Best-bets for Dec. 5: football Ducks, Christmas blues and Bleu

1) Football, 8 p.m. ET, ABC. It’s time for the conference championship games – two tonight and then nine packed into a busy Saturday. ABC has the big one, with the Oregon Ducks (10-2; their fan section is shown here) and Utah (9-3) colliding for the Pac-12 title. And at 7 p.m. ET, the CBS Sports Network has the Conference USA game: The University of Texas at San Antonio – which was undefeated until its loss Saturday – hosts Western Kentucky, which has won seven straight, after starting the season at 1-4. Read more…

Best-bets for Dec. 1 (out of order): a sunny, funny night

1) “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (shown here) season-opener, 10 and 10:30 p.m., FXX. Most shows simply started late during the pandemic, but “Sunny” skipped all of 2020 and most of 2021. Hhere are its first new episodes in two years and 11 days. They start the 15th season – passing “Ozzie and Harriet” to become TV’s longest-lasting situation comedy (cartoons excluded). And they’re hilarious. The first tells how these guys triggered 2020’s key events; the second sees them make a micro-budget movie. Read more…

Best-bets for Dec. 2: Live “Annie” and holiday glitter

1) “Annie Live,” 8 p.m., NBC. The surge of live TV musicals has been a mixed blessing. Shows have ranged from great (“Grease,” “Hairspray”) to awful (“Peter Pan,” “Little Mermaid”). Now NBC plays it safe … just as it did in when it started the surge in 2013 with Carrie Underwood in “Sound of Music.” It takes a familiar show, filled with jaunty tunes, and inserts strong singers – Harry Connick (as Warbucks), Nicole Scherzinger and Megan Hilty. Celina Smith(shown here) stars, with Taraji Henson as Hannigan.

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White Christmases finally find diversity

This is the season of sameness, which is fine … sometimes.
We like having the same Christmas cartoons and songs and such. But too often, Christmas movies have seemed to have the same plots and the same Caucasian actors.
Now, belatedly, that’s changing. Corbin Bleu points to “A Christmas Dance Reunion” (8-10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, on Lifetime), shown here, as an example.
This is a romance, he said, that “has nothing to do with the fact that we’re Black …. I wish I was able to see a lot more of that onscreen, when I was a kid and watching all these holiday movies.” Read more…

Best-bets for Nov. 30: sci-fi and sci-fact

1) “The Hot Zone: Anthrax” conclusion, 9-11 p.m., National Geographic. On Monday, the mid-section of this three-night mini-series pulled a sudden detour. We’d been following FBI scientists Daniel Dae Kim and Dawn Olivieri (shown here) and Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist who said someone in his military-research unit might be responsible for the lethal anthrax mailings. But then came signs that Ivins (beautifully played by Tony Goldwyn) was oddly unhinged. Tonight, this strange-but-true story reaches its conclusion. Read more…

“College girls'” obsession: comedy and/or sex

Many of us, perhaps, grew up imagining lives as rock stars, astronauts or sports heroes.
Not Mindy Kaling. She recalls a “single-minded desire to become a comedy writer. I’ve had that urge since I was 16.”
That explains a central character in “The Sex Lives of College Girls” (shown here) the new HBO Max series. Bela (Amrit Kaur), the daughter of Indian immigrants, has just arrived at an Ivy-League-type college, obsessed with getting on the campus humor magazine. Read more…

Best-bets for Nov. 29: leaping into drama, dance, music

1) “The Big Leap,” 8 p.m., Fox. A week from its season-finale, this surprising show expands on its specialty – weaving serious drama alongside blips of goofy comedy. It’s almost time for this fictional show-within-a-show to have its big finish – a televised “Swan Lake,” performed by people with varied skills. Then come the problems: Paula is dying of cancer; Mike clings to her … Reggie is gone; Gabby (Simone Recasner, shown here) is angry … New schemes are afoot; Nick has flashes of a conscience. It’s an odd but excellent hour. Read more…

Best-bets for Nov. 28: Tony, Gaga and the Waltons

1) “One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga,” 8 p.m., CBS. Alzheimer’s disease has taken most of Bennett’s memories, but he retains songs perfectly. On his 95th birthday, he had what’s expected to be his final public concert. In Radio City Music Hall, his friend Lady Gaga did four potent jazz/pop songs, then brought him on. (They’re shown here,at a previous show.) Backed by gifted musicians – his quartet, her quintet and an orchestra – both soared. The result is one of TV’s finest hours. Read more…

Best-bets for Nov. 27: reindeer, Santa and fierce football

1) “Robbie the Reindeer,” 8 p.m., CBS, with sequel at 8:30. This all started with “Comedy Relief,” the British charity telethon launched by writer Richard Curtis (“Love, Actually”). He co-wrote a clever cartoon about Rudolph’s son, trying to find a place in Santa’s world. Americans later redubbed it, with Ben Stiller as Robbie (shown here). Britney Spears also was cast – but not as Vixen; that role goes to Leah Remini. Hugh Grant is the token Brit, voicing Blitzen. The result ripples with droll wit. Read more…

Christmas TV: Here’s the mega-list

If TV people have their way, we’ll spend the next month staring at Christmas shows.
We’ll start this Thanksgiving Day with the Macy’s parade (shown here in a previous year), continue through Christmas Day with the Disney parade, then watch a few reruns. We’ll be happy, apparently.
Last year, TV slowed down slightly, to allow COVID caution. This year, it’s moving faster than ever. This mega-list starts on Thanksgiving morning and is packed. Read more…