Bill O’Reilly is scheduled on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” (10 p.m., Comedy Central). The two men have been guests on each other’s shows before. And they will probably spend some time promoting their live-streaming debate, “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium,” scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday night in Washington, D.C. (It’s viewable for a fee at www.therumble2012.com.)
It’s a sign of our times that the meeting of two men from opposite sides of the media/political divide should be considered an event. For more than 30 years, noted conservative author, publisher and media personality William F. Buckley Jr. hosted the weekly debating series “Firing Line,” which appeared in syndication and on PBS from 1966-99.
More than a talk show, it celebrated the academic “sport” of debate, focusing on a cerebral, even witty exchange of ideas and de-emphasizing personal acrimony.
The Buckley series thrived in the era of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” when broadcasters where obliged to air both sides of controversial issues. Since the Federal Communications Commission eliminated that doctrine in 1987, broadcasters have opted for strenuously one-sided political broadcasts — most notably, talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh and his many imitators. In place of a robust discussion of ideas, we have been given shows with hosts who are dug into partisan and ideological foxholes.
A debate between Stewart and O’Reilly may not change the tone of our national conversation. But any meeting that encourages collegiality and humor over rancor is worth noting.
• The goofy, witty, absurd “30 Rock” (7 p.m., NBC) enters its final season. As ever, “Rock” trades in-house jokes. In tonight’s episode, Liz lambastes Jack for his dreadful new fall lineup of shows.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Boot camp continues on “The X Factor” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A flotilla comes near to challenge the rogue crew on “Last Resort” (7 p.m., ABC). The crew may survive this wee
• A new case brings Reese closer to Finch on “Person of Interest” (8 p.m., CBS).
• A change of location proves inspirational on “Project Runway” (8 p.m., Lifetime).
• Leslie fights for expanded pool hours on “Parks and Recreation” (8:30 p.m., NBC).
• Watson sees an ex-boyfriend on “Elementary” (9 p.m., CBS).
• A politician takes a compromising position on “Scandal” (9 p.m., ABC).
• “Jersey Shore” (9 p.m., MTV) enters its final season.