1) “Dean Martin: King of Cool,” 8–9:30 p.m., Turner Classic Movies. Martin was known by everyone, this film says, thanks to 150 records, 60 movies and an eight-year TV series. Yet no one really knew him. In Steubenville, Ohio, he spoke only Italian until he was 6, quit school in 10th grade, boxed and dealt blackjack. Later, he stuck to a reserved, cool-guy image. Here’s a neatly detailed profile, including the moment (shown here) when Frank Sinatra maneuvered a live-TV reunion of Matin and Jerry Lewis. This will be followed by his films, “The Caddy” (1953), with Jerry Lewis, at 9:30 and “Rio Bravo” (1959), with John Wayne, at 11:15 p.m.
2) Sci-fi surge, streaming. If the streamers have their way, we’ll spend the weekend immersed in science fiction. On Thursday, Paramount Plus started the third “Star Trek: Discovery” season, with Burnham – once a prisoner and outcast – now as the ship’s captain. Today, two big series debut: “Wheel of Time” (Amazon Prime) has Rosamund Pike wielding magic powers, while trying to save the world; “Cowboy Bebop” (Netflix) has interstellar bounty hunters.
3) More streaming. Mindy Kaling already mines her teen years for Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever”; now Kaling, a Dartmouth grad, moves to “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” on HBO Max. Some characters are stereotypes, but others are excellent – especially Kimberly (played by Pauline Chalamet, Timothee’s sister) and Bela (Amrit Kaur), who’s sort of like Kaling Also today: A new season of Hulu’s period comedy “The Great” and a Netflix glass-blowing competition, “Blown Away: Christmas.”
4) “Great Performances,” 9 p.m., PBS. With Michael Tilson Thomas retiring, Eso Pekka Salonen planned to take over the San Francisco Symphony last year. Then the pandemic prevented the season – and even stopped him from arriving from Finland. Now, a year late, he starts with a vibrant John Adams number, then adds Alonzo King’s dancers and gifted singer/bassist Esperanza Spalding. With one exception – vague and repetitive dance comments – it’s a splendid telecast.
5) “Magnum P.I.,” 9 p.m., CBS. Last week, Rick’s childhood friend Robbie showed up on the island. Now Robbie – played by Devon Sawa, a former teen star and current “Chucky” villain – is being investigated by the FBI; Rick is supposed to help the probe. That’s surrounded by a “SWAT” rerun at 8 (a Ponzi-scheme financier hires a private army to help him escape) and a new “Blue Bloods” at 10.