Who can resist an annual roundup? “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2012” (8:30 p.m., ABC) is a special that always straddles the high and low of politics, media and popular culture. Some of those profiled are well known, while others are celebrities we probably hadn’t heard of this time last year and who have a good chance of fading from memory.
Among the announced guests, I’d put gymnast Gabby Douglas and pop sensation One Direction in the latter category. But whatever happens, they’re indelibly linked to our memories of this passing year.
Writer E.L. James, author of the dreary, smutty and badly written novel “50 Shades of Grey,” is arguably a flavor, or hue, of the moment. But like a rash, best-selling authors tend to stick around.
A longtime Oscar night fixture, Walters will also interview “Family Guy” creator and 2013 Academy Awards host Seth MacFarlane. Given the reaction to the Academy’s curious choice, it’s not clear if Walters is providing promotion or damage control.
Was Ben Affleck any more “fascinating” in 2012 (when he directed and starred in “Argo”) than he was in 2010 (when he also directed and starred in “The Town”) or in 2003 (when he starred in “Gigli”)? Who knows? For years, Walters trotted out Tom Cruise, no matter what. Now Affleck appears to be her go-to A-lister, somebody who is fascinating for having been fascinating for so long. For the record, Affleck also made the “Fascinating” cut in 2003.
The choice to include both outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears to be Walters’ way of saying, “The 2012 election is over; bring on 2016!”
It’s not certain if Christie should see this chat as a warm embrace, or the kiss of death. (Republican politicians dubbed “moderate” and “reasonable” by the media tend to annoy the party’s base.)
Tonight’s other highlights:
• The top finalists compete on “The X Factor” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Oliver reboots the family Christmas tradition on “Arrow” (7 p.m., CW).
• Claire and Cameron reclaim an abandoned lot on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).
• Hector sinks lower on “The Hour” (8 p.m., BBC America).
• A small plane crash claims five lives on “CSI” (9 p.m., CBS).
• A surprise convert on “American Horror Story: Asylum” (9 p.m., FX).