Monday TV: More Songs of the Season

cma-country-christmasReba McEntire hosts the ninth “CMA Country Christmas” (ABC, 8 p.m.) which features Tony Bennett with Diana Krall, Dan and Shay, Brett Eldridge, Amy Grant, Dustin Lynch, Martina McBride, Old Dominion, Brad Paisley, Michael W. Smith, Lindsey Stirling, the Isaacs and Brett Young.

A group that’s made a business out of Christmas songs has its own special, “Pentatonix: A Not So Silent Night” (NBC, 10 p.m.). Their guests include Kelly Clarkson, the Backstreet Boys, Maren Morris and a pair of non-singers, Penn & Teller.

“My Brilliant Friend” (HBO, 9 p.m.) reaches the end of its first season in an episode titled “The Promise.” Director Saverio Costanzo’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels will continue with subsequent seasons.

“Vice Special Report: Panic – The Untold Story of the 2008 Financial Crisis” (HBO, 10 p.m.) relives the financial implosion, featuring interviews with many of its chief architects, including Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Barack Obama and George W. Bush among others. It does a better job spelling out what happened than what occurred at the time, causing an anti-Wall Street feeling that helped construct the current political divide – with the tea party on the right and the occupy movement on the left.

Religious practice in more than 25 countries are part of the documentary “Sacred” on “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings).

The real life couple Dave and Odette Annable star in the made-for-TV holiday romance “No Sleep ’Til Christmas” (Freeform, 9 p.m.) about a pair of insomniacs who can only sleep next to each other.

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Sunday TV: Honoring Quincy Jones’ 85th

Q85: A Musical Celebration For Quincy JonesIn Quincy Jones’ long career in entertainment, he’s worked with Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra before he produced the biggest hits of Leslie Gore and the best selling albums of Michael Jackson. He went on to score soundtracks, dabble in film and television and earn the most Grammy nominations of anyone — 80. That’s just shy of the age being celebrated on a new TV special.

Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Brian McKnight, Meghan Trainor, Gladys Knight, Patti Austin, Gloria Estefan, Ledisi, Gregory Porter and Charlie Wilson are among the performers in “Q85: A Musical Celebration for Quincy Jones” (BET, 8 p.m.), an event taped at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles in September,  hosted by Oprah Winfrey. It’s part of a birthday celebration that began with the streaming of daughter Rashida Jones’ revealing biography “Quincy” (Netflix, streaming). He turned 85 in March.

Ledisi also shows up on the “Living by Design Holiday Special” (TV One, 7 p.m.) with Jake and Jazz Smollett.

In a less jammed field of quality series, “Counterpart” (Starz, 9 p.m.) might stand out more. As it is, the admirable series starring J.K. Simmons as a low level worker in Berlin who learns that he has an identical counterpart in a parallel dimension created during the Cold War deserves more viewers. When season one ended, the doppelgängers had switched places, and there is a lot to still discover, particularly with his wife in both dimensions, Olivia Williams.

Alex Gibney’s “Enemies: The President, Justice & the FBI” (Showtime, 8 p.m.) culminates with a feature-length examination of our current constitutional crisis.

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Saturday TV: More Christmas Movies

santa's bootsMegan Hilty stars in the latest made-for-TV holiday romance, “Santa’s Boots” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.), opposite Noah Mills. She plays a kind of elf, which is pretty much the same plot of another made-for-TV movie, “Rent-An-Elf” (ION, 9 p.m.) about yet another type-A working woman who falls for a divorced man during the holiday season. Kim Shaw and Sean Patrick Thomas star.

Female leads in such films all tend to have MBAs, such as the one in the new “Homegrown Christmas” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.), in which Lori Laughlin plays a former CEO who returns to her own high school to organize a Christmas dance, only to rediscover her high school flame (Victor Webster).

For a bigger budget feature, Stephen Spielberg’s sci-fi adaptation “Ready Player One” (HBO, 8 p.m.) with Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke, makes its premium cable debut. Also on tonight: “Pokemon the Movie: The Power of Us” (Disney XD, 7 p.m.).

She already had a job on the network so it was up to Jenna Bush Hager to come up with her own remembrance special to cap the week of his funeral, “Remembering George H.W. Bush: A Love Letter to Gampy” (Nbc, 8 p.m.), which includes interviews with the rest of her family including the other president in her family, her dad.

“Versailles” (Ovation, 10 p.m.) ends its three season run with a 90-minute series finale that includes an assassination attempt of France’s King Louis XIV.

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Friday TV: Gripping Border Drama ‘Icebox’

ICeboxIn Daniel Sawka’s super-timely “Icebox” (HBO, 8 p.m.), Anthony Gonzalez portrays a 12-year-old Honduran boy forced to seek asylum in the U.S., only to be apprehended by the Border Patrol and placed in a detention facility with scores of other kids. Matthew Moreno, Omar Leyva and Johnny Ortiz also star in the film, produced in part by James L. Brooks.

