When I was 9, 10, and 11 years old, my most favorite hour of anything on TV was The Johnny Cash Show on ABC. I was awestruck by the Man in Black, and his amazingly eclectic, music-heavy variety show was where I was first introduced to many of the musicians I have admired ever since, including artists like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. The worst punishment my parents could hand down in those days was to forbid me to watch an episode, and even then I would lie in bed next to the dark TV screen with an earphone surreptitiously plugged in to the audio jack.

After decades of unavailability, The Johnny Cash Show: The Best of Johnny Cash 1969-1971 was finally released on DVD in September and, as part of its current pledge drive, Chicago’s WTTW 11 is airing portions of that set tonight at 9:00. Having already seen this special on Milwaukee Public Television this past August 7, I can highly recommend it. One of the best things about it is that there is almost zero narration or reminiscence, only a mighty train of complete songs (not just snippets) by everyone from Ray Charles to James Taylor to Merle Haggard to Eric Clapton. (By the way, if you’re interested in Bob Dylan guesting on The Johnny Cash Show, I once ran across some additional recordings you might enjoy.)

Over on MPTV Channel 10 tonight at 8:10 (no conflict with new episodes of My Name is Earl and 30 Rock on NBC), they’re showing Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band: Live in Dublin. My idolization of Bruce has waxed and waned over the years, and I sort of missed his whole Pete Seeger tribute project, but this show looks like a lot of fun:

Finally tonight at 11:00, also on MPTV Channel 10, there’s an installment of Austin City Limits recorded in September 2006 which features Van Morrison. If this has aired before, I have not seen it. Van the Man does not appear on TV very much at all, and the clip on the ACL site looks promising.

I have to be sleeping at that hour, but luckily I have a machine that watches TV for me — something I only dreamt of back in 1969.