The sports documentary series “30 for 30” (8 p.m., today, ESPN) wraps up with “The U,” a look at the evolution of the University of Miami football team from doormat status in the 1970s to a decade of national dominance.
Filled with insightful chats with players, coaches and athletic directors, “U” does a consistent job of showing the intersection of sports, culture and racial politics.
The private university’s football program got off the ground in the early 1980s when newly hired coach Howard Schnellenberger began to personally recruit from Miami and South Florida’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The result was an energized team on an affluent campus suddenly integrated in ways not everybody could handle.
The team’s aggressive play brought it several national championships and notorious publicity that only grew as brash coach Jimmy Johnson replaced Schnellenberger. Seen here, Johnson recalls trying to capitalize on the then-popular image of “Miami Vice” and its colorful swagger.
The team would be embraced by the emerging hip-hop scene, most notably 2 Live Crew, who were at the cutting edge of censorship issues at the time.
For all of its bad press, the Miami Hurricanes produced winning teams and a parade of NFL-bound talent, including Melvin Bratton, Vinny Testaverde, Santana Moss, Alonzo Highsmith, Bernie Kosar and Jeremy Shockey, to name a few.
Michael Irwin dismisses charges that the media had it out for his team.
“It wasn’t any conspiracy or the media. We were bad boys, and we were enjoying being bad boys.”
• Any glance back at the pop culture of 2009 must include singer Susan Boyle. If the story of her overnight rise to international fame were part of a movie, you wouldn’t believe it. And that’s what made the YouTube clip of her talent show breakthrough all the more emotional.
Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell, the eye-rolling, skeptical judges from “Britain’s Got Talent,” join the singer on “I Dreamed a Dream: The Susan Boyle Story” (7 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, The TV Guide Network). The special offers a recap of her story to date and a chance to hear Boyle perform a few numbers from her new CD, including “Cry Me a River” and the Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses,” as well as a very special performance of “I Dreamed A Dream,” with the London West End cast of “Les Miserables.”
• Jenny McCarthy, a blonde bombshell wise enough to know she’s a parody of a blonde bombshell, reprises her role as Mary Class, the brash daughter of old St. Nick in the cable holiday sequel “Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe” (7 p.m., Sunday, Family). Paul Sorvino (“Goodfellas”) plays the jolly guy, suffering from a midlife crisis. Look for Dean McDermott as the New York boyfriend who might keep Mary from taking over the family business.
• A daytime talk-show host with boundless self-regard spends time with the president and first lady as they prepare for the holidays on “Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Primetime Special” (9 p.m., Sunday, ABC).
• TV Land devotes 24 hours to the 10th annual “Merrython” (5 a.m., Sunday), a daylong block of holiday-themed episodes of sitcom classics including “Roseanne,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Sanford And Son,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “The Brady Bunch,” “The Cosby Show” and more.
“Merrython” will repeat Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Today’s holiday highlights
• Burl Ives narrates the 1964 special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (7 p.m., CBS).
• Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed star in the 1946 fable “It’s a Wonderful Life” (7 p.m., NBC), directed by Frank Capra.
• A big family prepares a feast on “Sandra Lee Celebrates: Season of Surprise” (7 p.m., HGTV).
• Terrorists target super-colliders capable of mass destruction in the 2009 shocker “Annihilation Earth” (8 p.m., Sci Fi), starring Luke Goss.
• Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (9 p.m., CBS): an adoption scandal.
• Jimmy Carr and 50 Cent appear on “The Graham Norton Show” (9 p.m., BBC America).
• Taylor Lautner hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Bon Jovi.
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): interview with President Barack Obama and Rickey Gervais, and efforts to rebuild Manhattan’s Ground Zero.
• Bart wants a brother for Christmas on “The Simpsons” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Lisa Ling hosts “Explorer: Narco State” (7 p.m., National Geographic), tales of drug-related violence on the border with Mexico.
• The cops close in on the Trinity Killer on the season finale of “Dexter” (8 p.m., Showtime).
• The gang prepare to release a holiday album on “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Christmas Special” on “Adult Swim” (10:45 p.m., Cartoon Network).