Archive for Friday, November 20, 2009

When keeping it real means keeping it fake

November 20, 2009


Decades of Christmas specials have established a set of standards to live up to, or down to, as in the case of “Larry the Cable Guy’s Hula-Palooza Christmas Luau” (8 p.m., CMT). The first principle of the inappropriately early Christmas special is to recognize the fact that the audience has no illusions that it has not been taped months earlier on a stage in Hollywood or Nashville, far away in time and space from the holiday mood. This explains Larry’s decision to place the special on the fictional island of Hula-Poola, the setting for comedy sketches and musical performances by Billy Currington and the Zac Brown Band.

The second holiday tradition observed here is the casting of celebrities from decades past, folks lodged in the “where are they now?” filing cabinet of the average viewer’s brain. It’s even better when those vintage performers are well known for their own Christmas and holiday specials, like crooner, comedian and Jerry Lewis telethon regular Tony Orlando. He’s joined by George Lindsey, an actor best known for his role as Gomer Pyle’s slower-witted cousin, Goober, on “The Andy Griffith Show,” a role he reprised on “Mayberry R.F.D.” and on the syndicated country music and comedy showcase “Hee Haw.”

Other guests include Caroline Rhea, a veteran of both “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “The Biggest Loser.” According to the unwritten rules of holiday specials, I predict we’ll be seeing Rhea for many Christmases to come.

• Taking a cue from those old X-ray specs sold in the back of comic books, “Medium” (8 p.m., CBS) presents an episode in which Allison wears glasses that allow her to see other people’s visions and even determine their life expectancies. I don’t expect Joe will approve of that.

• The documentary “Damned to Heaven” (7 p.m., Documentary Channel) looks at the Arizona-based polygamous sect guided by Warren Jeffs.

• “Shrek the Third” (7 p.m., ABC), the 2007 animated comedy sequel, featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas and Justin Timberlake, makes it network TV debut. Mixed reviews compared this unfavorably to the first two in this gag-rich franchise. The kindest remarks characterized it as an uninspired rehash of “more of the same.”

• After more than 1,000 entries and months of competition, “Stud Finder 2009” (8 p.m., DIY) has been found. The final five compete in head-to-head home repair challenges, and the winner emerges in this hour-long special hosted by contractor and former “Stud Finder” finalist Matt Blashaw.

Tonight’s other highlights

• A child’s spirit may be leading Aiden astray on “Ghost Whisperer” (7 p.m., CBS).

• A shop owner’s actions may have gone beyond self-defense on “Law & Order” (7 p.m.).

• Gerard Butler, Michael McIntyre, Sarah Harding and Arctic Monkeys appear on “Friday Night With Jonathan Ross” (8 p.m., BBC America).

• Back on the force, Adrian pursues a serial killer on “Monk” (8 p.m., USA).

• A convict may become an ally after a jewel heist on “Numb3rs” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Scheduled on “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC): Barbara Walters completes her interview with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

• Peter and Neal prepare a sting to recover a purloined portrait on “White Collar” (9 p.m., USA).


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