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7:00 (5) Chronicle: Holiday Lights. Live when someone (probably Mayor Menino) throws the switch and lights up the Common. Plus a look at similar events around New England. (Until 8 p.m.)

7:30 (2) American Soundtrack: This Land Is Our Land: The Folk-Rock Years 2. Repeated from last week. A follow-up concert featuring the legends of folk rock. Judy Collins, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty (the Mamas and the Papas) host the Serendipity Singers, the Sandpipers, Trini Lopez, the Seekers, the Hillside Singers, and the Lovin’ Spoonful. More soft folk than rock, actually. (Until 9:30 p.m.)

10:30 (44) Fiesta in the Sky. Every time you turn around, one or another of our local PBS affiliates is airing this documentary about hot-air ballooning in the Southwest. Why? Ballooning is not interesting. Ballooning over the desert must be like looking down on a giant sheet of sandpaper. Who watches this? Is Fiesta one of those "viewer favorites?" (Until 11 p.m.)


10:00 (2) JFK: Breaking the News. Newspeople recall the experience of spreading the word that John Kennedy had been murdered in Dallas. Plus lots of painful archival clips of those reports. (Until 11:30 p.m.)


1:00 (5) Football. Notre Dame versus Syracuse.

1:30 (4) Basketball. Kentucky versus UCLA.

4:00 (4) Football. Army versus Navy.

4:30 (5) Football. Oregon State versus USC.

5:00 (2) Fiesta at the Philharmonic. Music for hot-air ballooning? No, just Erich Kunzel conducting the Naples (Florida, that is) Philharmonic Orchestra in a Latin-flavored concert featuring Grammy-winning flutist Nestor Torres, who bills himself as a "meditative musician for the post–New Age" — whatever the hell that means. (Until 6:30 p.m.)

6:30 (2) Giovanni Live in Las Vegas. From the MGM Grand, we have Giovanni! Just Giovanni. Who is he? Well, we’re willing to withhold judgment on Nestor Torres (see 5 p.m. above), but this Giovanni guy has "cheap showboat" written all over him. His claim to fame, it seems, is that he holds the record for the most CDs sold in the shortest amount of time on QVC, a feat that makes him the Ron Popeil of classical-like music. He has now moved on to the Home Shopping Network. The guy has about 2000 CD titles out, most named The Gift of Love. All right already, PBS, you’ve managed to find somebody squarer than Kenny G. and André Rieu combined. (Until 8 p.m.)

8:00 (2) Neil Diamond: Special Moments from Ireland. Repeated from last week. Continuing tonight’s Tribute to Schlock, Channel 2 brings us the perversely popular Neil Diamond in concert in Dublin. Time to share this paragraph from a review of a Diamond show from the Irish Times: "The wedding band and karaoke favourites kept on coming: ‘Sweet Caroline,’ ‘Forever in Blue Jeans,’ ‘Song Sung Blue,’ ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,’ songs where clammy hands were touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you. . . . As if to drive the point home, and to rankle those of a sensitive nature (not many, I’ll warrant), Diamond let rip on ‘Sweet Caroline’ three times, making Lansdowne [Road football stadium], for 10 minutes or so, the biggest cabaret/karaoke bar in Ireland." (Until 9:30 p.m.)

8:00 (4) Football. Georgia and LSU square off in the Southeastern Conference Championship game from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

8:00 (5) Football. The eighth annual Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship game pits Oklahoma against Kansas State, in Kansas City, which is, of course, not in Kansas.

9:00 (7) A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (movie). Jim Henson’s ragged rascals reunite in this 2002 TV-movie about Kermit the Frog’s bout of severe depression and the angel who comforts him. (Until 11 p.m.)

9:30 (2) The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time. We guess the WGBH fundraising squad figures the un-hip have gone to bed and it’s safe to showcase the politically subversive talents of Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert. Actually, for all that the Weavers were Cold War iconoclasts, most of their classics are ideologically tame by today’s standards. Bless them, though, for being what they were at the time. (Until 11:30 p.m.)

10:30 (44) Johnny Cash: The Anthology. Repeated from last week. Classic clips and interviews with and about the late lamented Man in Black. (Until midnight.)

Midnight (2) Austin City Limits. Featuring music from the String Cheese Incident. (Until 1 a.m.)


1:00 (4) Football. The Oakland Raiders versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1:00 (25) Football. The Dallas Cowboys versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

4:00 (4) Football. The Pats versus the Miami Dolphins.

7:30 (2) Broadway’s Lost Treasures. A compilation of performance clips from Tony Award TV shows between 1967 and 1986 and featuring Zero Mostel, Yul Brynner, Joel Grey, Jerry "Detective Briscoe" Orbach, Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, and more doing popular numbers from famous shows. (Until 11 p.m.)

9:00 (4) Undercover Christmas (movie). The FBI discovers the True Meaning of Christmas (TMOC) and incarcerates it in a remote Utah location. Actually, this is a love story about an FBI agent pretending to be the boyfriend of the cheap cocktail waitress he’s been assigned to protect from her billionaire tax-cheat former sugar daddy. Naturally, he takes her home to meet his parents, who disapprove, for the holidays. Wanna bet they change their minds? Do we hear wedding bells? Starring Shawn Christian, Cameron Bancroft, Diana Chaplin, and Tyne Daly (whom we’ve actually heard of). (Until 11 p.m.)