It’s more timely than a more expensively made story about a mop haired kid on the run. The streaming “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle”  (Netflix, streaming), a new take on Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”is live action and CBI, directed by motion-capture veteran Andy Serkis. The big stars are in the voices of the animals thus animated, and they include  Benedict  Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Rhys and Christian Bale.

In the new movie “Dumplin’” (Netflix, streaming), Danielle Macdonald (“Patti Cake$s”) plays a plus-sized Texas teen who is daughter to a former beauty queen (Jennifer Aniston) and signs up to be in a pageant as a protest.

In the Italian import “Natale A 5 Stelle” or “5 Star Christmas” (Netflix, streaming), two members of an official holiday delegation to Hungary have their tryst complicated by finding a corpse in their hotel suite.

The violent life of Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight is the subject of the hip hop documentary “American Dream / American Nightmare” (Showtime, 9 p.m.). It’s followed by a documentary about an epidemic of porn addiction, “Porndemic” (Showtime, 10:30 p.m.).

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Thursday TV: Americana on Tap

jason-isbell-2018-billboard-1548You’ll be hard pressed to find a better music lineup than the one on the 2018 Americanafest (CMT, 9 p.m.) a Nashville event that finally makes it to television with performances from big winner Jason Isbell, above, as well as Rosanne Cash, John Prine, Irma Thomas, Buddy Guy, I’m With Her, Margo Price, k.d. lang, Brandi Carlile and more. And, taped in September at the 17th annual Americana Honors & Awards, there’s nary a Christmas song in the bunch.

For holiday cheer, there are always the standbys “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (ABC, 8 p.m.) and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (AMC, 8 and 10:15 p.m.) and “It’s a Wonderful Life” (USA, 8 p.m.) — where commercials stretch it to three hours.

“Top Chef” (Bravo, 9 p.m.) starts its 16th season in Kentucky, with 15 hopefuls competing at Churchill Downs.

More ovens are ignited as the fourth season starts for “The Great American Baking Show” (ABC, 8 p.m.).

“The Good Place” (NBC, 8:30 p.m.) was the only network comedy to score a Golden Globe nomination this year.

Adult Sheldon is inspired by an old VHS tape on “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS, 8 p.m.), while “Young Sheldon” (CBS, 8:30 p.m.) tries to act more like a kid.

On “Superstore” (NBC, 8 p.m.), Jonah and Amy go to a managers’ conference in Chicago.

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Wednesday TV: Remembering a President

cathedral-727x476If you’re off work today due to the National Day of Mourning, it’s only fair that you tune in the Memorial Service for President George H.W. Bush (NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, 9 a.m.). While cable news coverage begins early, the motorcade won’t travel from the Capitol to the National Cathedral until 10 a.m., with the service expected to begin at 11 a.m., with eulogies from his son, the former President George W. Bush, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Sen. Alan Simpson, historian and Bush biographer Jon Meacham, and former First Lady Laura Bush. CBS begins coverage at 9:45 a.m.; ABC and PBS at 10 a.m.

Among the specials tonight is “History Remembers George H.W. Bush” (History, 10 p.m.) and a replay of the 2012 documentary “41” (HBO, 8 p.m.).

One of the expected attendees is featured on the taped interview with former senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, “A Thousand Words with Michelle Obama” (BET, 9 p.m.).

Regarding our current political situation, one indicator may be the new “Border Live” (Discover, 9 p.m.), which sounds like a variant of “Live PD” (A&E, 8 p.m.) that concerns the chaos on the Mexican border. It will focus on Border Patrol activities, but there are also 5,400 troops down there. And clarity might be threatened by tear gas.

A new season begins for the fabulous-looking, annoyingly fast talking “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime, streaming), the Emmy darling that begins its second season continuing to spend its bundles of money thrown at it by taking a trip to Paris after Ms. Maisel’s mother, intent on leaving her stifling household (or maybe just the nonstop patter). It’s great until it’s exhausting.

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Celebrating ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’

IMG_6396“One hundred years from this day,” Gram Parsons once wrote. “Will the people still feel this way?”

Alas, he wouldn’t live to find out. Twenty-two when he wrote it, he was dead at 26.

But half a century since it was recorded for a game-changing Byrds album, maybe the people do feel different.

A flop when it was released, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” gained stature as the first album-length country-rock statement, creating a string of music that flourishes as Americana, and justifying a tour marking its 50th year, which made its way to the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda in a ringing show Monday.

Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman were the only Byrds remaining to perform it. But that seemed to fit — they were the only two members left in the imploding band when they started the project. They were the ones who hired the country-rock savant Parsons, who in turn helped steer the band to its rhinestone-gilded new direction.

The Byrds had dabbled in classic country previously, from the bluegrass-sounding “Mr. Spaceman” to Hillman’s “Time Between.” But it was Parsons who pulled them further, with three of his own songs as well as the wide-ranging country sampling that rounded it out, recorded in Nashville with some of its finest musicians.

