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New Shows: December 16-21, 2013

Merry Christmas! Because of where we are in the calendar, many of this week’s new shows were retrospective. As a result, this week’s column will be a bit of a stroll down memory lane.

The New Shows color code: red means don’t bother; blue means maybe; green means good; magenta means great.

Biggest Reality Scandals (E!)

How Sherlock Changed the World (PBS)
As big a fan as I am of Sherlock Holmes, listening to two hours of forensic scientists talk about how the discipline wouldn’t exist but for him was a bit much. Parts of this show were very interesting; but, overall, it overstates its case and it drags. It’s also a bit much to listen to forensic scientists compare themselves to Holmes. The man was, after all, a figment of someone’s imagination.

Barbara Walters Presents the Ten Most Fascinating People of 2013 (ABC)
As the venerable Ms. Walters is retiring, this is the last of these specials that will air. As a result, the first half hour was a retrospective that was, finally, kind of fun in a nostalgic kind of way. The rest was this year’s ten. They were:
  • Mylie Cyrus, whom I am so sick of I nearly skipped this section of the show;
  • Prince George, although how an infant can be fascinating escapes me;
  • Edward Snowden, a choice with which I heartily agree. Whether or not what he did is espionage, he showed us all that what many of us have long suspected is, in fact, the truth;
  • Duck Dynasty, to which I can’t comment as I have never watched one second of this show. This interview did not inspire me to change that, by the way;
  • Kim and Kayne, about whom, again, I could not care less;
  • Robin Roberts, one of the bravest women I have ever watched;
  • Pope Francis; another good choice;
  • Jennifer Lawrence, who just confirmed that she is the celebrity with whom I would most like to drink a beer; and then the most fascinating person of 2013 was revealed…
  • Hillary Clinton, who was also the first most fascinating person back in 1992. Interesting choice.
E! Entertainment Special: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (E!)
A Home for the Holidays with Celine Dion (CBS)
iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2013 (The CW)
Kathy Griffin: Record Breaker (Bravo)
Michael Bublé Christmas Special (NBC)

The Year (ABC)
ABC News and People Magazine joined forces to remind us of the year that was. Hosted by Robin Roberts, it was a fun way to relive the year that is very nearly behind us.

New words included twerking, selfie, and binge-watching. This last one surprised me; is that really a new term this year? Anyway, the shows that were credited for inspiring this term were Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black. The other show that was mentioned as this year’s huge hit was Scandal, crediting Kerry Washington for drawing people in.

The year’s biggest app was Candy Crush with 40 million users per month; it nets nearly $1 million per day. The biggest video was “What Does The Fox Say?” There was a hilarious section of the absurdity of celebrity baby names. No surprise here, the most absurd was deemed to be North West (that poor child).

The political story of the year was Obamacare, followed closely by the shutdown. There were the Heroes, Marriages, Babies, and Divorces sections that you would expect. None of them produced any real surprises.

Dishonor Roll: Justin Bieber, Paula Dean, Rob Ford, Bob Filner, Anthony Weiner, Lance Armstrong -- all of whom deserve to be there.

It was the year of social media. Many, if not all, of the biggest stories of the year broke first on Facebook or Twitter, with the networks scrambling to catch up. @KatyPerry has the most Twitter followers with 48 million, but Pope Francis is the most talked about on Facebook. And, of course, the NSA is monitoring all of us.

Stories of the Year: the Boston bombings, the Cleveland kidnappings, Flight 214, the Oklahoma tornados, Pope Francis, Syria’s chemical weapons, and Batkid (my favorite story of the year).

Legally, we had George Zimmerman, the Supreme Court striking down DOMA, and Jodi Arias.

It all ended with an In Memoriam piece. Cory Monteith, James Gandolfini, Peter O’Toole, Jean Stapleton, Bonnie Franklin, Marcia Wallace, Esther Williams, Tom Clancy, Paul Walker, Roger Ebert, Helen Thomas, David Frost, Margaret Thatcher, George Jones, Lou Reed, Richie Havens, and Nelson Mandela were all remembered in an uncharacteristically tasteful video montage.

I Love Lucy Christmas Special (CBS)
Two classic episodes of the classic show have been colorized and re-mastered. The first is a Christmas special in which everyone remembers the birth of little Ricky. The second is the classic episode of Lucy stomping the grapes. As you can imagine, they are dated but still pretty funny. They were perfect to watch as I wrapped presents.

Christmas in Washington (TNT)

This is not a new show, but it is a documentary that I felt I had to bring to everyone’s attention. A few months ago, I started seeing reviews for a piece called Blackfish. Without exception, every review I read said it was a “must see.” Netflix recently started streaming it, so I sat down to watch. It is the story of Tilikum, a killer whale who was captured when he was a child and taken to Sea World. Over the next twenty years, he killed three people. The film argues that what we do when we put animals in cages is not only inhumane, it is immoral and the consequences can be fatal. Don’t miss this. It will make you think long and hard about our role as humans in the natural world.


  1. In a seriously coincidental coincidence, I spent last night watching Blackfish. I must advise all our readers that Chris is lying to you and you should NOT WATCH THIS FILM (unless you want to cry for two hours, in which case, go for it). The baby orcas! THE BABY ORCAS!

    I really hate colorized movies/tv shows. What's wrong with original black and white?

  2. "Blackfish" is one of the most compelling documentaries I've seen in a long time. (I watched it on CNN several weeks ago.)

    More recently, several singers/groups have cancelled their scheduled appearances at Sea World after viewing "Blackfish."

  3. Its probably because 'blackfish' was top choice on my Netflix but i actually watched it last night as well.. I have to say it was amazing and would advise everyone to watch it although it can be difficult viewing at certain points..

  4. Just watched Blackfish and cried the whole time.

    During our more-or-less annual trips to SeaWorld when I was a kid, I used to pester my parents with variations on "But are they happy? Are you sure? Are you sure?" But, of course, the orcas and dolphins looked happy. Like dogs, they have those grinny faces.

    But those orcas weren't happy, and now I feel like I've participated in torture.


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