9:30 (44) The Grateful Dead: The Closing of Winterland. Repeated from last week. That San Francisco rock ballroom closed on New Year’s Eve 1978, and the Dead were there in full force. A historic moment or two. (Until 11:30 p.m.)


7:30 (2) Gloucester’s Adventure: An American Story. Gloucester’s John Ronan made this film about the social, economic, and environmental changes in the fishing industry through the 20th century, using as his metaphor the National Historic Landmark schooner Adventure, whose career has changed with the times. (Until 9 p.m.)

8:00 (5) Peter Jennings Reporting: How To Get Fat Without Really Trying. We can only assume the goal is to learn what to avoid. After all, people are fat enough on their own. (Until 9 p.m.)

8:00 (25) The Wedding Singer (movie). Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore star in a charming silly 1998 comedy romance about the title character’s falling for the bride-to-be. Billy Idol plays himself. (Until 10 p.m.)

9:00 (2) Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip. Ken Burns’s latest chronicles the transcontinental motoring adventure of retired Vermont doctor Horatio Nelson back in 1903. Nelson set off across an often unmapped America on a $50 bet. And he made it. (Until 11:35 p.m.)

9:00 (5) Football. The St. Louis Rams versus the Cleveland Browns. Fun fact: the Rams started out in Cleveland before moving to Los Angeles and eventually St. Louis. They were succeeded in Cleveland by the Browns, who eventually moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. This is the second incarnation of the Browns.

9:00 (44) A Gospel Bluegrass Homecoming. Repeated from last week. Pickin’ and prayin’ with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Ricky Skaggs, the Del McCoury Band, Vestal Goodman, the Isaacs, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. (Until 11 p.m.)

2:30 a.m. (44) Fiesta in the Sky. It was a dark and stormy night. Somewhere outside, a hot-air balloon was hovering over a spaniel named Shipoopi. Years later, we would remember it as the night grandma was abducted by Milanese terrorists, but as the sun set that evening, all we knew was that somewhere in the distance, a spaniel was barking . . . barking . . . barking. (Until 3 a.m.)


7:30 (2) Frontline: The Alternative Fix. A look at the mushrooming popularity of "complimentary" and alternative medical treatments. ("Complimentary" means that doctors don’t think the alternative meds work but humor patients because they won’t do any harm.) (Until 9 p.m.)

7:30 (44) André Rieu: Live from Dublin. Repeated from last week. Where else could you hear something called the Johann Strauss Orchestra play "The Song of the Volga Boatman," "My Heart Will Go On," and "All Men Shall Be Brothers" a/k/a Beethoven’s Ninth? And why would you want to? (Until 9:30 p.m.)

8:00 (4) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Not again? Yes, again. Almost as often as Fiesta in the Sky. The best thing you can say about this lame animated adaptation of the Rudolph epic is that no reindeer were harmed in its making. (Until 9 p.m.)

8:00 (5) I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown. Where does Snoopy fit into all this? (Until 9 p.m.)

9:00 (2) The Blues Story. Bobby "Blue" Bland, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Koko Taylor, R.L. Burnside, and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown explain themselves and their music. (Until 10:30 p.m.)

11:00 (44) John Tesh’s Christmas in Positano. Nothing unexpected here except the location to which Tesh has been exiled this year — a picturesque city on Italy’s Amalfi coast. (Until midnight.)


7:30 (2) Once upon a Sleigh Ride. A fond and intelligent bio of composer Leroy Anderson, the man who gave the world "The Syncopated Clock," "The Typewriter," and other surprisingly sophisticated novelty numbers. (Until 9 p.m.)

9:00 (2) Great Performances: Andrea Bocelli: Sacred Arias. Andrea’s holiday show from Rome, with "Ave Maria," "Silent Night," and similar fare. (Until 10:30 p.m.)

9:00 (44) Mariachi: The Spirit of Mexico. Plácido Domingo heads south of the border for the International Mariachi Festival in Guadalajara. (Until 11 p.m.)

10:30 (2) James Taylor: Pull Over. Repeated from last week. James does cuts from his overlooked 2002 album October Road, plus the old songs people still want to hear from the Sweet Baby James era. (Until midnight.)

1:00 a.m. (2) His Girl Friday (movie). We can never pass up the opportunity to hype this 1940 newspaper-movie classic starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. (Until 2:30 a.m.)

2:30 a.m. (2) Fiesta in the Sky. Pedro the beggar boy couldn’t believe his luck when he came across the wreck of a hot-air balloon in the desert outside Tucson. Shifting through the rubble and mangled body parts, he discovered a rusted amulet in the shape of a pronghorn sheep. "I wish . . . ," he said, "I wish I could fly!" (Until 3 a.m.)


7:30 (2) A Dancer’s Life. A special filmed at the American Ballet Theatre School in New York in 1972 and aired to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Rudolf Nureyev’s death. Old, old clips include looks at Nureyev, Fernando Bujones, Michael Smuin, and Natalia Makarova. (Until 9 p.m.)

8:00 (5) Holiday at Pops. The Boston Poppers welcome Santa, Amy Grant, and Vince Gill for a traditional New England holiday experience. (Until 10 p.m.)

9:00 (2) The Everly Brothers Reunion Concert. Don and Phil together again (a few years ago), still waking up Little Susie and wondering when they’ll be loved. (Until 10:30 p.m.)

9:00 (44) Nature: John Denver: Let This Be a Voice. The late smilin’ crooner’s last effort — a personalized nature film. (Until 10:30 p.m.)

Issue Date: December 5 - 11, 2003
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