Solo: Lost at Sea
In early 2007 Australian adventurer Andrew McAuley set out to be the first person to kayak alone from Australia to New Zealand, a 1,000-mile journey across the Tasman Sea. Dramatic video diaries recorded by a camera mounted on his boat and the recollections of his wife and friends document his harrowing journey—all the way to his final, desperate distress call. Monday, Sept. 15, at 10 p.m., National Geographic Channel

Live From Lincoln Center: New York Philharmonic Opening Night Gala
Flutist Sir James Galway will perform with the New York Philharmonic as the orchestra launches its final season under music director Lorin Maazel. The program includes Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, Ibert’s Flute Concerto, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m., PBS

Should I Really Give Up Flying?
Air travel currently accounts for only about 4 percent of the total greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, but scientists believe the figure will rise to more than 60 percent by 2050. This documentary visits such destinations as Venice, where sea levels are rising alarmingly, to assess the real effects that flight-related pollution and energy use can have on the climate. Interviewees include Virgin Atlantic’s Sir Richard Branson, who offers potential solutions. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 9 p.m., BBC America

NOW on PBS: Women, Leadership, and Politics This special hour-long edition of the award- winning newsmagazine has become even more topical in the wake of Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy. Correspondent Maria Hinojosa looks at women politicians and the personal and professional challenges they face—from a New Hampshire senate race to Rwanda’s parliament to Chile’s first female president, Michelle Bachelet. Friday, Sept. 19, at 8:30 p.m., PBS; check local listings

Mad Men
Arguably the best show on television today, this brooding drama chronicles the tangled life of an early-1960s advertising executive with the frigid, ethereal texture of a troubled dream. In “Six Month Leave,” Don Draper (Jon Hamm) proves his loyalty to an old friend, while his wife, Betty (January Jones), finds distraction from her ennui in a friendship. Sunday, Sept. 21, at 10 p.m., AMC

Other highlights

Gumby Dharma
The colorful life story of animation pioneer Art Clokey, creator of cartoon icon Gumby. Monday, Sept. 15, at 9 p.m., Sundance Channel

Los Lonely Boys:
Cottonfields and Crossroads
A profile of Grammy-winning Los Lonely Boys, comprising three Mexican-American brothers who forged a “Texican” sound. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 9:30 p.m., PBS

Masterpiece: The Ruby in the Smoke
In this adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel, Billie Piper (Secret Diary of a Call Girl) portrays a plucky teenage sleuth investigating her father’s mysterious death in Victorian England. Sunday, Sept. 21, at 9 p.m., PBS

Show of the week

Where We Stand: America’s Schools in the 21st Century
In 1995, the U.S. was No. 1 in the world in college graduation rates; by 2005, it was No. 15. Today, among 30 developed countries, American students rank 21st in science and 25th in math. Are our children getting the skills they need to compete in a global economy? Is the testing mandated by the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act doing any good? In this comprehensive and sobering report, Judy Woodruff visits schools in bellwether states in search of answers to these and other pressing questions. Among the approaches she explores are STEM schools—which emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math—and the controversial topic of merit pay for teachers. Monday, Sept. 15, at 10 p.m., PBS; check local listing