“Wishful Drinking” (8 p.m., HBO) continues actress and author Carrie Fisher’s decades-long effort to mine comedy from her weird and extraordinary Hollywood childhood and career.
Alone on stage and armed with a biographical flowchart and vintage clips, she tries to explain the world of near-incestuous relationships resulting from her parents’ (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher) frenetic marriages, divorces, adoptions and relationships. She argues that during Hollywood’s golden age, its “royalty” was as eccentric, inbred and self-destructive as Europe’s sceptered aristocracy during its decadent decline.
This stage production was taped last June before the death of her father, Eddie Fisher. With a kind of exasperated affection, she informs us that he has spent his dotage smoking four joints a day, a habit that earned him the family nickname “Puff Daddy.”
After skewering her parents in the first act, she spends the second discussing her failed marriage to Paul Simon and the joys and burdens of enduring in men’s fantasies as the barely clad Princess Leia of “Star Wars” fame.
And after that, she discusses her institutionalization for drug abuse and mental illness, her taste for electroshock therapy and her emergence as a spokeswoman for the bipolar.
To call this self-indulgent is completely accurate, but entirely besides the point. Just as the poet William Wordsworth called poetry “emotions recollected in tranquility,” Fisher sees comedy as the only sane way to reflect on years of dysfunction, numbness and pain.
“If my life wasn’t funny,” she observes, “It would just be true ... and that is entirely unacceptable.”
Tonight’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): an interview with Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the next Speaker of the House; a profile of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones; Brazil’s emergence as an economic superpower.
• A winner emerges on “Amazing Race” (7 p.m., CBS).
• Christina Milian and Ashley Benson star in the 2010 holiday fantasy “Christmas Cupid” (7 p.m., ABC Family).
• Genevieve Gorder hosts “White House Christmas 2010” (7 p.m., HGTV).
• “A Very BET Christmas” (7 p.m., BET) concert raises money for charity.
• Dallas hosts Philadelphia on “Sunday Night Football” (7:15 p.m., NBC).
• “Hot in Cleveland” (8 p.m., TV Land) glances back at the first season.
• Dexter senses a trap on the fifth season finale of “Dexter” (8 p.m., Showtime).
• Cathy Hughes interviews Snoop Dogg on “One on One” (8 p.m., TV One).
• Kate Gosselin camps it up on “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” (8 p.m., TLC).
• Santa needs help on “Leverage” (8 p.m., TNT).
• A sugar refinery explodes on “CSI: Miami” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Nora departs on short notice on “Brothers and Sisters” (9 p.m., ABC). Richard Chamberlain guest stars.
• “Robot Chicken” (10:30 p.m., Cartoon Network) completes its “Star Wars” trilogy.