Here’s what up in the world of TV for Tuesday, December 23. All times are Eastern.
One Direction: The TV Special (NBC, 8 p.m.): You know, it takes a special kind of audacity to air an hour-long network special two days before Christmas—Christmas Eve Eve, as we believe nobody calls it—that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever. ABC is airing a pair of holiday specials followed by a yearend wrap-up special, Fox and CBS are airing holiday-themed reruns of their biggest shows, and NBC itself is devoting the rest of primetime to Michael Bublé and Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas specials. But first, One Direction is here with their first American network special, one that offers nary a hint of a yuletide tie-in but does feature never-before-seen footage from their South American tour. Honestly, this special is basically One Direction’s televised recapitulation of that famous John Lennon quote—“We’re more popular than [the heavily commercialized celebration of the birth of] Jesus”—and that’s kind of awesome in its own demented way.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (BBC America, 8 a.m./9 a.m./1 p.m./4.p.m.): BBC America is all TNG, all the time from 8 a.m. onwards, but since this marathon is composed entirely of season two episodes, you’ve got to be a little selective. The best bets are the four times listed above, as those are “A Matter Of Honor,” “Measure Of A Man,” “Time Squared,” and “Q Who.”
New Girl/The Mindy Project (Fox, 8 p.m.): Fox is doubling up on its usual Tuesday-night comedy block, with seasonal New Girl episodes—“LAXmas” and “Thanksgiving III”—airing at 8 and 9, with a pair of yuletide Mindy Project entries—“Christmas” and the more saucily named “Christmas Party Sex Trap”—following at 8:30 and 9:30, respectively.
The Simpsons (FXX, 8 p.m.): FXX’s customary Simpsons marathon is Christmas-themed, but sadly the oldest episode is season 13’s “She Of Little Faith,” in which Lisa explores Buddhism with the help of Richard Gere. (Of course, that episode is still 13 years old, so it isn’t exactly recent, but still…) Beyond the decently well-regarded “She Of Little Faith,” the other highlight of this marathon is probably at 10:30, with season 23’s “Holidays Of Future Passed.”
King Of The Hill (Cartoon Network, 8 p.m.): No listing of reruns would be complete without checking in on King Of The Hill. There’s no holiday theme to tonight’s entries, but “A Man Without A Country Club” is an all-time great episode, if only for providing the first (though definitely not the last) evidence that Ted Wassanasong is just the worst. He thought Hank Hill sold tractors, people.
Benched (USA, 10 p.m.): While most shows in our regular coverage stable consider December 23 a good time to take a little rest for the holidays, Benched goes right in the opposite direction, busting out not one but two new episodes tonight. Emily L. Stephens is on the case … both of them!
Selfie (Hulu, 8 p.m.)
Do check out Gwen Ihnat’s entry in our “12 Days of Non-Denominational Winter Holidays,” even if the Jack Benny Christmas specials of which she writes were on the radio as opposed to television. And how about stopping by this “Survey Says” feature, in which Bob Odenkirk, Weird Al Yankovic, Workaholics star Anders Holm, and many more weigh in on their favorite pop culture of 2014.
North Woods Law (Animal Planet, 8 p.m.): We won’t pretend we know the first dang thing about this show, but some very quick research tells us it’s all about Maine game wardens, it’s in its fourth season, and tonight’s episode is titled “Tis The Season,” so presumably the reality show about game wardens in Maine is doing a Christmas special. Sounds festive!
Murder Book (ID, 9 p.m.): Sounding distinctly less festive: “Three murders on the same dirt road finally lead investigators to the killer.” We suppose this is better than ID devoting an entire night’s worth of lurid true-crime programming to Santa-themed murders or something.
Michael Bublé’s Christmas in New York (NBC, 9 p.m.): As previously suggested, we don’t really see the point of continuing with Christmas-themed programming after One Direction will have presumably conquered the holidays forever through sheer One Direction-ness, but Michael Bublé is doing his fourth annual Christmas special, and everyone from Barbra Streisand to Ariana Grande will be on hand to help out.
The Year: 2014 (ABC, 9 p.m.): For those looking for something marginally more serious, Robin Roberts will be running down the biggest stories of 2014. Ferguson, ISIS, and Ebola are all on the docket, but then so are weighty topics like George Clooney’s wedding and deep meditations on Taylor Swift, so who even knows.
Boogie Nights/Three Kings (IFC, 5:30 p.m./9 p.m.): We realize Mark Wahlberg hasn’t exactly been going out of his way to be likable of late—if anything, he’s been doing the precise opposite—but these two movies do at least showcase why Wahlberg the actor occasionally has some worthwhile stuff to contribute, even if Wahlberg the person really doesn’t. Also, does the fact that Three Kings takes its name from a Christmas carol make it the most tenuous holiday movie ever? Seems like perfect Christmas Eve Eve fodder from where we’re sitting.
Inside Man (Cinemax, 10 p.m.): At this point, your What’s On Tonight correspondent’s refusal to pick any of the myriad Christmas movies airing tonight may well border on the Scrooge-like. But screw it: Spike Lee’s bank heist movie—which does double as a searing indictment of race and class tensions in New York City, as you’d kind of expect from Spike Lee—is just so damn cool, even if Clive Owen’s American accent (which we suppose could just be another elaborate misdirection) is really funky.
Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois (ESPN, 6 p.m.): This game isn’t catching either of these mid-major darlings at their absolute best—Marshall’s dream of an undefeated campaign died in the final game of the regular season, while Northern Illinois has fallen back a little bit from its BCS-busting heyday—but these are still two really good teams ready to liven up Boca Raton (not the most difficult feat, admittedly). Fun fact, courtesy of the good folks at Shutdown Fullcast: The site of this bowl is Florida Atlantic’s football stadium, which was briefly named after a for-profit prison company, before even the people of southern Florida recognized that was a bit much.
Justice League Unlimited: Oliver Sava looks at “Dead Reckoning,” which really is kind of a total mess of an episode—Deadman! Justice Leaguers turned into apes! Batman inadvertently being made to shoot people!—but it’s all kind of worth it for hearing a possessed Superman take on Deadman’s New York accent. Also, did we mention the Justice Leaguers get turned into apes?