtime).