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.
2) “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” season-opener, 10 and 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, FXX. Once a ragged, low-budget show, “Sunny” starts its 15th season – passing “Ozzie and Harriet” as the longest-lasting situation comedy (cartoons excluded) in TV history. And it starts with two hilarious episodes. First, we get three stories of 2020 adventures; it turns out that these guys triggered many of the year’s events. Then they create a “Lethal Weapon” sequel; the result is full of wonderfully inept moments.
3) Football, Friday and Saturday. It’s time for conference championship games. That peaks at 4 p.m. ET Saturday, with an SEC rematch between teams that have been No. 1 this year, Georgia and Alabama. That’s on CBS – at the same time that Cincinnati and Houston collide on ABC, for the American Conference title. Other games are Friday (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network; 8 p.m., ABC) and Saturday (noon, ABC and ESPN; 3 p.m., Fox; 3:30 p.m., ESPN; 4 p.m., ESPN2; 8 p.m., ABC and Fox).
4) “CMA Country Christmas,” 8 p.m. today, ABC. This could have been a splendid hour. It has many of country’s top people – Carrie Underwood, Lady A, Miranda Lambert (via the Pistol Annies) and more, plus hosts Gabby Barrett and Carly Pearce. The vocals are OK, but the writing is awful, the hosts are clumsy and a product-placement bit is reprehensible. Still, the back-up bands are often sensational. That peaks when Jimmie Allen and (especially) Brett Eldredge perform with a zesty, dance-band swing.
5) More music. At the same time as the CMA concert, you can switch to CW. The “Black Pack” – Taye Diggs, Ne-Yo and Eric Bellinger – do Christmas songs with Jordin Sparks, Tank, Sevyn Streeter and Bre-Z … who co-stars in “All American” with Diggs. On Wednesday, NBC has a full night of music – 8 p.m. at Rockefeller Center (Underwood, Connick, Alessia Cara, Brad Paisley, Mickey Guyton, more) and 10 with Kelly Clarkson (Eldedge, Ariana Grande, Leslie Odom, plus humor from Jay Leno, more).
6) “Hot Zone” conclusion, 9-11 p.m. today and Tuesday, National Geographic. The opener (rerunning at 7 p.m. today) launched a compelling, real-life story. In 2001, letters were sent with lethal anthrax; five people died, 11 were seriously ill. We met intense FBI agents (Daniel Dae Kim, Dawn Olivieri) and a micro-biologist (wonderfully played by Tony Goldwyn) who says the culprit may be someone in his Army research center. The others are composites, but he’s real, propelling this intriguing story.
7) “La Brea” season-finale, 9 p.m. Tuesday, NBC. Above ground, Gavin plans a new rescue attempt. Deep below, his estranged wife Eve desperately tries to reach a mountaintop with a boy, because … well, a portal to 1988 is closing soon and the boy must grow up to be Gavin or else Eve’s children will disappear. Yes, “La Brea” can get quite weird at times; that includes the cow that wandered around, somehow not eaten by the saber-tooth tiger. Still, this is a ratings success that will be back next year,
8) “Beebo Saves Christmas,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, CW. On “Legends of Tomorrow,” Beebo is a cuddly toy that went back in time, became the Vikings’ “god of war” and temporarily changed history. In this cartoon, he’s simply cuddly – trying to save Santa, who was ousted by an efficiency expert. This peaks with some poetic narration by Victor Garber at the beginning and end, plus a zesty opening song. There are some weaker moments (songs by non-singers) in-between, but this is mostly a sharp, witty hour,
9) “25 Days of Christmas,” starting Wednesday, Freeform. Dec. 1 used to be near the start of TV’s Christmas season. Now “25 Days” seems almost tardy. But it starts big – the “Santa Clause” films at 11:05 a.m. and 1:15 and 3:345 p.m., with “Home Alone” ones at 5:50 and 8:20. Those films will rerun often; Freeform also adds cartoon classics – “Frosty” and “Rudolph” – at 7:10 and 7:45 p.m. Saturday and 5 and 5:35 p.m. Sunday. Also, ABC has “Olaf” and “Toy Story” half-hours, 8-9 p.m. Thursday.
10) And more: Saturday has musical movies – Judy Garland’s “Meet Me in St. Louis,” at 3:30 p.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies and Kirk Franklin’s new “A Gospel Christmas,” at 8 p.m. on Lifetime. On Sunday, CBS has more music: At 8:30 p.m (but 8 p.m. PT)., the “National Christmas Tree Lighting” has LL Cool J, H.E.R., Chris Stapleton, Billy Porter, Patti LaBelle and more. At 9:30 (9 PT), “A Home For the Holidays” has adoption stories plus Justin Bieber, Kane Brown, Alessia Cara and Darren Criss.
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