New documentaries and old favorites highlight a pre-holiday week that’s very light on episodic TV programming.
Monday, December 16
Independent Lens (10-11 pm, PBS)
This documentary follows a playwriting duo from receiving development funding to seeing one of their works make it to Broadway. So it’s basically sort of like Smash, only real and not awful.
Tuesday, December 17
How Sherlock Changed the World (9-11 pm, PBS)
With season 3 of Sherlock just over a month away on PBS, tonight brings a bit of cross-promotion in the form of a special examining how the fictional detective’s techniques have influenced real-life crime solving.
Wednesday, December 18
The Daily Show (11-11:30 pm, Comedy Central)
On the day Anchorman 2 opens, the guys from the movies (Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Steve Carell) are scheduled to appear.
Thursday, December 19
A Charlie Brown Christmas (8-9 pm, ABC)
You either enjoy these things or you don’t, and that’s fine. The first Peanuts animated special, originally broadcast in 1965, is still, in my opinion, the best. (The hour is padded with some newer animated skits based on other Peanuts comic strips, but you can skip those.)
Friday, December 20
Demolition Man (8-10 pm, Encore)
This sci-fi satire with Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes is better than you might expect. In the future there is no crime, until a cryogenically frozen killer from the late 20th century (Snipes) is thawed for parole and resumes his evil ways. Stallone is the cop (also frozen) who originally caught the killer, so he’s brought back to catch him again. Also starring Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, and Denis Leary.
Saturday, December 21
Saturday Night Live (11:29 pm-1:03 am, NBC)
Jimmy Fallon hosts and Justin Timberlake performs in the last show of 2013. Expect numerous special guests, plus (if we’re lucky) a new edition of the “Barry Gibb Talk Show” sketch.
Sunday, December 22
The Sound of Music (7-11 pm, ABC)
The movie version of this classic has been restored to its full original length, but with commercial breaks you’re looking at four hours. Your call.
Also today: The Patriots were supposed to be on Sunday Night Football this week against the Ravens, but the league opted to exercise one of its late-season switch options, scheduling the Bears vs. Eagles game instead. (The Pats game will on CBS at 4:25 pm.)
Denzel Washington plays a troubled airline pilot who crash-lands a damaged plane. Most of the passengers survive, but the investigation into the accident could harm his career. Intense stuff, with a complex and compelling performance from Washington. Also starring: John Goodman, Don Cheadle, and Melissa Leo; directed by Robert Zemeckis.
(Note: this information is accurate as of publication time, but programming is subject to change at the discretion of channels and networks. All times listed are Eastern time.)