Thursday TV: Of Birds and Beagles

co-hostsTurkeys are big on TV today, but so are dogs. So in addition to the 13th annual National Dog Show (NBC, noon) with John O’Hurley and David Frei, there is also the two hour prime time adoption special “Fox’s Cause for Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular” (Fox, 8 p.m.), hosted by Hilary Swank and Jane Lynch, spotlighting rescue dogs and their owners. Celebrities love dogs so guests include Kristen Bell, Paula Abdul, Fergie, Josh Duhamel, Kathy Griffin, Scarlett Johansson, Miranda Lambert, Betty White, Pink and Kesha.

It plays opposite Robin Roberts’ portrait of human heroes across the country called “Thank You, America!” (ABC, 8 p.m.) from the network that just used to build new houses for the deserving folks.

It all starts with the parades of course and the big one is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (NBC, 9 a.m.), the three hour event that includes performances by the Big Apple Circus, Kiss, Nick Jonas, Cirque du Soleil, Idina Menzel, Meghan Trainor, Renee Fleming, Quvenzhane Walllis and performances from such Broadway shows as “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Side Show,” “The Last Ship” with Sting and “On the Town.” Then there are all the balloons, each attached to a specific toy or other commercial promotion.

Pigskin is another big element of the day with the usual array of football, Chicago at Detroit (CBS, 12:30 p.m.), Philadelphia at Dallas (Fox, 4:30 p.m.) and Seattle at San Francisco (NBC, 8:30 p.m.).

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Wednesday TV: Odd Squad, Odder Turkeys

Odd-Squad-Four-KidsNew for kids this morning is a new public television educational show with bit of DNA from the old “Electric Company,” “Odd Squad” (PBS, check local listings) featuring a talented live action cast of kids and some amusing writing on the way to loads of lesson in math and such.

Because it seems like there should be a reason turkeys should be an enemy deserving of this weekend’s mass slaughter, here’s another one of those bogus shows from one of the Discovery channels: “When Turkeys Attack” (Destination America, 10 p.m.). It may seem just the opposite of the story of the guy who raised a wild turkey being rerun tonight on “Nature” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings).

Turkeys are everywhere, though, in a replay of “Charlie Brown Christmas” (ABC, 8 p.m.) and on the compilation of “Saturday Night Live Thanksgiving” (NBC, 9 p.m.), where Paul Simon again dons the costume.

“When Turkeys Attack” is part of an evening that also includes “Pig Bomb” (Destination America, 8 p.m.) and “The Hunt for Hogzilla” (Destination America, 9 p.m.). Other critters on the loose today include “Revenge of the Whale” (Animal Planet, 9 p.m.) a recreation of the 1820 whaleship the Essex, which was the inspiration later for Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Martin Sheen heads a cast that also includes Jonas Armstrong and Adam Rayner.

I’m not sure they should show their hand for the big live musical production coming next week. But here’s a one hour promo for it, “The Making of Peter Pan” (NBC, 8 p.m.) with Allison Williams.

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Bob Dylan at DAR Constitution Hall

photo-3Two blocks from the White House Tuesday, where a Ferguson protest was raging on, Bob Dylan sat between the columns at the DAR Constitution Hall and asked one more time “How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?”

It got a bit of a rise from the crowd, this sorrowful notion that more than a half century after he first wrote it, he had to ask again. So did the line “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

Echoing in a place that itself banned Marian Anderson from singing in the hall in 1939 because she was black.

But Dylan, at 73, has long since stopped being a kind of political oracle, a singer of social action that helped shape music, a generation and the world.

On an unusual tour that has him playing the exact same setlist night after night for the past month, he seems to be favoring more the balladry in his own catalog and that of others — the Frank Sinatra “Stay with Me” closes the show, foreshadowing his album of standards out next year.

It’s not because, as he claims in the opener, “I used to care, but things have changed,” from a song that has since been sold to Chrysler. He may be at a point where he is simply appreciating the beauty of song and joys in a melody.

Also: the fun of being a performer.

After years of appearing coiled in tension on stage, for decades behind a guitar, here he was in a kind of white zoot suit and hat — like Jim Carrey used in “The Mask” holding the mike stand, unencumbered by instrument, tilting it as he crooned, stepping lively around the stage when he wasn’t.

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Thanks, Giving Doesn’t Work on ‘Survivor’

Jeremy-Collins-voted-offNo good deed goes unpunished on “Survivor: San Juan del Sur.”

Boston fireman Jeremy Collins may have defied the show’s protocol by joining Natalie Anderson in declining a luxury reward and letting that strangely powerful couple Jon Misch and Jaclyn Schultz go in their stead.

But later in the same episode Collins found himself being voted out by the same power couple.

“I knew Jon had a target on me, I was just trying to gain more time with Jaclyn,” he said. “If I could gain more time with her, I could go farther in the game.”