In doing so, after helping invent folk-rock by plugging in Dylan, the Byrds created an honest salute to the twang and rhinestone of classic country with neither condescension nor irony; a full embrace of American ideals unusual for long-haired rockers of the day, and possibly out of step entirely with 1968, the tumultuous year in which it was recorded.

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Tuesday TV: Megan Fox, Archeologist

meganFoxNot since Melania Trump rocked the Indiana Jones look at the pyramids has there been such a glamorous person adopting the archeologist’s pose. But on the new four-part “Legends of the Lost with Megan Fox” (Travel, 8 p.m.) the actress from the early “Transformers” movies travels to places like Turkey and Stonehenge to try and uncover ancient secrets. She begins by traveling to Scandinavia to look into the idea that the Viking armies were actually comprised of women.

More specifically copying Indiana Jones in seeking the holy grail is Josh Gates, tonight on “Expedition Unknown” (Travel, 9 p.m.).

Just as you have memorized all the Christmas specials, you’ve probably already memorized the recurring holiday sketches on “A Saturday Night Live Christmas Special” (NBC, 9 p.m.), from a time when, before Alec Baldwin impersonated Trump and was baker Pete Schweddy.

Marcus Lemons returns for the sixth season of “The Profit” (CNBC, 10 p.m.), helping small businesses, such as a Chicago deli tonight.

On “The Conners” (ABC, 8 p.m.), Jackie’s Christmas present for her new beau is a little pricey.

The world’s worst customer assistance representative in India puts Logan on hold through most of “The Guest Book” (TBS, 10:30 p.m.).

We’re already up to the third episode of “Nightflyers” (Syfy, 10 p.m.), with a look into the source of the malfunctions.

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Monday TV: ‘Say Her Name: Sandra Bland’

cq5dam.web.1200.675-6She was an outspoken activist who was going places. Until a Texas officer stopped her for not signaling. She was pulled over, put in jail and thee days later found dead in her cell. The police say it was suicide; her family thinks otherwise. A documentary on the case “Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland” (HBO, 10 p.m.) puts a face on the Black Lives Matter struggles and is enhanced by her many encouraging (and not necessarily anti-cop) messages on her video blog.

A completely different documentary, “Always at the Carlyle” (Starz, 9 p.m.) looks at the life of the fabled New York hotel by stars who who have spent time there.

On the new reality show “Unanchored” (Bravo, 9 p.m.), eight friends set sail through the Bahamas. Because it’s Bravo, I’m sure they’ll bicker.

I’m glad cable TV isn’t just marking the holiday season with cheap romantic movies. There are also some old fashioned specials such as “Amy Grant’s Tennessee” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.) with Vince Gill and Kellie Pickler and Michael W. Smith, premiering alongside “Meet the Peetes Christmas Special” (Hallmark, 7 p.m.). Elsewhere, there’s a “Pop Up Santa Holiday Special” (Freeform, 9:30 p.m.).

Amy Guberman stars in the six-part Irish comedy “Finding Joy” (Acorn, streaming) a woman who isn’t finding much. It debuts alongside the new drama from Spain and Portugal “Vidago Place” (Acorn, streaming), a period piece set in 1936, and the fifth season of the “The Brokenwood Mysteries” (Acorn, streaming).

“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.) does something a little different tonight, “Self-Deportation Edition: A Special Presentation from South Africa.”

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Sunday TV: A Different Martin Story

NightflyersThe Sunday night George R.R. Martin series tonight is not the awaited last season of “Game of Thrones” but an adaptation of his first novella from 1980, which was previously the basis of a 1987 movie. “Nightflyers” (Syfy, 10 p.m.) concerns a group of scientists on a spaceship in 2093 setting out to meet aliens. The cast includes Jodie Turner-Smith, Gretchen Mol and David Ajala.

The #MeToo era hasn’t altered the annual exploitation glam of “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Holiday Special” (ABC, 10 p.m.). Performers include Bebe Rexha, the Chainsmokers, Halsey, Kelsea Ballerini, Rita Ora and Shawn Mendes.

“Enemies: The President, Justice & the FBI” (Showtime, 8 p.m.) looks at the impeachment of Bill Clinton 20 years ago in light of Special Counsel Robert Meuller’s current investigation. It’s titled “Witch Hunt.”

Similar themes emerge in Fareed Zakaria’s special, “Presidents Under Fire: The History of Impeachment” (CNN, 9 p.m.).

This also would have been a big deal 20 years ago: “Garth: Live at Notre Dame!” (CBS, 8 p.m.), a live Garth Brooks show from Indiana.

Sunday night football has Chargers at Pittsburgh (NBC, 8:20 p.m.). Earlier games include Baltimore at Atlanta (CBS, 1 p.m.), Chicago at Giants (Fox, 1 p.m.) and Minnesota at New England (Fox, 4:25 p.m.).

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