Bianculli's Best Bets
By David Bianculli, TVWorthWatching.com
- Dec. 19, 2014
MR. MAGOO'S CHRISTMAS CAROL
The CW, 8:00 p.m. ET
“And razzleberry dressing!” This 1962 animated Christmas special predated even A Charlie Brown Christmas by several years, and I love that it’s getting the full-respect treatment tonight. CW is presenting this wonderful musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic in a 90-minute time slot, which means, even with commercials, it will be presented relatively intact. Gather the family and enjoy, because the songs, by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, are delightful – and when I was a kid and watched this special for the first time when I nine years old, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come haunted me long after the special was over. (And my family didn’t have a color set, so that particular ghost was even scarier in black and white.) Jim Backus stars, of course, as the voice of the vision-impaired Mr. Magoo, who’s shown here starring as Scrooge in a local theater production of A Christmas Carol.
ABC Family, 8:00 p.m.
This 2003 movie appears to be becoming a holiday tradition of sorts, receiving lots of airings since Thanksgiving. And why not? Will Ferrell is goofily giddy as the overgrown elf who leaves the North Pole to encounter life of a less sheltered sort, and Bob Newhart, as his elf boss, is a delight. So, by the way, is Zooey Deschanel, who showed off her lovely singing voice here long before she began releasing CDs as half of She and Him. And did you know that the voice of Leon the Snowman was provided by Leon Redbone? I didn’t, until just now.
MUPPETS MOST WANTED
Starz, 8:00 p.m.
This 2014 Muppet comedy introduces a Kermit the Frog doppelganger – Constantine, “The World’s Most Dangerous Frog,” who schemes to have Kermit thrown into a Russian prison so he can take Kermit’s place and commit crimes while on tour with the other Muppets. Tina Fey is particularly outrageous as a Russian prison guard – but luckily, Vladimir Putin did not hack the Disney studio to protest his country’s negative cinematic image. Other human co-stars: Ricky Gervais and Modern Family star Ty Burrell.
TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET
Talk about high society: This 1956 movie musical is the romantic comedy made by Grace Kelly after she had just become engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Here, she’s one point of a romantic triangle, the other points being crooners Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Sinatra plays the guy she intends to marry, and Crosby plays her ex-husband, who wants her back. Oh, and Louis Armstrong and his band are on hand throughout, making this even more valuable a movie musical.
THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN
NBC, 11:35 p.m. ET
A long-standing TV tradition ends tonight. With David Letterman set to step down next year, long before Christmas 2015, tonight’s annual Christmas show is the last time Darlene Love will be on hand to sing “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home”). It’s also the last time Jay Thomas, who has been on the show most years to toss a football at the giant meatball atop Letterman’s Christmas tree, is likely to share his story of driving around stoned with the Lone Ranger in his back seat.
THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON
CBS, 12:37 a.m. ET
SERIES FINALE: Last night, Stephen Colbert provided a very fitting farewell to his Colbert Report, gathering dozens of favorite guests on stage for a group sing-along before flying off to immortality on Santa’s sleigh. Tonight, Craig Ferguson ends his 10-year reign as the host of The Late Late Show, CBS’s follow-up to Late Show with David Letterman – and does it by featuring, as his final guest, Letterman’s one-time late-night rival, Jay Leno. Doubtlessly, there’s a message there – and there’s also likely to be a message, or at least an homage, in the show’s closing minutes. For a decade, Ferguson has been increasingly loose and impromptu with his opening monologues and his interviews with guests – but expect him to go out as Colbert did, with an involved and ambitious final sequence. These guys not only have am attuned sense of when to exit – but how.
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New College Bowl System: Gerald Jordan Explains It All for You
By Gerald Jordan, TVWorthWatching.com
- Dec. 19, 2014
Finally, a college football season will settle bar arguments around the country…or will it?
Collegiate national championships have been tainted, questioned, argued, challenged, disputed (you fill in the verb or your choice) for so long that those fans among us who are of a certain age never imagined that a big-time playoff ever would take place. The difficulty, college presidents argued over the years, was that a football playoff would extend the schedule to a point that would imperil the academic schedule for student athletes.
