Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Doctor returns to save Christmas—and the wintry wasteland of Christmas TV

The Doctor, River Song, definitely not Baymax (BBC America)
The Doctor, River Song, definitely not Baymax (BBC America)

Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Friday, December 25 & Saturday, December 26. All times are Eastern.

Top pick

Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC America, 9 p.m., Friday): It’s going to be tough to top last year’s annual Christmas extravaganza—where the great Nick Frost made us all believe in Santa, at least for an hour or so—but this year’s traditional Christmas outing brings the return of Alex Kingston as River Song in the appropriately yet enigmatically named “The Husbands Of River Song.” This year, the Doctor, still smarting and confused from the wrenching events of this past season, no doubt, gets swept up in a frantic adventure when River shows up on the run from her latest husband. But weren’t she and The Doctor married? Or was that before or after they met? These questions all make sense and/or no sense, but the preview promises comedy antlers, talking severed heads, and giant robots. Alasdair Wilkins knows that, as long as we’ve got Peter Capaldi glowering and growling and generally being wonderful, it’s all be the merriest Christmas in all of space and time. Guaranteed.

Also noted

Marco Polo (Netflix, 3:01 a.m., Saturday): In what’s being billed as a Marco Polo Christmas special, Netflix brings back everyone’s favorite 14th century explorer for—some holiday pillaging, we guess? Anyway, the second season of this indifferently reviewed series doesn’t officially come back ‘til the spring, but here’s a little taste of cardamom and cinnamon for your holiday feast. Also some star anise, if that’s your thing.


Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz, 8:30 p.m., Saturday): With only one more episode left in the season after this, Ash battles his greatest nemesis, suggesting he’s got an even greater nemesis waiting around the corner next week. Michael Roffman shakes his head, just knowing it’s Sam Raimi.

“Oh, this dumb bastard has no idea what I’ve got planned for season two”—Raimi (right)
“Oh, this dumb bastard has no idea what I’ve got planned for season two”—Raimi (right)

Elsewhere in TV Club

While even your favorite AV Clubbers have to go home to their loved ones (or burrow down to avoid their loved ones) for the holiday, we’ve left you a present—our pop culture gifts of the year! What’s that, you say? Well, here’s the scoop: If you were Santa and you could gift everyone in the world with just one book, film, comic, TV series, album, or what-have-you from 2015, with the implicit understanding that they’d definitely read/watch/listen to it, what would you give them? We love you you crazy knuckleknobs. And then continue the Best Of marathon with part two of our own favorite pieces AV Clubbers wrote in 2015. Yeah, we’re braggy, but we can back it up.

What else is on (Scrooge-esque non-Christmassy edition)

Truth Be Told (ABC, 8 p.m., Friday): Two, count ‘em, two episodes of this sitcom that Erik Adams once called by a very rude but very funny name in his TV Review. We won’t say what he called it—because it’s Christmas! And even though it’s a back-to-back situation, let’s not call this a burn-off—because it’s Christmas! And even though NBC’s showing the last two episodes on the same night, let’s go ahead and call this a “season finale” and not “series finale”—because, well, you know.


Parks & Recreation (Esquire, 8-11:30 p.m., Friday): There’s no bunch of weirdos you’d rather spend Christmas with than the weirdos of Pawnee, Indiana. Maybe your family. Not that they’re weirdos. Oh, wait, they completely are. Go with Leslie.

When Calls The Heart (Hallmark, 8 p.m., Saturday): This Canadian series about a schoolteacher and a Mountie in love on the early 20th century frontier doesn’t return for real ‘til after the new year, but this is the sneak-preview bonus third season premiere. So tune in for more hardscrabble Canadian romance and drama, Heart-heads! That is undoubtedly what you call yourselves!


Stalked By My Doctor (Lifetime, 8 p.m., Saturday): After a whole day of its home-grown Christmas movies, Lifetime gets back to stalkin’ with this original movie about a doctor who… stalks his patient. Suppose you could have figured that out from the title. It’s that. It’s exactly that.

Da Vinci’s Demons (Starz, 8 p.m., Saturday): In the series finale, Leo must use that big brain of his to aid the Crusaders as the Ottoman Empire bears down. Little do they know, he’s been working on… this!

Spotless (Esquire, 10 p.m., Saturday): The crime scene cleaners finally go to the cops to try and end their enforced crime scene-cleaning partnership with the Mob. The police presumably would like them first to explain why all the crime scenes in England have been so squeaky clean.


