Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, December 20. All times are Eastern.
Homeland (Showtime, 9 p.m.) and The Affair (Showtime, 10 p.m.): Christmas is less than a week away, and the last of the scripted programming is scrambling to get its work done before the holidays. Tonight, those programs are Showtime’s flagship dramas, which come to the end of their respective fifth and second seasons, and can rest easy already knowing that they’ll be back in 2016. However, they’re likely sweating their final performance reviews from us, as it’s been decidedly mixed seasons for both with some spectacular highs and some head-scratching lows. Homeland, as Joshua Alston summed up, “can feel like inessential bullshit one minute, then like the most riveting show on television the next.” The Affair, according to Carrie Raisler, “only [wants] to deal with characters when they are in a state of flux… it gives the required narrative and emotional drive for a good story, but it can be exhausting to watch.” We’ll have to see which versions Joshua and Gwen Ihnat (subbing for Carrie) get in the final hours.
Into The Badlands (AMC, 10 p.m.): With so few new programs on the air, the schedule now resembles the badlands that Sunny rides his motorcycle across on a never-ending basis. David Kallison’s grown encouraged over the last couple of weeks that this creative team might be able to balance its fight scenes and plot in an alchemy that works, and he’s hopeful that the quest to uncover just what M.K. is and break the Baron’s hold comes to a satisfying close.
Flesh And Bone (Starz, 8 p.m.): Tonight’s penultimate episode of Flesh And Bone was directed by Russian director Alik Sakharov, whose work includes acclaimed episodes of Game Of Thrones, The Americans, Boardwalk Empire, and Rubicon. We’re hoping for Molly Eichel’s sake that this increases her enjoyment of the episode’s visual component, because the narrative component has sent the grades tumbling down since the beginning and created increasingly large holes in her wall from objects thrown at the TV.
The Simpsons (3 p.m.): This is Les Chappell to base: Under attack by Commienazis! But they won’t stop us from delivering our review of “King Of The Hill” (no, not that one). Go, review! Help the puny readers who need you.
We hope you enjoyed our discussion of the best TV shows of 2015 last week—or at least you enjoyed having spirited discussions about those picks. And there’s more year-end content to come, as we’ll get more in-depth on our favorite shows with our favorite performances on said shows. We’re not saying your personal choices will be on the list, but we’re also not not saying it.
The Sound Of Music Sing-a-Long (ABC, 7 p.m.): While NBC might pull out all the stops to put a new spin on a musical film (and do it live to boot), ABC knows that you’re always happiest with the original, classic version, free of the stink of network desperation. So tonight, count a few of your favorite things and learn how to solve a problem like Maria with the Von Trapp Family Singers.
Miss Universe Pageant (Fox, 7 p.m.): Fox, meanwhile, knows what you really want to see is an outdated beauty contest have its 64th installment at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino.
Great Houses With Julian Fellowes (PBS, 8 p.m.): The second half of this series takes Downton Abbey showrunner Julian Fellowes highlights to Goodwood House in Sussex, England. We imagine his introduction goes something like this: “Yes, Goodwood in Sussex has been home to the dukes of Richmond for… damn it, stop snickering! Goodwood and Sussex are not funny words! I said stop snickering!”
Undercover Boss (CBS, 8:30 p.m.): The seventh season of CBS’s adventure into shaming corporate executives into making a mostly meaningless gesture toward improving the lives of their employees premieres with a look at Buffalo Wings and Rings. They advertise as “the sports restaurant experience that goes way beyond just buffalo wings,” but what if buffalo wings is all we really wanted? Don’t oversell us on your concept when we know what we’re going for.
Alaska: The Last Frontier Exposed (Discovery, 8 p.m.): Tonight’s episode is an enhanced episode! This can only mean twice the snow, twice the wild animals, and twice the “unexpected adversity.”
Jill And Jessa: Counting On (TLC, 8 p.m.): Since another controversy backlash didn’t sink the season premiere last week, the less-controversial-than-others Duggar siblings get another week to prepare for a co-ed baby shower and a move to Central America.
