Christmas-themed TV highlights include a movie sequel to the 1983 classic A Christmas Story with a grown-up Ralphie. HBO Max visits an enlightened Santa Camp. CBS brings pickleball to prime time with a comedic celebrity tournament. FX (on Hulu) presents an unsparing adaptation of the bestseller Fleishman Is in Trouble, about the aftermath of a broken marriage. Netflix’s darker-than-dark female buddy comedy Dead to Me debuts its third and final season.
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Here’s a triple-dog-dare for you: The prospect of watching the nostalgic sequel to the nostalgic 1983 holiday classic, which updates the Parker family from 1940 to 1973, when a grown-up Ralphie (still Peter Billingsley) brings his own family back to his Hohman, Indiana hometown. The occasion: the passing of his Old Man (Darren McGavin), prompting Ralphie to try to recreate the magical holidays of his youth. Fan favorite characters including Flick (Scott Schwartz) and bully Scut Farkas (Zack Ward) are still around. Maybe you can go home again.
Santa Claus is one of the most powerful icons of the Christmas season, but even Santa must change with the times. Such is the thrust of this engaging documentary, set at a summer camp for prospective Santas in New Hampshire, where a new class learns the ins and outs of ho-ho-hos while pushing for diversity in race and gender. Among the newbies: a Black Santa (Chris), a Santa with a disability (Fin) and a transgender Santa (Levi). As they face cultural pushback, there’s unrest in the Mrs. Claus camp as they argue for equal billing and pay. Rudolph, could you please shine some light on this situation?
For many, the growing sport of pickleball is serious business. For Stephen Colbert, it’s an opportunity for celebrities to have fun and raise money for charity (Comic Relief USA) in a two-hour tournament special filmed in September at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California. Colbert hosts and performs the national anthem with Kenny Loggins, setting the tone for pickleball matches played by the likes of Will Ferrell, Emma Watson, Kelly Rowland, Sugar Ray Leonard, Max Greenfield, Tig Notaro, Luis Guzman, country stars Jimmie Allen and Dierks Bentley and The White Lotus Emmy winner Murray Bartlett. The winning team takes home the Colbert Cup. It’s no mirrorball, but you can’t have everything.
From FX comes an unsparing eight-part adaptation of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s bestseller about a marriage on the rocks. Jesse Eisenberg is the sort-of protagonist, Dr. Toby Fleishman, who is just beginning to test the waters of post-divorce freedom when his social-climbing ex-wife, Rachel (Claire Danes, queen of the ugly cry), suddenly goes off the grid, leaving him with their two confused kids during a heat wave. As he reunites and leans on his best friends (well-cast Lizzy Caplan and Adam Brody) for support, the series replays the Fleishmans’ troubled relationship from all sides. (See the full review).
The twisted buddy comedy returns for its third and final season, delayed for two years by the COVID disruption and by star Christina Applegate’s diagnosis with MS. Happily, her comic timing is undiminished as widowed realtor Jen Harding, who’s first seen recovering from the hit-and-run perpetrated by a drunken Ben (James Marsden), the twin of Steve, the abusive man Jen killed and whose body she buried with the help of BFF Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini), Steve’s emotional wreck of an ex. Told you it was twisted. (Before the series even began, Judy was behind the wheel of the car that killed Jen’s cheating husband.) More twists await these amusingly tormented characters as the series lurches toward what’s sure to be a bittersweet conclusion.
The Yule Log:
- Lifetime’s Sweet Navidad (8/7c), stars Camila Banus as a pastry chef with a Puerto Rican flair whose messy improvisational kitchen methods clash with a hotel chef (Mark Hapka) as they create the menu for a holiday gala.
- Streaming on BET+, director/producer Sheldon Epps presents Christmas Party Crashers, about grifters who make a connection after they crash a millionaire’s holiday party.
- On Netflix, Christmas with You stars Aimee Garcia and Freddie Prinze Jr. in the tale of a pop star granting a young fan’s wish in small-town New York.
Also on the Stream:
- Gangs of London (streaming on AMC+): Underworld intrigue escalates in Season 2 of the gritty crime drama, with new power struggles a year after Sean Wallace’s death.
- Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? (streaming on Netflix): An irreverent docuseries recalls a promotional stunt that went sideways in 1996, when Pepsi’s “Pepsi Points” ad campaign promised a Harrier jet as a prize, and a young college student decided to call their bluff. Also new to Netflix: the true-crime documentary I Am Vanessa Guillen, about a family’s crusade to get justice for their daughter, an Army soldier at Fort Hood whose 2020 murder sparked a #MeToo movement within the military. From Germany, 1899 is a period supernatural thriller about a ship of immigrants whose voyage to America is stalled when they encounter a spooky abandoned vessel.
- The Sex Lives of College Girls (streaming on HBO Max): Mindy Kaling’s proudly randy campus comedy returns for a second season, two episodes per week, with students partying into the winter when they return from fall break.
- First Wives Club (streaming on AMC+): The third season of the sisterhood comedy starring Jill Scott, Michelle Buteau and Michelle Mitchenor opens at Hazel’s (Scott) wedding in a tropical paradise.
- Leopard Skin (streaming on Peacock): Carla Gugino and The Walking Dead’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan are among the stars of a steamy eight-episode dramedy about a criminal gang that takes hostages at a Mexican beachside estate.
Inside Thursday TV:
- Law & Order (8/7c, NBC): Veterans Day lives on, as detectives Cosgrove (Jeffrey Donovan) and Shaw (Mehcad Brooks) will do what it takes to solve the murder of a decorated military vet in his home. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (9/8c), Rollins (Kelli Giddish) considers a new opportunity, setting up her exit next month.
- Walker (8/7c, The CW): Walker (Jared Padalecki) hopes to lure daughter Stella (Violet Brinson) home for Thanksgiving, but the family’s “Circle of Thanks” quickly turns into a cesspool of grievance.
- Call Me Kat (9:30/8:30c, Fox): Another chance to see the late scene-stealer Leslie Jordan in action, when Phil pleads exhaustion after partying all night and every night with his new beau (John Griffin).
- Top Gear (11/10c, BBC America): In the Season 33 (!) premiere, Chris Harris, Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness are off to Thailand where pick-up trucks are all the rage.