Fine Tuning - A weekly column highlighting music-related television programming (Sept. 27-Oct. 2, 2004)

The air is crisper and the days a little bit shorter. The leaves are starting to turn. Autumn has arrived! And with it comes a seemingly renewed approach by the suppliers of television programming that can only be seen as a boon to you, the faithful viewer.

TALKERS RULE! Stock up on videotapes or clear up some space on the TiVo, because this week's slate of musicians appearing on talk shows is one of the absolutely best in recent memory. There are tons of great artists and big names appearing this week -- Monday through Friday, daytime and night.

Don't believe me? See for yourself:

• Monday: Singer/songwriter Patti Scialfa on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (syndicated); rock star Lenny Kravitz on "Charlie Rose"; and rock vet Meat Loaf and reunited duo Tears For Fears on "The Late Late Show" (CBS), which is thankfully no longer hosted by Craig Kilborn; look for guest hosts to sit in for a while, such as actor Michael Ian Black on this night.

• Tuesday: A rare television appearance by Tom Waits on "The Late Show With David Letterman"; teenage soul sensation Joss Stone on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"; modern rock act Keane performing and rapper-turned-actor Eve sitting down to chat on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" (NBC); and G-Unit-affiliated rapper Young Buck on "Last Call With Carson Daly" (NBC).

• Wednesday: Veteran rapper LL Cool J on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (syndicated); alt.country stalwart Wilco on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" (NBC); and reggae greats Toots & the Maytals on "Last Call With Carson Daly" (NBC).

• Thursday: Canadian siren k.d. lang on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (syndicated), superstar rock act Pearl Jam on "The Late Show With David Letterman" (CBS); veteran rock trio Crosby, Stills & Nash on "The Late Late Show" (CBS), which will be guest hosted by Ana Gasteyer; and up and coming modern rock act TV On The Radio on "Last Call With Carson Daly."

• Friday: Interpol on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" (NBC), as well as actor-turned-musician Billy Bob Thornton, but he won't be performing. Instead, he'll be chatting about the movie "Friday Night Lights," in which country superstar Tim McGraw makes his feature acting debut (check CMT for a special on it on Saturday); modern rock favorite Supergrass on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" (NBC); and Blues Explosion (still including former namesake Jon Spencer, just not in the moniker) on "The Late Late Show" (CBS).

Umm... Wow!

SNL and ACL RETURN: It seems like forever since there's been new episodes of "Saturday Night Live" and "Austin City Limits," but this is the week that all changes.

NBC rolls out the four billionth season of "SNL" with Ben Affleck hosting and rapper Nelly as the musical guest. Nelly will undoubtedly be pulling out a track from each of his new albums, "Sweat" and "Suit," which debuted in the top two slots on The Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, just not in that order. Affleck will be smugly charming, as should be expected.

The 30th season of "Austin City Limits" on PBS, which is, by the way, the longest running performance series in television history, will feature rock veteran John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival) for the full hour.

X-TINA EXPLORES... Sex (go figure). OK, it's not quite like it sounds. Sure, Christina Aguilera is a likely choice to look into the world of sex, but sex in politics? That's the case on MTV's "Choose or Lose: Sex, Votes and Higher Power," airing on Wednesday.

The artist will talk to young people in the election year battleground state of Pennsylvania about abortion, abstinence-only, sex education and dating violence. While I can't say I'd usually turn to her to inform my political opinions, I have to applaud MTV and Aguilera for getting involved and getting such issues on the air and in front of an audience that needs to be involved and have a voice in this country.