BBC America, 3:00 p.m. ET

The BBC America Doctor Who marathon continues today, with Season 8 occupying the morning and afternoon until 3 p.m. ET. That’s when BBC America repeats David Tennant in The Christmas Invasion, voted by fans on the BBC America website as their favorite Doctor Who Christmas special. And following that, it’s a random sampler of some of the series’ very best episodes. Lots of Doctors today, making lots of house calls – at least on TV.


PBS, 8:00 p.m. ET

SERIES PREMIERE: I visited London not too long ago, and spent some of that time watching some very strange programs on British television. This time around, my favorite shows were the ones devoted to coverage of the game of darts – but there were plenty of other weird contenders, nearly as compelling. This new import, known there as The Great British Bake Off, is a perfect example: It’s a baking competition, but done with a peculiarly British flavor, an ingredient you can’t fake if you try repeating the recipe in America. So here, thanks to PBS, is the original. Check local listings.


Disney Channel, 8:00 p.m. ET

Think of all the youthful fan adulation built around Frozen, then go back almost a decade, and here’s the same sort of well tapped by Disney back then. High School Musical was a 2006 musical that launched a franchise, sold a best-selling soundtrack, and had teen and preteen girls, especially, repeating viewings and listenings of it ad infinitum. Sound familiar?


PBS, 9:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: This is a repeat of the final episode of Season 4. It’s the last Downton repeat of the year – but next year, very quickly after the calendar turns to 2015, you’ll be able to see the premiere episode of Season 5. So if you need a reminder of where the series left off, here it is. Check local listings.


HBO, 10:00 p.m. ET

SEASON FINALE: Once again, The Comeback is prepared to go away. Last time, it vanished for nine years before presenting a Season 2. This time, based on the ratings, there may not be a next time. But Valerie (Lisa Kudrow), this time, is going out with a bang – or at least with a taste of success, though it’s a taste she finds less pleasant than expected.

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Re: Natgeo's "The Next Mega Tsunami" the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami caused horrific damage in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, The Maldives and several other countries in South Asia and North Africa but did not reach Japan. Japan was hit by the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.
Dec 26, 2014   |  Reply
P. Booker
Your recent list on Fresh Air had one mention I think requires comment. I, too, am an avid fan of Graham Norton. You quoted an episode in which Robbie Williams described an aspect of his child's birth. FYI, James Corden recently told the same story in a verbally enhanced version, attributed to advice from an uncle, on a U.S talk show. (Perhaps to Craig Ferguson, but maybe to David Letterman.) I tend to believe Robbie Williams is the original source.
Dec 25, 2014   |  Reply
Mr. Bianculli, Thank you for suggesting Fargo, the TV version. I watched it on Netflix. I think it is the best thing I've seen this year. And I apologize if this is the wrong place on your site to leave this comment.
Dec 24, 2014   |  Reply
Mr. Bianculli, I love to watch DVDs and Netflix with my laptop. I don't own a TV anymore. Yesterday while visiting friends in another city I stayed in a hotel so I got to watch cable again for the first time in three or four years. I was stunned to find every channel, except sports, TCM and HBO, consists of reality programming! Why do people pay for cable unless they want sports? Did the hotel have a crappy version of cable? Why out of 100 channels was there nothing to watch. Or do I remember TV incorrectly? Maybe it was crappy the whole time.

BTW I've listened to your reviews on Fresh Air for years and really appreciate your opinions.
Dec 24, 2014   |  Reply
Oh Magoo, You've done it again. You've brought down the House.

