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.
It's the most wonderful time of the year! Wait a minute — it's not even Thanksgiving yet. That's not stopping television from rolling out the holiday specials while the weather is still warm.
If you're looking for Christmas cheer, just turn on the Hallmark Channel from now until the end of the year to see how your favorite stars from the 80's and 90's are holding up. Lifetime also gets into the holiday spirit this week with Feliz NaviDAD (Mario Lopez stars, Melissa Joan Hart directs).
It's not just the cable networks who are feeling the holiday buzz. Disney+ is all over the holidays as well, kicking things off with The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. If you're a Star Wars fan from the Ewok era, the words "holiday special" make you cringe, but rest assured the LEGO folks have figured things out. Netflix goes traditional with Dolly Parton's Christmas On The Square, but also combines multiple genres to get your attention with the Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas and Alien Xmas where a young elf mistakes a tiny alien for a Christmas gift. I'm not joking here.
When I was growing up, I always looked forward to holiday TV as we got closer to the actual holidays. How The Grinch Stole Christmas! and A Charlie Brown Christmas were appointment viewing in the Hein house, because both only aired ONE TIME all year long. It made these holiday classics all the more special. Apple TV+ keeping the Peanuts holiday gang to itself is very Scrooge-like.
I understand the appeal of airing a modern classic like Elf every night and spreading good cheer, especially during a particularly horrible year. But having too much Roast Beast is not necessarily a good thing. The holidays are coming, and it's okay to wait until the end of the month before jingling and jangling.
I will be watching football and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving when my turkey is served. That's the start of the holiday season for me. But if you're looking to feel holly and jolly right now, the networks are more than happy to oblige.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
His Dark Materials (HBO)
Monday, November 16th (Season 2 Premiere)
I'm still trying to figure out exactly what happened during season one. Talking polar bears. Lin-Manuel Miranda in a hot air balloon. An angry Ruth Wilson with an evil monkey. Fantasy is great, but it needs to make some sense.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the first season of this literary adaptation. The effects are exceptional and it is staged as an epic, but the plot is hard to follow if you didn't read the books.
The season one climax led the characters into a different world. I'll be tuned in to see where everyone ended up and hopefully find some clarity in a show that should be great, but isn't quite there yet.
Big Sky (ABC)
Tuesday, November 17th 10pm (Series Premiere)
Big Little Lies got the David E. Kelley machine cranking out shows once again. The Undoing is doing its job on HBO, and you can't miss the hype for this adaptation of C.J. Box's 2013 novel.
The challenge for this new ABC show is that the promos make it feel like it should be on cable or a streamer. Big Sky needs edge to make it work, and not since Twin Peaks has ABC been able to pull that off.
There's only one Twin Peaks, but Big Sky promises that the most beautiful places hide the darkest secrets. Let's see where this highway journey takes us.
Sunday, November 22nd
This tragic story has been told multiple times, yet every time a new program about John Belushi is on, I can't help but watch.
This Belushi documentary comes from R.J. Cutler who produced The War Room and has been behind many other compelling documentaries over the years. That got my attention.
With the participation of Belushi's widow Judy, Cutler gained access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen (or heard) materials, including his personal letters, photographs and audio recordings with his friends and contemporaries like Dan Aykroyd, Lorne Michaels and Chevy Chase.
Tears will flow as Belushi's incredible energy and comedy leads to his tragic death. He was a fabulous comedian whose demons grew right along with his fame. Belushi could not handle both and his loss continues to resonate decades later.
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, Apple TV+, Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, Netflix, Belushi, Big Sky, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, His Dark Materials, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, Mario Lopez, Melissa Joan Hart, Christmas, Peanuts