Televisualist: Now Admitting Existence of Christmas
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Televisualist: Now Admitting Existence of Christmas

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.

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Community creator Dan Harmon looks down upon what he has wrought. Illustration by Brett Lamb/Torontoist.

Monday

Televisualist made a lot of fun of The Sing-Off last year, but it ended up being largely unjustified: the a cappella groups competing were, for the most part, simply spectacularly good; the judging from Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman was constructive and intelligent (the judging from Nicole Sherzinger was, well, let’s just say “inoffensive”); and the show was just put together well, right down to the amazing Bobby McFerrin performance in the finale. This year, NBC has expanded it to last three whole weeks and has ten groups rather than eight—one of whom is the Whiffenpoofs, the legendary Yale a cappella team. If this year’s edition is as good as last year’s, this will be a treat. (NBC, 8 p.m.)
Avoid Jim Carrey’s modern take on How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s genuinely awful: Carrey does his manic schtick with an added Grinch growl; the Whos, rather than being beatific heroes who teach the Grinch the meaning of Christmas, are instead over-commercialized consumer zombies who don’t understand it either; and absolutely everything about the movie is visually appalling. Kills the point of the original Christmas classic dead with a hammer and then jumps up and down on the corpse. (Global, 8 p.m.)
The Simpsons rerun of the week: “Grift of the Magi,” wherein the Simpsons go to war against Funzo. “So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanzaa, tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. Now a word from my god: our sponsor.” (CFMT, 6 p.m.)

Tuesday

“A Very Glee Christmas.” Not sure whether that sentence should fill a person with dread or not. (Global, 8 p.m.)
A Charlie Brown Christmas is timeless and special in a way that most holiday “specials” are not: still the most perfect of Peanuts cartoons and still the most powerful. It is worth making time to watch, even if it will probably be rebroadcast a few more times over the holiday season. (ABC, 8 p.m.)
Case in point of holiday teevee not being special: Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights, ostensibly a Chanukah movie, but really just a bad, bad Adam Sandler movie that happens to be a cartoon (with a lot of annoying product placement). Despite not being good, though, it’s gotten a bit of a cult following over the past decade, probably because it’s the only high-profile “Chanukah special” made in recent memory. Said following is undeserved. Because it’s bad, see. (A-Channel, 9 p.m.)
Christmas special blast-from-the-past number one: Pinocchio’s Christmas, the 1980 Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation special where Pinocchio gets a job to buy Geppetto a present for Christmas. I believe the last time I saw this I was maybe nine. (CHCH, 8 p.m.)

Wednesday

So last week on Survivor, two of the competitors (Kelly and NaOnka) quit the game voluntarily, and this has resulted in the usual firestorm of condemnation, which is annoying because it’s not like anybody was robbed by their decision to quit the game—quite the reverse, considering that other people now have a better chance to win the million dollars. (The people who were already eliminated? They were never going to win. The people who didn’t get on the show? They were never going to get on the show anyway.) Granted, it’s irritating to see people quit rather than get eliminated, because it’s so much more satisfying to see the people you’re rooting against get knocked out. But it’s far more irritating to see Jeff Probst, whose cardinal virtue as a reality show host is that he makes you want to punch him in his face, moralize to contestants about how they’re wimps for giving up at something he’s never, ever had to even consider trying to do. (Global, 8 p.m.)
Christmas special blast-from-the-past number two: Casper’s First Christmas, from 1979. Old-school animation. The last time I saw this I was probably seven. (CHCH, 8 p.m.)
Die Hard is the finest of Christmas traditions. Is it not one of your Christmas traditions? Well, it should be, because it is one of the best action movies ever made. And it takes place at Christmas. So it counts! (CHCH, 8:30 p.m.)

Thursday

Advance hype for the Rankin-Bass–inspired stop-motion animation Christmas episode of Community has been intense if you are a nerd on the internet. Given that you are reading this, it’s probably fifty-fifty odds that you are. If you aren’t, then this seems as good a point as any to start watching Community, although “last year” would have been better. (City, 8 p.m.)
Christmas special blast-from-the-past number three: The Stingiest Man In Town, Rankin-Bass’ traditional-animation musical version of A Christmas Carol, featuring Walter Matthau as the voice of Scrooge and Tom Bosley as narrating insect B.A.H. Humbug. Charmingly old-fashioned. Does anybody else think that CHCH abandoning the E! license was the best thing they ever did? Because we sure as hell do. (CHCH, 8 p.m.)

Friday

Back-to-back lesser-known adaptations of A Christmas Carol tonight on Turner Classics. First up is the 1938 A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen as Scrooge, which has gradually faded into obscurity as the 1951 Carol with Alastair Sim as Scrooge has become the preeminent version of the story in black-and-white film. Which is understandable, because Owen’s Scrooge, while serviceable, isn’t up to Sim’s. After the 1938 film, you can jump forward to 1970’s Scrooge, starring Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Marley’s ghost in a very entertaining musical rendition of the story. This one is well worth a watch for Glee fans looking to extend their range of movie musical knowledge. (Carol at 8 p.m., Scrooge at 9:30 p.m.)

The Weekend

One more A Christmas Carol for you to consider, and we know at this point you may be Scrooged out, but this one is the big daddy: the 1984 edition with George C. Scott as Scrooge, who probably is the only Scrooge who can rightfully compete with Alastair Sim and/or Scrooge McDuck as best Ebenezer. (CHCH, 8 p.m. Saturday)
You only get one chance per year to see It’s A Wonderful Life nowadays, and that is a shame. It used to be played all over the damn teevee all through the holiday season, and many people would get pissy about its omnipresence. But this also meant you could watch it whenever it was convenient for you to do so. Now? Once a year. As Joni Mitchell once said, sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. (NBC, 8 p.m. Saturday)
The Amazing Race concludes with its first serious opportunity for an all-female team to win in a while, as both Brooke and Claire (the Home Shopping Network hosts) and Nat and Kat (the doctors) have shown themselves to be strong teams. However, Thomas and Jill (filling the “dating couple” slot that seems mandatory in any set of three finalists) are similarly a very sensible team that races well. Is this finally the time for a team with four X chromosomes to win it all? (CTV, 8 p.m. Sunday)

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