They’re popping champagne at NBC as the NFL season returns with a matchup between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints (7:30 p.m.), live from Green Bay.
NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” franchise invariably tops the week’s ratings during the regular television season. Last season’s opening game featured the Saints and Minnesota Vikings and attracted more than 27 million viewers.
The Thursday night NFL kickoff has been a tradition since 2002, when extensive pregame celebrations held in New York City were promoted as a loud announcement that the city had recovered from the terror attacks of the previous Sept. 11, and that New York was open for tourist business. This year’s calendar puts the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, on Sunday, when the NFL schedule begins in earnest.
• The power of movies to transform people’s notions of “reality” can be found in “The Exorcist Files” (8 p.m., Discovery), where, we are told, professional exorcists swap stories about demonic possessions and battling “the real forces of evil.”
Pardon me if I sound like an old fogey, but I’m old enough to remember when William Peter Blatty’s book “The Exorcist” came out. And I also distinctly remember my largely Roman Catholic circle of friends and classmates asking, “What the heck is an exorcism?” Nobody had ever heard of the practice. It seemed like something out of scary gothic fiction, which, in fact, it was.
But don’t take my word for it. In the 1973 film, when Ellen Burstyn’s character Chris MacNeil asks Father Karras (Jason Miller) about the Catholic rite of exorcism, he suggests that she get herself a time machine and return to the 16th century.
Now, less than 40 years later, popular culture has all but returned to the Middle Ages, or at least pre- Enlightenment times. Cable television has become a place where tales of ghosts, witches, monsters, vampires, aliens and demonic possession are casually considered articles of fact, not faith.
Summer season finales
• On two episodes of “Rookie Blue” (ABC): a vigilante strikes (8 p.m.) and an investigation implicates an insider (9 p.m.). The second episode is the season finale.
• Michael takes desperate measures to clear his name on “Burn Notice” (8 p.m., USA).
• Harvey takes on the DA on “Suits” (9 p.m., USA).
• Ryan thinks for himself on “Wilfred” (9 p.m., FX).
• Airports and New Jersey get Louie down on “Louie” (9:30 p.m., FX).
Tonight’s other highlights
• Schedules may be affected by a scheduled presidential address to Congress.
• The cast of “The Big Bang Theory” hosts a preview of the CBS fall season (7:30 p.m., CBS).
•l Teams of five create their own fabric on “Project Runway” (8 p.m., Lifetime).