With all of the imitation on television, I always wondered when somebody would imitate the one show that has been a hit for 40 years. “60 Minutes” has been in and around the top 10 in ratings for decades. When “60 Minutes” debuted on Sept. 24, 1968, the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” was at the top of the charts. Barack Obama was 7 years old.
Tonight, NBC launches “Rock Center With Brian Williams” (9 p.m.), the first new network newsmagazine to premiere in a couple of decades. Like “60 Minutes,” it will present three or more stories in a magazine format, with a consistent panel of correspondents, including Harry Smith, Kate Snow, Richard Engel and Ted Koppel. Unlike “60,” which consists entirely of taped segments, Williams will host the show live every week, allowing “Rock” to respond to fast-breaking stories.
It should be interesting to see how long “Rock” sticks to its announced format. Over the years, other magazine shows have evolved and strayed from news. While NBC’s “Dateline” now tackles a single subject over an hour, it has had any number of incarnations. In the early 1990s, it focused heavily on consumer news. Then it became the “to catch a predator” show. As such, it was heavily influenced by the popularity of so-called tabloid “news.” ‘‘48 Hours” has put the emphasis on homicidal mysteries, and “20/20” bears the soft-focus, celebrity-besotted imprint of several decades of Barbara Walters’ influence.
Tonight’s “Rock” debuts with three stories that would not be out of place on “60 Minutes”: Chinese tourists timing their visits to give birth in America, a look at Syria’s anti-government activists, and a report on a corner of America with no unemployment.
The decision to plug an hour of NBC’s withering schedule with a newsmagazine makes a lot of sense. Besides getting the rights to “Sunday Night Football,” it’s one of the few logical moves the network has made in years. Not to pile on, but let’s remember “Rock” fills a void left by “The Playboy Club,” an illogical programming choice that appealed to nobody.
• Speaking of newsmagazines, “Vanguard” (8 p.m., Current TV) returns for a new season. First up, a visit to Mexico’s most murderous city.
• Tonight, “The Sing-Off” (7 p.m., NBC) kicks off with an a cappella extravaganza salute to all things Halloween. It’s the kind of fun, cheesy variety show treatment that used to be reserved for Perry Como Christmas specials! And I mean that in a good way.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Carson Kressley shares holiday decorating tips on “The Rosie Show Halloween Special” (6 p.m., OWN).
• Six solid hours of blurs, bumps and gullibility on “Ghost Hunters Halloween Live” (6 p.m., Syfy).
• The colony suffers its first homicide on “Terra Nova” (7 p.m., Fox).
• The voice of Mike Myers animates the 2010 special “Scared Shrekless” (7 p.m., ABC).
• An outsourcing CEO suffers peculiar symptoms on “House” (8 p.m., Fox).