Folks who just can’t imagine celebrating New Year’s Eve without Dick Clark probably don’t remember when Clark’s production challenged an established holiday institution. Before the big night started “rockin’” it was all but synonymous with Guy Lombardo, a big band leader popular with those whose tastes were shaped in the 1930s and ’40s. His reedy rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” still defines the occasion’s boozy blend of anticipation and bittersweet nostalgia.
We’re now as far away in time from the first “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” as it was from those big band days, a point that’s made on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve: The 40th Anniversary Party” (7 p.m., ABC). The first “Rockin’ Eve” was headlined by early ’70s hit- makers Three Dog Night. For those in search of today’s pop stars, catch Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga later on “Dick Clark’s Primetime New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2012” (9 p.m., ABC).
Like many things on the Peacock Network, “NBC’s New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly” (9 p.m.) offers a great deal of cross-network promotion. Look for Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green of “The Voice” to perform. And expect an appearance by Jimmy Fallon and his house band the Roots, as well as British pop star Jessie J and the ageless Tony Bennett.
Fox offers “American Country New Year’s Eve Live” (10 p.m.) featuring performances by Joe Nichols, Eli Young Band and Toby Keith as well as coverage of the ball dropping in Times Square. Rick Harrison and Austin Russell (“Pawn Stars”) co-host with Rodney Carrington from Las Vegas.
‘‘NYE in NYC 2012” (10p.m., MTV) allows MTV to follow the crowds and promote the new season of “Punk’d.”
• This year’s Syfy “Twilight Zone” (9 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday) marathon includes 40 episodes that were selected by viewers on the network’s website.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Enjoy 24 hours of “Top Gear Top 40” (5 a.m., BBC America).
• Wrap up 2011 with “Weed Wars” (3 p.m., Discovery), followed by “Moonshiners” (5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, Discovery).
• Virginia and Auburn meet in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (6:30 p.m., ESPN). Wake me up when it schedules the 99 Cent Store Bowl.
• The hunt for the mole continues on the two-hour season ender of “Terra Nova” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Matt Damon stars in the 2007 thriller “The Bourne Ultimatum” (7:30 p.m., CBS).
• Comedy Central invites viewers to ring out the year with six episodes of “South Park” (8 p.m.).