What else is on (Anything remotely Christmassy edition)

A Christmas Story (TBS, midnight-6 p.m, Friday): TBS continues its quest to exhaust the considerable charms of this Christmas classic with an all-day marathon. Nice try, TBS—everyone still loves it. Maybe next year.


A Christmas Story (TNT, midnight-5 p.m., Friday): But this parallel TNT marathon is the one that’s finally gonna do it. Thanks a pantload, TNT.

A Christmas Carol (Sundance, 1 p.m., Friday): The George C. Scott 1984 version!

A Christmas Carol (FXM, 1:30-11:30 p.m., Friday): The Alastair Sim 1951 version!

A Christmas Carol (DisneyXD, 5 p.m., Friday): The Jim Carrey 2009 version!

A Christmas Truce (Ion, 5 p.m., Friday): And American soldier and a Belgian lady fall in love during the Battle of the Bulge and then try to find each other after the war to see if their relationship can survive without that ol’ WWII spark in this Ion original movie. Which is a genre that exists, apparently.


Bad Santa (VH-1, 5-11:30 p.m., Friday): If you’re dying to see this enduringly hilarious and filthy Billy Bob Thornton holiday classic with all the dirty stuff cut out! It runs a brisk 14 minutes, over and over again on a family-friendly loop!

Jingle All The Way 2 (Bravo, 6:55 p.m., Friday): Just putting this in to remind you all it exists. And stars Larry The Cable Guy. Just putting that out there. Happy Holidays.


The Andy Griffith Christmas Special (CBS, 8 p.m., Friday): It’s a brand new Andy Griffith Show Christmas special made up of two old episodes, only one of which has anything to do with Christmas! But, wait, they’re “newly colorized!” So—you’re welcome?

CMA Country Christmas (ABC, 8 p.m., Friday): These are the people singing country music: Kelsea Ballerini, Dan + Shay, Mickey Guyton, Jewel, Charles Kelley, Martina McBride, David Nail, Jennifer Nettles, Pentatonix, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker, Brian Setzer, Michael W. Smith and Lindsey Stirling. Do you like country music? You may enjoy these people as they play country music for you.


The Simpsons Christmas marathon (FXX, 8 p.m.-midnight, Friday): The Simpsons doesn’t always do a Christmas episode, but here a a big, gift-wrapped pile of them—some of them even from the good years!

Call The Midwife Holiday Special (PBS, 9 p.m., Friday): Nothing says Christmas like a baby born into squalor, as the doulas of this BBC series know quite well.


And… the season-long Hallmark-Lifetime Christmas wars shall be settled. Once and for all. Both channels. All their made for TV Christmas programming. Unloaded all at once, in one weekend-long fusillade. Scorched earth. The smell of tinsel. The gingerdead man has come for them all.

And now… sport

NBA Basketball: Bulls At Thunder (ABC, 2:30 p.m., Friday)

NBA Basketbal: Cavaliers At Warriors (ABC, 5 p.m., Friday)

NBA Basketball: Spurs At Rockets (ESPN, 8 p.m., Friday)

NBA Basketball: Clippers At Lakers (ESPN, 10:30 p.m., Friday)

College Basketball: Louisville At Kentucky (CBS, noon, Saturday)

Barclays Premier League Soccer: Newcastle vs. Everton (NBC, 12:30 p.m, Saturday)

College Football: Sun Bowl—Miami Vs. Washington State (CBS, 2 p.m., Saturday)

College Football: Heart Of Dallas Bowl—Washington Vs. Southern Mississippi (ESPN, 2:20 p.m., Saturday)


Barclays Premier League Soccer: Southampton vs. Arsenal (NBC, 2:30 p.m., Saturday)

College Football: Pinstripe Bowl—Indiana Vs. Duke (ABC, 3:30 p.m., Saturday)

College Football: Independence Bowl—Tulsa Vs. Virginia Tech (ESPN, 5:45 p.m., Saturday)


Thursday Night Football: Washington At Eagles (NFL Network, 8:25 p.m., Saturday): Yes, it’s on a Saturday. Just go with it.

College Football: Foster Farms Bowl—UCLA Vs. Nebraska (ESPN, 9:15 p.m., Saturday)


In case you missed it

Jessica Jones: There’ve been some rough patches in this Marvel Netflix series about the most reluctant superhero of all time, but Oliver Sava pronounces it on an upswing, as we find out the truth about Jessica and Patsy’s past.