He was rewarded by being sent to Exile Island, and then voted out of the competition altogether.

Collins was was unable to save himself in an immunity competition, having been exhausted by two days on Exile Island, looking to find a hidden idol that Jon declined to tell him he already had.

And so he got the old blindside.

“As soon as my name started coming up,” Collins said last week, “I thought it was Nat was the last person in my alliance [to cast a vote against]. I didn’t know it was Reed.”

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Tuesday TV: Back Into the Wild

wildThe real story about Christopher McCandless, whose solo hike into the Alaska wilderness in 1992 was grippingly told in Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild” and the subsequent movie by Sean Penn, is revisited in “Return to the Wild: The Chris McCandless Story” (PBS, 9 p.m., check local listings), made from the newly released letters McCandless had written to his sister before he was found dead in an abandoned bus.

A mirror ball trophy is handed out for the 19th season finale of “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC, 8 p.m.) from among the final three, Alfonso Janel and Sadie. But first they’ll have to do a fusion dance combining two different styles. There’s plenty of time for performances by Meghan Trainor, Nick Jonas and Jennifer Hudson & Gorgon City.

The guest on “The Voice” (NBC, 8 p.m.) results show is Taylor Swift.

One of your most unusual holiday moments may be the “T.I. & Tiny: the Family Hustle Thanksgiving Special” (VH1, 9 p.m.) in which they decide to serve at a local shelter — and not because of fulfilling some community service or something.

There’s Thanksgiving, too, on “New Girl” (Fox, 9 p.m.).

 

And as if Thanksgiving travel isn’t difficult enough, there’s a terror threat at Dulles Airport on “NCIS” (CBS, 8 p.m.).

Think of it as sort of a “Breaking In: Amish” as a new reality series follows five young women on the road to taking vows at three different convents in “The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.).

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Monday TV: Drinking and Doing TV

booze-traveler-about-the-show_596x334With food shows reaching their saturation point — especially this week — it seems natural that there be more shows about drinking. The Esquire network has so far led the pack on this with shows like “The Best Bars in America” and “Brew Dogs.” Tonight, two new drinking shows join the fray, concentrating on unusual drinks in international corners.

“Booze Traveler” (Travel, 10 p.m.) has former Boston bartender Jack Maxwell, pictured right, skipping around the globe in search of new spirits. His first stop tonight is Turkey, where he has raki, microbrews and fizzy cocktails.

On “Chug” (National Geographic, 10 p.m.) rum maker Zane Lamphrey is the host, taking exotic global road trip and trying to find local fare. His trip to Malaysa  starts shakily in a place no more exotic than a hotel bar in Kuala Lumpur, where they serve no local drinks. Things improve as he gets out of town and finds the method of getting palm milk. He finds some local drink aficionados and seems obsessed with different ways to say cheers. There’s room for exotic food as well.

It’s joined by a second Nat Geo show that come at the end of its “Eat: The Story of Food” miniseries, in which the star of the new series was prominently featured, “Eric Greenspan in Hungry” (National Geographic, 10 p.m.). The big, gravelly-voiced super-carnivore from Los Angeles likes to get on the road as well, going to the source to find exotic game. First up is a wild hog in Arkansas (though he could have moved up his wild turkey episode to this week.

The finals begin on “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC, 8 p.m.), where the final four are not exactly household names: Bethany Mota, Janel Parrish, Alfonso Ribeiro and Sadie Robertson. Amid their final dances — a freestyle and the judges’ choice, Quvenzhane Wallis sings “It’s the Hard Knock Life” to plug the new movie of “Annie.”

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Sunday TV: Jay Leno’s Back and Feted

JayLenoMarkTwainPrize_lead2_t614Jay Leno returns to TV in a big way as recipient of “The Mark Twain Prize” (PBS, 8 p.m., check local listings). His “Tonight” show successor Jimmy Fallon, Chelsea Handler, former bandleader Kevin Eubanks, Jerry Seinfeld, Wanda Sykes, Seth Meyers, Garth Brooks and many more travel to the Kennedy Center to induct him, in the event taped last month in Washington. With any luck, he will refrain from going Jay Walking.

Pitbull hosts the 2014 American Music Awards (ABC, 8 p.m.) with performances from Charli XCX, One Direction, Lorde, One Direction, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Mary J. Blige, Fergie and 5 Seconds of Summer.

It’s Cowboys at Giants (NBC, 8:30 p.m.) in Sunday Night Football. Earlier NFL action includes Detroit at New England (Fox, 1 p.m.), Tennessee at Philadelphia (CBS, 1 p.m.) and Washington at San Francisco (CBS, 4:25 p.m.).

The Solloway family returns to Brooklyn on “The Affair” (Showtime, 10 p.m.) and everybody goes to therapy.