Happy Holidays everyone!
Dec 19, 2014   |  Reply
Wow, they disrespected the last 15 minutes of Magoo with crass Promos.
Dec 19, 2014   |  Reply
The Magoo Christmas Carol is my favorite. Right up there with Charlie Brown And Rudolph. I know the words to all the songs. I remember 7am Saturday mornings waiting for this episode so I could sing along. Today's audience may have trouble watching the first half, but the total is Gold. And Razzleberry Dressing.
Dec 19, 2014   |  Reply
Thank you for recommending 'High Society', the remake of the great 'Philadelphia Story'. However, I'm fairly certain that Frank Sinatra plays the Jimmy Stewart part (a reporter sent to cover the wedding) rather than the fiancé.
Dec 19, 2014   |  Reply
For my final thoughts on The Colbert Report---Sarah Watches For You!: The Colbert Report 2005-2014
Dec 18, 2014   |  Reply
Well,the first Colbert Report in the marathon was last night's show,so maybe they are going in reverse order.Can't stay with this,but it might lead up to the first episode to spool at 10:30PM.
Dec 18, 2014   |  Reply
Dan Malloy
It is Wednesday 9:09 am and I'm locked into Tuesday's Best bets.
Dec 17, 2014   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Dear Dan: Please find attached a refund for the remaining portion of your paid subscription. Oh, wait... Well, happy holidays regardless.
Dec 17, 2014
Your observation re: The Voice that "not one judge selected a female to advance to the final rounds" is puzzling. I believe audience votes (and iTunes downloads) determine which singers advance in the live rounds, not the judges.
Dec 15, 2014   |  Reply
Oprah as one of the most fascinating people of 2014? Why? Oh, that's right, I forgot -- she's on the list every year, because she insists!
Dec 14, 2014   |  Reply
So,even at an hour, Rudolph gets the modern day chopped & sped routine to fit in the one hour timeslot.I thought for years that the original fitted into a 90 minute slot,since it came on at 5:30PM on its 1964 premiere.Evidently,though,it only pre-empted the G.E.College Bowl & Meet the Press,two half hour shows.And one wonders if the GE small appliance ads,featuring the elves,will ever see the light...that's how I'd celebrate Rudy's 50th.Evidently,even the new Blu-Ray package is just a shiny cover and no attempts to restore Rudy properly since the last do-over in 2008.
Meanwhile,A Charlie Brown Christmas will have a Peanuts movie in theaters when it turns 50 next year and the trailer alludes to the original Christmas special with Snoopy's doghouse lighting contest now involving Woodstock & Co.(pretty good,too).
Dec 9, 2014   |  Reply
lovely as mention by View from
Dec 7, 2014   |  Reply
Poly Cobb
On your Fresh Air discussion of the live version of "Peter Pan," you said that the craze for the play began with the Mary Martin production. The production I remember and thought so much better was the 1950 production with Jean Arthur as Peter and Boris Karloff as Capt. Hook. Leonard Bernstein wrote a full score, but in the end only five of the songs, plus incidental music, were used. Jean Arthur was so perfectly boy-ish and Karloff showed a wonderful comedic/evil gift in portraying Hook. He also did Mr. Darling. There is a recording of that production which includes much spoken material and all of the songs, and it is a delight--at least to those of us who were enchanted by it as children. I hope you discover it for yurself sometime.
Dec 4, 2014   |  Reply
You recommend the chopped-for- more commercials version of Charlie Brown Christmas without mentioning the new Toy Story special that proceeded it?It's been a long time since I spooled through an ABC version of Charlie Brown and was left dizzy and disappointed.Meanwhile,even with all of the Disne/ABC fire power and Wal-Mart(exclusives on the figures)couldn't diminish the power of a kid's imagination.Hope the kids scorned the ads between the story and got back to playing with last year's toys while waiting for a new haul in a few weeks.
Dec 2, 2014   |  Reply
Mary Ann Rund
Mr. Bianculli, Thank you so much for mentioning the cultural shift of sharing television programming vs. individual selection. I doubt many people consider how this has contributed to our current culture. In my Dance As Art Form course, we discuss the importance of shared experience, particularly in dance and theatre. In the past, whatever townspeople created or, if they were so lucky, the production of a touring company, was what people were exposed to and influenced by. Later on, movie houses, television, and now, the ubiquitous online device. All of this change within a century. Yes, we can reach anyone across the world, "like" a site alongside a foe, watch what our friend recommends, but we cannot sit alongside other people of our community to enjoy a work of performance art. I hope that you are right about Peter Pan television broadcast, a kinda-sorta compromise. Thank you for your insights; I hear regularly on Fresh Air, one of my favorite radio programs, still shared.
Dec 2, 2014   |  Reply
Phillip R. Crabb
Well Dave, that time of year again.

Let's hope they put the best of the Christmas classics in some proximity to Christmas.

I see Rudolph is 50 years old. Geesh! I remember when that was new, and the commercials were some of the characters riding on top of Ronson Electric Razors down a hill of snow.

Charlie Brown, the best of them all, with Dolly Madison and Coke commercials.

Would it be asking too much to bring Red Skelton with Freddie the Freeloader Christmas Skit on Christmas Eve?

Best of the Holidays, Dave. Looking forward to your reflections on those classic days.

Franklin (Sussex County) NJ
Nov 28, 2014   |  Reply
I'm really enjoying "The Flash" but I am starting to wonder how long its "freak of the week" focus can last. The "freak of the week" nature of "Smallville's" first season was often cited in reviews as a negative. "Smallville" eventually got rid of the "freak of the week" which, I think, strengthened the series for a while before it started going downhill and jumping the shark for other reasons. I'm just hoping that "The Flash" doesn't get too bogged down in limiting the show to villains (or heroes) affected by the particle accelerator disaster. I think "Smallville" learned not to focus each episode on "meteor freaks." Here's hoping that the producers of "The Flash" learn from "Smallville's" mistakes.
Nov 26, 2014   |  Reply
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David Bianculli

Founder / Editor

Behind David in the picture is the first TV owned by his father, Virgil Bianculli, a 1946 Raytheon. (The TV, not his father. His father was a 1923 Italian.) David Bianculli has been a TV critic since 1975, including a 14-year stint at the New York Daily News, and sees no reason to stop now. Currently, he's TV critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and is an occasional substitute host for that show. He also teaches TV and film history at New Jersey's Rowan University, and his most recent book, 2009's Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, has recently been purchased for film rights.  He's currently at work on another.