Somehow that was no obstacle for small colleges whose championships for eons have been decided on the gridiron and not through voting by coaches, voting by writers and the machinations of a computer that never played a down of football.
As TV broadcast rights contracts increased to what student athletes would describe as ginormous, it’s amazing how the extended schedule shrunk as an obstacle to a national title game. So Alabama (12-1 and ranked No. 1) will play No. 4 Ohio State (12-1, and now relying on the third quarterback to start in this season) in the New Year’s Day Sugar Bowl. The other half of the bracket will be decided that same day in the Rose Bowl, pitting No. 2 Oregon, which features the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, against No. 3 Florida State, which is undefeated and considerably unloved because of all the disciplinary questions stirred by the 2013 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback. Fans already want to see Oregon’s Marcus Mariota on a Wheaties box and FSU’s Jameis Winston on a post office wall. Life is hard for all-world QBs.
The 2014 college football season, though, was a grind. Leagues dubbed the Big 5 power conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and the SEC) comprise the teams that are football’s version of investment banks – too big to fail, or in this case, to be excluded from the final four. In fact, jibber jabber up and down bar rails across the South had three Southeastern Conference teams playing among the four who would contest for the national title. It even got giddier when the SEC West briefly lined up four of the top five teams in the country. In the end, though, Alabama had to take care of an upstart Missouri team in the SEC championship game to make sure that the league would be represented at all in the final four.
Mostly that meant Baylor and TCU, each with a single loss and ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in the Dec. 7 College Football Playoff rankings, didn’t really appreciate the four-team playoff. Throughout the season, there were calls for expanding the bracket next year even before the four this year were identified.
Baylor and TCU cannot be distraught. Each of the Big 5 leagues will get $50 million, according to estimates by ESPN, even if the conference doesn’t have a team in the playoffs. About $6 million will go to each of the four playoff teams, according to ESPN. That’s just one aspect of the money that will be paid to conferences and teams for their participating in the array of bowls not involved in the playoffs. Even independent schools, with Notre Dame leading the way at $3.75 million, according to ESPN, get a bite of the pie.
Now, a pause for nostalgia.
Remember when Jan. 1 boasted the best of the bowls and that long day on the couch ended with the bittersweet notion that college football was over until spring football – except for a couple of all-star games? That’s the way it should have been. Hard-headed adherence to weekend games, even though it’s the holiday season, has led to “schedule creep.”
The Jan. 1 Rose and Sugar Bowls are preliminaries to the Jan. 12 national championship game, and should be left on the New Year’s day schedule, even though the holiday is Thursday. The nearly two weeks will give teams time to prepare for Jan. 12. But why does the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, or the Tax Slayer Bowl from Jacksonville, Fla. (remember when it was the good old Gator Bowl?), or the Alamo Bowl from San Antonio or the Cactus Bowl from Tempe, Arizona, get Jan. 2 TV time? That makes the games seem so anti-climactic, not to mention the Jan. 3 Birmingham Bowl or the Jan. 4 GoDaddy.com Bowl from Mobile, Alabama.
Why, oh why?
Starting with the Dec. 20 New Orleans Bowl, college football zealots will have 38 bowl games (all but three of them on ESPN and ESPN2) on which to engorge before feasting on the national title bowl. It’s bound to be one for the records, what with so many appealing story lines. To wit: Will Alabama expand its national championship trophy case? Will Oregon show that the Pac-12 indeed has the muscle to win the big one? Will Florida State continue to “refuse to lose”? Will Ohio State win the whole thing despite starting its third-string quarterback? Just imagine all that intrigue against a background of unadulterated rah-rah.
That works for nearly everybody except fans in Fort Worth (think TCU) and Waco (think Baylor). Those among the two schools’ faithful who’ll admit to snagging a leg in a bar stool will argue that their team should have been in the playoff.
It’s hard to argue though that the last team standing shouldn’t hold the national championship. College football really is a vibrant call to alumni pride, in spite of the hundreds of millions of dollars that call the plays in this age of TV contracts.