Carrie’s got some stuff to fix on “Homeland” (Showtime, 9 p.m.).

The FBI raids “The Newsroom” (HBO, 9 p.m.) and goes looking for Neal while Will withholds his source.

Valerie greets Seth Rogen, playing himself playing Paulie G on a new episode of “The Comeback” (HBO, 10 p.m.).

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Saturday TV: ‘Hello Ladies’ Wraps

hello-ladies-stephen-merchant-hbo

Stephen Merchant was on the ground floor of cringe comedy, co-creating “The Office” and various other projects with Ricky Gervais including “Extras” and “Life’s Too Short.” But working on his own in the series “Hello Ladies” he was no more lucky than his hapless character, a lanky would-be lothario consistently (and hilariously) striking out with women.

There was no second season, but there is closure of sorts tonight in “Hello Ladies: The Movie” (HBO, 10 p.m.), a kind of extended romp through the same material that includes humiliations of trying to impress an old girlfriend even as it ties up things romantically just as you think it always would. There are some nice cameos, from everyone from Nicole Kidman to Allison Tolman. And it’s easy to jump in and pick up the narrative even if you were among the many who ignored Stuart first time around. 4

It sure beats the other original movies of the night, such as the still pre-season “A Royal Christmas” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.) about a modest Philly girl (Lacey Chabert) discovering her fiancé (Stephen Hagan) is actually a European prince, whose mother is Jane Seymour. I’m sure Christmas fits in there somewhere as well, just as it does in “An En Vogue Christmas” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.), in which three members of the group reunite to perform in order to save the club where they started.

The lead up to “Hello, Ladies: The Movie” is “That Awkward Moment” (HBO, 8 p.m.) from earlier this year, with Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller.

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Friday TV: Reconstructing Dylan Songs

NewBasementTapesThis fall’s flurry about songs Bob Dylan composed 47 years ago in upstate New York has resulted not only in a five-CD package of 138 recovered recordings, but a mysterious box of lyrics that never had music put to them at all.

They were obtained by former Dylan cohort and band member, and now Grammy-winning producer T Bone Burnett and distributed to some creative recording artists he knows — Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Rhiannon Giddens, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Working solo and apart, they tried to come up with musical approaches to Dylan’s lyrics, rather in a way that “Wagon Wheel” became an Americana singalong. The Dylanesque parts of the songs become lost in pure professionalism, smoothing out the appealing crags of the original basement jams. Some come fully prepared — Costello and James come with songs recorded on their iPhones; Costello’s recorded in a plane bathroom. Others are either understandably cowed by the task or aren’t so good under pressure. That makes them try even harder. In the end they have to perform as a band, one which, at one point, includes Johnny Depp for some unexplained reason (it was recorded at Hollywood’s iconic Capitol Records tower maybe).

Anyway, you get the idea during the documentary made during the making of the album, “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued” (Showtime, 9 p.m.) that it was at least a noble effort, if not entirely successful. But the surprise about Sam Jones’ film is that he gets Dylan himself to narrate what he remembers about the era, which isn’t much (the re-enactments that go along with it are much less convincing).

Two earlier posts about the project can be found here and here.

In the streaming world, “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” (Amazon Prime, streaming) is the best kids’ series in a while, chronicling the life of a trio of friends whose common suburban woes take some magical turns, as with the eccentric woman at the end of the street in the first episode. It’s a first time effort from a former preschool teacher David Anaxagoras that’s smart and engaging, and has appeal to those beyond its target it audience, like the old “Adventures of Pete and Pete.” The first six episodes are streaming now.

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Thursday TV: Is College Worth It?

IvoryTowerWith student loan debt reaching $1 trillion and nearly $239 billion given in loans last year alone, the documentary “Ivory Tower” (CNN, 9 and 11 p.m.) asks once more whether going to college is actually worth it. The film, directed by Andrew Rossi and Kate Novack, which premiered at Sundance, is the latest documentary acquisition by the news channel.

With a lively pace and animated explanations, it takes a look at a variety of public and private schools, closing with the battle to New York City’s Cooper Union tuition free.

“Party Down South 2″ (CMT, 9 p.m.) is the latest iteration of a dim culture bereft of college material. The new crew of eight senselessly drunk Southerners are based in Biloxi. They are different from the ones in the original “Party Down South” that returns March 30. Both are remnants of the “Jersey Shore” school who haven’t been told the world has moved on.

This is weird: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Immigration Reform (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Univision, 8 p.m.) is likely to be one of his most important, but for the first time in memory none of the English speaking broadcast networks will be carrying the 15 minute address. What’s more important to them? The season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, 8 p.m.); and episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS, 8 p.m.), “Bones” (Fox, 8 p.m.) and “The Biggest Loser” (NBC, 8 p.m.).

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