The Librarians (TNT, 8 p.m.): TNT granted this show a third season, so those of you who enjoy watching this team of crack agents battle it out with mysterious forces are in luck! This week, said mysterious force is the sprite Ariel, which we assume is based on Shakespeare’s version and not Disney’s.
Agent X (TNT, 9 p.m.): Less in luck are those of you who enjoy watching a generic government agent take orders from Vice President Sharon Stone, as Agent X has been updated to Agent X’d Off after only one season. And this treatment from a network that allowed Franklin And Bash to keep Frankling and Bashing for four seasons! That’s got to sting.
Ax Men (History, 9 p.m.): Speaking of getting the ax, apparently there is something called the “Lost Log Train” and it’s considered a hidden treasure in the world of loggers. This feels like it could be the center of its own movie! National Treasure can suck it.
The Royals (E!, 10 p.m.): “Queen Helena and Prince Liam look to the past for answers about the future.” Fingers crossed that this is the episode that finally reveals the royal family has access to a time machine.
CSI: Cyber (CBS, 10:30 p.m.): This week in hilarious titles, “Shades Of Grey” (not to be confused with the upcoming-certain-to-be-equally-hilarious-for-the-wrong-reasons Shades Of Blue) features a “real-life Robin Hood” orchestrating ATM malfunctions to steal money from the rich. Frankly, unless he’s wearing a mask with a gigantic white mustache, we’re not counting him as much of a threat.
Christmas Land (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): “A woman (Nikki DeLoach of Awkward.) plans to sell a Christmas tree farm she’s inherited from her grandmother.” Is she raising free-range trees on this farm, we wonder? And is all the fertilizer organic and free of additives? Sorry, we’re getting a lot of Portlandia press releases before the season six premiere next month, and it’s on our minds.
Santa’s Little Helper (USA, 8p.m.): This is the last week we have to make fun of cheesy Christmas movies, and we’re already dreading the cold and unforgiving post-holiday schedule. How often do you get this much low-hanging fruit served up on a regular basis? Well, we’ll take solace in Santa’s Little Helper—formerly known as Santos L. Halper before a string of credit card fraud charges—where a shrewd businessman tries to find a job as Santa’s top elf after layoffs. It’s like The Apprentice, but where the bellowing, outlandish, divorced-entirely-from-reality central figure is replaced by the one we wish was real instead of the one we wish wasn’t.
Cutthroat Kitchen (Food Network, 10 p.m.): “Obstacles must be overcome when making a shrimp stir-fry and a candy bar.” Given Alton Brown’s penchant for ironic obstacles, one assumes that contestants need to use the world’s tiniest stir-fry pan and have to dodge actual metal bars while working on their candy version.
Divergent (HBO, 7 p.m.): With the release of Mockingjay—Part Two in the rearview mirror, many of you are probably longing for something to fill the post-apocalyptic young adult novel adaptation void in your hearts. Divergent is standing there, excitedly waving like Milhouse Van Houten trying to be chosen for a sports team, in the hopes you’ll notice it now that your Katnisses and Peetas have gone gently into that good night.
Ghostbusters (Comedy Central, 7:25 p.m.): The first photo for the all-woman Paul Feig-helmed Ghostbusters reboot has gone out into the world, so there’s no better time to watch the original. That is unless you’re one of those people who gets furious at the idea of an all-woman Ghostbusters, as we’re establishing an edict that you no longer get to watch the original because you’re an asshole and don’t deserve nice things.
Star Trek Into Darkness (Fox, 8 p.m.): Also entering the public consciousness last week was the trailer for the new Star Trek film, which has already engendered a fair amount of derision (“Sabotage” usage gripes aside) from an Internet that’s become aware its time to wildly speculate about and preemptively hate on the new Star Wars movie has drawn to a close. How’d this franchise lose everyone? Watch the latest film in the franchise and see how many cracks you can spot. Though keep in mind, as J.J. Abrams reminded us, it could have been a lot worse.
Sunday Night Football, Bengals at 49ers (NBC, 8:20 p.m.)
Transparent: Since there’s about to be nothing on TV for a while, take some time to catch up on our eighth best show of this year. Have you seen what Eric Thurm’s been saying about it? He’s this close to asking if he can join the Pfeffermans as an honorary member.