Abruptly canceled on a cliffhanger, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist returns with a festive streaming holiday movie. FXX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns for a record-setting 15th season of outrageous antics. The lighting of Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree is followed on NBC by a musical special headlined by Kelly Clarkson. Oscar buzz swirls around director Jane Campion’s dark Western The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
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A gift for fans of the jubilant musical dramedy that NBC canceled after two too-short seasons, this feature-length holiday episode works nicely as a series finale, catching up with Zoey (the marvelous Jane Levy), boyfriend Max (Skylar Astin) and the rest of her circle of family, friends (Alex Newell as Mo!) and co-workers. As the Season 2 cliffhanger revealed, Max can now hear inner heart songs just like Zoey—a gift, but also a burden—which makes him witness to Zoey’s anxiety as she tries to plan a perfect Christmas in memory of her late dad, Mitch (Peter Gallagher). Bernadette Peters and The Rookie’s Nathan Fillion (as a charming Christmas tree salesman) are among those joining in the fun. It’s not like getting the series back, but there’s something to be said for letting a wonderful show take a final bow during a time of thanksgiving.
The irreverent comedy makes pop-culture history as the longest-running comedy in TV history as it embarks on a 15th season with back-to-back episodes. (Sunny doesn’t boast the highest episode count, mind you. Hitting 160 during this season’s eight-episode run, it’s far behind the likes of The Big Bang Theory, Friends and others, clocking 270-plus episodes.) The gang’s snarkily self-centered antics are as appallingly funny as ever, starting with a look back at 2020 and How They Survived the Pandemic—namely with schemes and scams, intersecting hilariously with the year’s political turmoil, all revealed when a loan collector comes to investigate all the PPE loans they took out. The second episode is even wilder, as they decide to make yet another hapless Lethal Weapon sequel, this time for a “woke” audience to make up for all of their past transgressions. Hiring a pimp to play Murtaugh is just the first of their missteps.
A yearly tradition of music and revelry on the Rockefeller Center plaza culminates with the lighting of a 79-foot-tall, 46-foot-wide Norway Spruce from Maryland. Today’s anchors and personalities are the hosts, with entertainment from Harry Connick Jr. (no doubt promoting this week’s Annie Live!), Carrie Underwood, José Feliciano, Mickey Guyton, Norah Jones, Brad Paisley, Rob Thomas, Pentatonix, the Rockettes and the cast of Broadway’s Come from Away. Followed by Kelly Clarkson Presents: When Christmas Comes Around (10/9c), featuring music from her new holiday album and appearances by Melissa McCarthy, Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr., Ariana Grande, Brett Eldredge, Amy Poehler, Jay Leno—and Santa Claus.
It’s also Oscar season as prestige movies with stellar casts begin premiering on screens large and small through the end of the year. Director Jane Campion’s (The Piano) very dark Western, based on the Thomas Savage novel and set in 1920s Montana, stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons as very different brothers—one brutal, one kind—who clash over a widow (Kirsten Dunst) and her young, vulnerable son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) when they move into the family ranch. For those who think Yellowstone doesn’t go dark enough.
A standout from a lineup of all-new episodes on ABC, the heart-tugging ’60s revival welcomes eldest son Bruce (Spence Moore II) back from Vietnam for the holidays. Dean (Elisha “EJ” Williams) is thrilled to have his family’s hero around, but it’s clear Bruce isn’t adjusting to civilian life easily, so it’s up to the entire family to bring some cheer with their time-honored traditions.
More holiday treats:
- Match Made in Mistletoe (8/7c, Lifetime): The requisite daily holiday movie tells the story of an interior designer (Natalie Lisinska) who finds love while decorating an embassy’s charity ball in Washington, D.C.
- Beebo Saves Christmas (8/7c, The CW): The fuzzy toy-god from the Arrowverse gets his own animated holiday special when he and his friends head to the North Pole to stop an overly officious elf from cutting Santa out of the picture. Followed by the self-explanatory World’s Funniest Animals: Christmas (9/8c).
- Fruitcake Fraud (streaming on discovery+): Though to many it’s an acquired taste they’d rather not acquire, the fruitcake industry is big business. This true-crime special goes inside the Collin Street Bakery in Texas, one of the world’s largest fruitcake distributors, to investigate a massive embezzlement fraud that robbed the company of millions over almost a decade. Even spiked eggnog won’t make that go down easy.
- Candified: Home for the Holidays (streaming on Hulu): Calling Hansel and Gretel: A four-part unscripted series follows “Candy Queen” Jackie Sorkin as she and her team of candy artists assemble a life-size house made entirely of sweet treats.
Inside Wednesday TV:
- All Rise (streaming on Hulu and HBO Max): Rescued from cancellation by OWN for an upcoming third season, the first two seasons of the legal drama are now available for streaming.
- The Jeffersons (streaming on Prime Video): Move on up with George (Sherman Hemsley) and Weezy (Isobel Sanford) for all 11 seasons of the classic 1970s-80s Norman Lear comedy.
- Lost in Space (streaming on Netflix): The third and final season of the family sci-fi adventure finds the Robinson kids—Judy, Penny, Will, plus the Robot—separated from their parents on a mysterious planet with 97 other young colonists. To reunite, they’ll have to face one more alien threat.
- The Tower (streaming on BritBox): A three-part British police drama, based on a novel by former Metropolitan Police homicide detective Kate London, stars Game of Thrones’ Gemma Whelan as a detective investigating a shocking case where a veteran cop and teenage girl are killed, while a rookie cop and a 5-year-old boy have gone missing—all involving the same East End tower.
- Behind the Monsters (streaming on Shudder): The series wraps with an exploration of Clive Barker’s macabre masochist “Pinhead” from the Hellraiser film franchise.
- Adrienne (8/7c, HBO): Actress-turned-director Adrienne Warren (Waitress), who was murdered in 2006 before her breakthrough film was released, is remembered by her husband, director Andy Ostroy, in an intimate and personal documentary.
- Trafficked with Mariana Van Zeller (9/8c, National Geographic): The investigative docuseries is back for a second season, exposing the dark underworlds of various enterprises. The opener looks at the black market in plastic surgery, including discount surgery centers and grim motel-room operations resulting in patient deaths.
- The Real Housewives of Orange County (9/8c, Bravo): For the 16th season, Heather Dubrow returns to the catty flock after a five-year hiatus.
- CSI: Vegas (10/9c, CBS): Hodges (Wallace Langham) considers a plea deal while the forensic team continues to scramble to look for exonerating evidence in the penultimate chapter of the reboot’s first season.
- The Sinner (10/9c, USA): In the psychological mystery’s series finale, Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) exposes the secret that led to Percy’s (Alice Kremelberg) downfall, triggering a myriad of consequences.