Thursday TV: Elephant Freedom, CMT Christmas

David Balding built his whole St. Louis-based circus after his beloved elephant Flora.

And though she did a lot of tricks, he realized she would never really be happy until she was rid of circuses, zoo an people and could hang out with some other elephants. He thought first of Africa, but it was too complicated to get her there. So after 16 years in Circus Flora, Balding finds what would seem a perfect place for her: An elephant sanctuary in rural Tennessee started by another elephant trainer who had a change of heart and wanted a more natural life for her pachyderm, away from show biz. It’s a mix of emotions when he lets her go and she has a reaction to the separation as well, as chronicled in Lisa Leeman’s documentary “One Lucky Elephant” (OWN, 9 p.m.), whose lessons come after the network owner’s own “Oprah’s Lifeclass” (OWN, 8 p.m.).

With December comes a whole renewed focus on the holidays and big specials every night. Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, fresh from dueting with Lady Gaga on the Grammy nominations special Wednesday, hosts the two hour “CMA Country Christmas” (ABC, 9 p.m.) with Yuletide performances by Faith Hill, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts and Darius Rucker.

It follows the annual replay of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” (ABC, 8 p.m.) from 1970 – the only way we’re going to get Fred Astaire back in prime time. It’s the one with Mickey Rooney as Santa and the Burgermeister Meisterburger.

The 25 Days of Christmas begins its countdown on ABC Family, with “The Santa Clause” (ABC Family, 7 and 9 p.m.).

Two are eliminated on “The X Factor” (Fox, 8 p.m.). Before then, British rapper Tinie Tempah performs. And we presume the Michael Jackson relatives have been released from having to attend.

It’s World AIDS day and Alicia Key travels to South Africa to witness the effect of the pandemic there in the documentary “Keep a Child Alive with Alicia Keys” (Showtime, 9 p.m.). It’s followed by “Sex in an Epidemic” (Showtime, 10:05 p.m.).

The new “Weed Wars” (Discovery, 10 p.m.) follows a medical marijuana operation in Oakland, Calif.

While there are a lot of reruns of network shows because of the end of sweeps, the comedies on NBC are new, including an episode of “The Office” (NBC, 9 p.m.) with Maura Tierney guest starring as James Spader’s husband. And Chelsea Handler pop up on “Whitney” (NBC, 10:30 p.m.).

Well, it is called a dead-letter office. Human remains are found there on a new “Bones” (Fox, 9 p.m.).

A Presidential visit causes a problem getting to the movie theatre on time in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (FX, 10 p.m.). Leslie must defend her actions on “Parks & Recreation” (NBC, 8:30 p.m.).

What would the Great Lakes look like dry? “Drain the Great Lakes” (National Geographic, 8 p.m.) takes a computer-generated look.

“Beavis and Butt-head” (MTV, 10 p.m.) battle nature in a one hour episode titled “The Rat.”

The star of the month on Turner Movie Classics is William Powell, who start off their 39-film salute with “Jewel Robbery” (8 p.m.), “The Kennel Murder Case” (9:30 p.m.), “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” (11 p.m.), “The Hoodlum Saint” (12:30 a.m.), “The Emperor’s Candlesticks” (2:15 a.m.), and “Lawyer Man” (4 a.m.).

In college football, it’s West Virginia at South Florida (ESPN, 8 p.m.) In college basketball, St. John’s at Kentucky (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m.) and Georgetown at Alabama (ESPN2, 9:30 p.m.).

In Thursday Night Football (NFL, 8 p.m.), it’s Eagles at Seahawks.

Daytime Talk

Kelly Ripa: Marcia Cross, Science Bob Pflugelder, Neil Patrick Harris. The View: Emily Watson, cast of “Godspell.” The Talk: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Stephanie Izard, Amy Ephron. Ellen DeGeneres: Vince Vaughn, Shea Vaughn, Bono, Shailene Woodley, She & Him. Wendy Williams: Sandra Bernard, T.I and Tiny. Rosie O’Donnell: Wanda Sykes, Gloria Estefan (rerun).

Late Talk

David Letterman: Adam Sandler, Peter Gabriel (rerun). Jay Leno: Melissa McCarthy, Gov. Rick Perry, T-Pain. Jimmy Kimmel: Terry Bradshaw, Maggie Q, the Civil Wars. Jimmy Fallon: Steve Buscemi, Darrell Hammond, Dum Dum Girls. Craig Ferguson: Kristin Chenoweth, Ken Tucker. Tavis Smiley: Harry Belafonte. Carson Daly: Cee-Lo Green, Reggie Watts, Delta Spirit (rerun). Jon Stewart: Bob Costas. Stephen Colbert: Richard Branson. Conan O’Brien: Zooey Deschanel, Harland Williams, Laurie Kilmartin. Chelsea Handler: Scott Porter, Jeff Wild, Loni Love, Matt Braunger.

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