Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
As we enter the final month of an abysmal year it’s time for an avalanche of holiday specials. Classics get rolled out in a sea of Hallmark and Lifetime movies all throughout December.
This week alone, there are more than two dozen different holiday shows airing on TV and dropping on streaming. The tree gets lit, countless singers grace us with their musical gifts, and Freeform goes all in.
I spend a lot of time writing about this type of TV due to its scheduling grid dominance. Don't get me wrong, many of these programs are worth watching… once. Others run the danger of not being so special due to market saturation.
I have seen the Grinch, Charlie Brown and Rudolph countless times. I love them all. But the best time to watch is the first time they appear after missing for months. It's A Wonderful Life respects the rule of the special to a degree. NBC is airing it once this year on Christmas Eve. That's it. (The 5am Thanksgiving Day airing on USA is forgiven.)
When it comes to holiday specials, look for the one-time viewing. For repeated airings, pick one live date and use your DVR as a backup. Record the classics for viewing at your leisure.
There are a plethora of presents under your TV tree. Choose wisely!
HOLIDAY SPECIALS THIS WEEK
Disney Holiday Singalong (ABC)
Monday, November 30th 8pm
Sing along with your favorite (ABC) stars as they belt out holiday classics. Ryan Seacrest hosts (of course). An appropriate way to end November.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (CBS)
Tuesday, December 1st 8pm
I've seen this so many times that I look for network edits made to hit the broadcast run time. Yukon Cornelius is underrated as are the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys. Top 3 all-timer.
Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes - At Home Holiday Special (NBC)
Wednesday, December 2nd 10pm
Winner of the longest title of the season. This one is to support Radio City and the New York theater community. The "lighting" of the tree is boring anyway.
My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood (HBO MAX)
Thursday, December 3rd
Biggest American Idol success - Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson or Carrie Underwood? Great debate, but look who's giving the gift of a holiday special to HBO Max.
Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special (APPLE TV+)
Friday, December 4th
How many times will we hear "All I Want For Christmas Is You?" The over/under is set at 3.
Frosty The Snowman (FREEFORM)
Saturday, December 5th 8pm
Happy birthday! Jimmy Durante's finest role. I was always partial to the rabbit, Hocus Pocus.
Sunday, December 6th 9pm
A surprise Christmas special for the HBO hit. Zendaya returns as an Emmy winner as her character's relapse bridges the gap to the second season.
This is week one, folks. Lots more mirth on the way.
THIS WEEK'S (NON-HOLIDAY) PICKS
Baby God (HBO)
Wednesday, December 2nd 9pm
This HBO documentary focuses on a Vegas fertility specialist who impregnated countless women with his own sperm without their knowledge or consent.
Dr. Quincy Fortier opened a women's hospital in Las Vegas back in the 1960's. He was Nevada's doctor of the year in the early 90's and thought of as a miracle worker.
Home DNA kits came along, and suddenly patients were finding out who the father was of their children. The impact of his genes raises many questions about who half of these offspring really are.
Big Mouth (NETFLIX)
Thursday, December 3rd Season 4 Premiere
This animated gem is about the anxiety of growing up and figuring out who you are. Big Mouth is as raw as it gets with puberty bursting through the screen.
This season's guest stars are impressive - Zach Galifianakis, Paul Giamatti, Sterling K. Brown, Seth Rogen, Lena Waithe, John Oliver...the list goes on and on.
Nick Kroll and crew take us through summer camp and 8th grade this season. Get ready for plenty of awkward moments and huge laughs. Watch trailer.
Your Honor (SHOWTIME)
Sunday, December 6th Premiere
Bryan Cranston plays a New Orleans judge and...I don't even need to know the rest of the plot. If Bryan Cranston is there, so am I.
This 10 episode legal thriller comes from the producers of The Good Wife and The Night Of. The honorable judge's son is involved in a hit and run accident that involves the local organized crime family.
The supporting cast is impressive - Michael Stuhlbarg, Hope Davis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale… plus plenty of character actors you know and love.
Your Honor has all the makings of a good legal thriller. It's a holiday present that I can't wait to open.
If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.
Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.
TOPICS: Holiday Programming, Baby God, Big Mouth, Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, Disney Holiday Singalong, Euphoria, Frosty the Snowman, it's a Wonderful Life, Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special, My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Your Honor