Each week, Torontoist examines the upcoming TV listings and makes note of programs that are entertaining, informative, and of quality. Or, alternately, none of those. The result: Televisualist.
Merry Christmas, Skeletor! Illustration by Brett Lamb/Torontoist.
MondaySeason of Song: The Canadian Tenors and Friends is your perfectly acceptable standard holiday concert special, notable only because Justin Bieber shows up so we can make Bieber jokes. Meanwhile, in the corner, Paul Anka sighs, wondering why we don’t make Paul Anka jokes any more when he shows up on a Christmas special even though “Anka” is nearly as funny a name as “Bieber” is. Pity Paul Anka. He is undone by Bieber. (CBC, 8 p.m.)
Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas To You will be basically like that Canadian Tenors special, except that there will be one point in every song where Mariah hits her high note just because she can. (ABC, 9 p.m.)
A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa isn’t the really good Muppet Christmas special; it’s the one from two years ago where the Muppets travel to the North Pole to help their friend, but the evil Nathan Lane tries to stop them. It’s not bad; it’s just not premium Muppet. (A-Channel, 9 p.m.)
TuesdayThe Biggest Loser concludes its ninth season. We ran out of Biggest Loser jokes about four seasons ago, so we will just note that one remaining contestant, as of the semifinal episode, has lost forty per cent of their beginning body weight. Which: what? (NBC, 9 p.m.)
Retro Christmas time! The Little Troll Prince is a 1985 special—with the voices of Don Knotts, Vincent Price, Jonathan Winters, and Cloris Leachman among others—about a, well, troll. It’s explicitly religious, but honest about it. May not be to all tastes, but as a historical moment of television, interesting. (CHCH, 8 p.m.)
The Simpsons rerun of the week: “Trash of the Titans,” wherein Homer runs for sanitation commissioner against guest voice Steve Martin and promptly ruins the town as a result of promising the moon without figuring out how to pay for it. Serves as a prescient forecast of modern politics generally. “Oh gosh. You know, I’m not much on speeches, but it’s so gratifying to…leave you wallowing in the mess you’ve made. You’re screwed. Thank you, bye.” (Fox, 11 p.m.)
WednesdayDisney’s Christmas Carol is exemplary because it successfully condenses the Dickens tale down to just twenty-four minutes of animation without feeling rushed, and uses the Disney characters for every role without feeling cheesy. Indeed, the use of Scrooge McDuck as Uncle Scrooge is downright inspired, not just for the name but for the vocal and animated performance of the character, and Pete as the Ghost of Christmas Future is genuinely scary. Well, if you’re a little kid it’s scary. (CBC, 8 p.m.)
ThursdayGremlins is a Christmas tradition in the way that Die Hard is, which is to say that it is a movie having little to do with Christmas which takes place at Christmas and is awesome. If you really feel bad about there not being any explicit Christmas message, you can hum “Silent Night” during the credits or something. (CHCH, 8 p.m.)
White Christmas is a Christmas staple for a reason: although the film’s plot and performances are scant (mostly held aloft by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney’s charm and Danny Kaye’s superb comic timing), the timeless Irving Berlin musical numbers are what make this worth watching at least once in your life. (AMC, 8 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.)
FridayAlthough Televisualist does not have the intense dislike for the Dakota Fanning/Richard Attenborough Miracle on 34th Street remake that some people do (we think Attenborough’s Santa is particularly fine), everybody knows that the original 1947 version is far superior, if only because Dylan McDermott isn’t in that one and there’s no explicit religious subtext to it. Also, Maureen O’Hara is better than Elizabeth Perkins, and…okay, the 1947 film—the one that’s on tonight—is just better on all counts, we admit it. (AMC, 8 p.m.)
The WeekendYTV goes retro as well with a night full of old Christmas specials: A Flintstone Family Christmas (wherein Fred and Barney take over for Santa), ‘Tis the Season To Be Smurfy (wherein the Smurfs wrestle with moral questions of how the Smurfs celebrate Christmas in the first place), A Garfield Christmas Special (wherein Garfield eats lasagna and hates Mondays—at Christmas!), He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special (where Skeletor is possessed by the spirit of Christmas and does good deeds, much to his dislike) and ALF’s Special Christmas, which we have never actually seen but it has ALF. (starting at 7 p.m., Saturday)
Survivor: Nicaragua concludes with the usual two-hour finale plus reunion special immediately following. Currently remaining in the game are a bunch of Survivor archetypes: two Young Strong Dumb Guys (Chase and Fabio), two Gutsy Older Ladies (Jane and Holly), a Schemer (Sash), and a Useless Lump Who’s Only Good For His Vote Because Nobody Will Vote For Him (Dan). Currently the Sash/Holly/Jane/Chase alliance holds the reins of power, but Survivor is notorious for people making easy routes to the final much more difficult than they need to be. All this, plus Jeff Probst’s undeserved smugness! (Global, 8 p.m. Sunday)