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…

Week’s top-10 for Nov. 29: “Annie,” “Sunny” and lotsa Christmas

1) “Annie Live,” 8 p.m. Thursday, NBC. There are better musicals, but Hollywood keeps doing this one. Daddy Warbucks has been Albert Finney (in a fairly good 1982 John Huston film), Victor Garber (a well-made 1999 one on ABC), Jamie Foxx (a 2014 disappointment) and now Harry Connick. Celina Smith (shown here with Connick) has the title role, alongside Taraji Henson and some gifted singers – Nicole Scherzinger and Megan Hilty. Andrea McArdle (who was Broadway’s original Annie in 1977) plays Eleanor Roosevelt. Read more…

Best-bets for Nov. 26: Great “Grinch” leads busy night

1) “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m.NBC. Here is one of TV’s top moments, still the best after 55 years. It started with the wit and warmth of Dr. Seuss’ book. Then Chuck Jones – the genius behind Road Runner and many Bugs Bunny cartoons — brilliantly animated it. He included Boris Karloff as the droll narrator, with Thor Ravenscoft booming a song about the mean one, Mr. Grinch (shown here). NBC will also have it on Christmas night; in between, it airs Dec. 11 on TBS and Dec. 17 on TNT. Read more…

Smokey’s undaunted? Well, not always

We might guess that Smokey Robinson is undaunted by life.
He’s been a singer, songwriter, producer and company vice-president. He helped build Motown Records, in the recording studio and beyond. He even made the drive (with Berry Gordy) between Detroit and Owosso, to get the label’s first records – getting stuck in the snow twice.
So is there anything that overwhelms him? “I’ve tried to learn to play the guitar about three or four times,” said Robinson (shown here), 81. “I cannot do it.”
This confession came in a video press conference about a TV movie. “Miracle in Motor City” – 8 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 28), Lifetime – has a mom (Tia Mowry) trying to land Robinson for a Christmas church concert in Detroit — leading to another confession: “Church used to terrify me,” Robinson said. Read more…

Best-bets for Nov. 25: Parade starts a stuffed day

1) “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” 9 a.m. to noon, NBC, CBS and Peacock. Last year, the parade (shown here in a previous year)was TV-only, confined to a single block. Now it sprawls anew, with 10 bands. 36 inflatables, 800 clowns and 28 floats, many containing singers – Rob Thomas, Mickey Guyton, Jordan Fisher, Jimmie Allen, Nelly, more. Early, NBC adds Carrie Underwood, the Rockettes and the casts of “Annie Live” and Broadway’s “Six,” “Wicked” and “Moulin Rouge”; CBS adds “Chicago” and “Waitress.” Read more…

Anthrax story: a real-life thriller with a quirky twist

Twenty years ago, Americans – already stunned by the 9/11 attacks – had a new crisis.
Lethal doses of anthrax were being mailed. Five people died, 11 were seriously ill; and then it stopped.
What didn’t stop was the FBI investigation. Seven years later, after some missteps, it pointed to a suspect. Now that’s being retold in “The Hot Zone: Anthrax” (shown here), from 9-11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday (Nov. 28-30) on National Geographic. Read more…

Best-bets for Nov. 24: epic art theft or holiday fun

1) “Secrets of the Dead,” 10 p.m., PBS. Back in 1607, the painter named Caravaggio was fleeing from murder charges. He reached Malta … fled again the next year … but left behind some of his greatest works. In 1984, one of them (shown here) was stolen; three years later, it was returned and arrests were made. That story is told zealously by Father Marius Zerafa, now 92, in a beautifully filmed hour. A painter, sculptor and Oxford grad, Zerafa spent eight months negotiating for the painting’s return. Read more…

Summer heat brings cool Christmases?

It seems so easy, making all these Christmas movies.
They almost have the same cheery backdrops, the same perky heroine. She’s often expected to return to her home town and/or to squabble with a handsome guy who turns out to be OK after all.
Still, these aren’t that easy to make … starting with the weather. “You always do a Christmas movie in July,” John Schneider said. “As you always do a beach movie in November or December.”
His movie – “Reba McEntire’s Christmas in Tune” (8 p.m. Friday on Lifetime), shown here – has more music than most, along with some of the brightest colors this side of animation. It was also a rare case of a holiday film shot in the South. Read more…