HBO chronicles the 1960s civil rights movement's effects on college sports and CBS' Momma's Boys premieres.
TUESDAY DECEMBER 16
CBS premieres Momma’s Boys, further solidifying the genius of executive producer Ryan Seacrest. Thirty-two single ladies seek to woo three bachelors -- and their overbearing mothers. From the best promo clip ever: “I’m very fucking pissed-off. I’m sorry, but I hate you people.” You kiss your mother with that mouth? Oh, wait, that’s one of the moms. (10 p.m.)
Tonight’s installment of the exceptional IFC Media Project follows a Spanish-language reporter as she crisscrosses the country in a Greyhound bus “seeking out Latino stories.” Honey, that is dedication. (8 p.m.)
HBO’s potent Breaking The Huddle: The Integration of College Football chronicles the 1960s civil rights movement’s effects on college athletics. Player Darryl Hill recounts: “One of the toughest places I played was Clemson University. You know, 50,000 drunk southern gentlemen are waiting to see this brother come out on the field. Not a black person in the stands anywhere. The black people had to sit outside the stadium on a red, dirt hill called 'N***r Hill.' …Talk about double-teamed, I was triple-teamed. Every time I look up there and see these black people sitting on this dirt hill, I said, ‘I'm gonna show these folks.’” (10 p.m.)
Barack Obama, by the by, has his own thoughts on how to revamp college football, but they don’t involve race.
WEDNESDAY DEC 17
The Flight of the Conchords’ much-anticipated second season doesn’t kick off until January, but those loveable Kiwis are gracing us with a sneak peek of episode one, today, right here.
Bravo whips up another 75-minute Top Chef special this week with “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Contestants cater a holiday party hosted by actress Natasha Richardson, and none other than Martha Stewart will guest judge. (10 p.m.)
On PBS’s Tavis Smiley, director Catherine Hardwick ( Thirteen, Twilight) won’t have to shout over screaming preteens as she discusses the challenges of adapting Stephenie Meyer’s 500-page vampire romance novel for the big screen. (check local listings)
THURSDAY DECEMBER 18
Who says you can’t learn anything from television? The lovely and talented Marisa Tomei will chat up her latest film The Wrestler on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, undoubtedly commenting on her ugly-sexy nude scenes and how she learned to strip by watching Bret Michaels’ Rock of Love. Us too, Marisa. Us too. (CBS, 12:35 p.m.)
Tomei’s costar Mickey Rourke will discuss his own comeback on NBC’s Today Show. (7 a.m.) Later, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg squirms uncomfortably on a couch with the ladies at The View. (ABC, 11 a.m.)
FRIDAY DECEMBER 19
Les Stroud is The Discovery Channel’s Survivorman, used to being dumped alone in the middle of nowhere with just 50 pounds of camera equipment. But can the Survivorman survive the spotlight much longer? Tonight’s third season finale, which finds him stranded in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, is rumored to be his last: “25 times I've not eaten anything for a week while sleeping on rocks. I need to move on." Wuss! (9 p.m.)
Damn, these new television “seasons” are as short as a global-warming winter: say goodbye to Animal Planet’s Whale Wars. Tonight’s first season finale promises things will reach a “boiling point.” Hopefully not the ocean. (9 p.m.)
SATURDAY DECEMBER 20
There are metaphorical balls and chains, and then there are real ones. Lockup: New Mexico—Extended Stay follows a rookie corrections officer as he deals with inmates in the lockup unit of the Penitentiary of New Mexico. (MSNBC, 10 p.m.)
Fresh from Top Chef, Martha Stewart helps plan an environmentally friendly wedding for her assistant in Gorgeous and Green: A Martha Stewart Wedding. Save the polar bears—but don’t hug her! Really, don’t get too close. (Style, 9 p.m.)
SUNDAY December 14
Reminding Americans that we’re at war, House of Saddam parts 3 and 4 conclude the riveting HBO saga. Best mustaches on a premium cable channel, bar none. (9 p.m.)
MSNBC gets its tabloid title on with Will You Kill for Me? Charles Manson and His Followers, Interviews with Manson, as well as collaborators Susan Atkins and Charles "Tex" Watson, attempt to "shed light on the dynamics of the Manson 'family'” as the 40th anniversary of the killings approaches. (9 p.m.)
Chase away the wintery-mix blues with Chicano Rock! The Sounds of East Los Angeles, an excavation of the underappreciated genre that gave us Ritchie Valens. We’re suckers for any title with an elegantly placed exclamation point. (PBS, check local listings)
60 Minutes profiles the “unique coaching style” of USC football coach Pete Carroll, who encourages his players to bash the hell outta their opponents on the field, but off the gridiron, encourages gang members to practice nonviolence. (CBS, 7 p.m.)
‘Tis the season for religious programming. Nat Geo delves into the Codex Gigas, the world's largest medieval manuscript, also known as the Devil's Bible because it features a full-page portrait of the Fallen Angel himself. “Forensic experts use ultraviolet fluorescence imaging, handwriting analysis and re-creation of the text to uncover some of the book's secrets." What will God's looping G's tell us about his personality? (8 p.m.)
What will David Duchovny do with himself after tonight’s season finale of Californication, “La Petite Mort”? We’re sure we’ll be hearing soon. (Showtime, 10 p.m.)
MONDAY DEC 15
Three years after he told Matt Lauer, “ You're glib, you don't even know what Ritalin is," Tom Cruise returns to Today for a live Lauer sit-down. Can his role as Hitler’s would-be assassin redeem him? Also: Scarlett Johansson! (7 a.m.)
A&E’s Intervention kicks off its sixth season, focusing on drug-, alcohol-, and sex-addict Julia. “ Guaranteed to make you grimace and cower in front of your flatscreen, this hyper-real documentary show is the rare TV gem that actually inspires.” (9 p.m.)
Bravo, bravo, bravissimo! Opera lovers get their high-C freak on with PBS’s The Richard Tucker Gala: An Opera Celebration, featuring highlights from the New York event. (9:30 p.m.)
Nicole Ankowski writes about television, pop culture, and—on occasion—more frivolous matters. She lives in Brooklyn.