SUNDAY NOV 23
Truthiness be told, Stephen Colbert has a lovely singing voice, and he breaks it out for America on his holiday special, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All. Variety lauded the eclectic guest roster, which includes “Willie Nelson crooning about an herb unrelated to frankincense…and Jon Stewart singing (poorly) ‘Can I Interest You in Hanukah?’ Seriously, haven't the Jews suffered enough?” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.)
Al Gore grants his first sit-down since Barack Obama’s election to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. (1 p.m.)
A chilling 60 Minutes report tells the story of armed gunmen who infiltrated a South African nuclear plant containing bomb-grade uranium. The show’s exclusive interview with the night watchman who stopped them highlights the rickety infrastructure securing the world’s weapons facilities.
If you’re craving lighter conflict to prep you for family time, catch the potential showdown between offended soul queen Aretha Franklin and Beyonce at the 36th annual American Music Awards (ABC, 8 p.m.)
MON NOV 24
David Byrne grants an interview to CBC TV’s The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos. Perhaps George can work a late-night miracle and get his guest to discuss the Talking Heads. (11 p.m.)
Speaking of talking heads, Charlie Rose quizzes former Clinton advisor and Lazard bigwig Vernon Jordan on the financial crisis and his thoughts about the first African-American president. (PBS, check local listings)
See if Tom Cruise’s new movie matches up to reality (wait, what are we saying?) on the History Channel’s The Hitler Conspiracy, which promises “the real story behind the Valkyrie plot—a plan by a group of German officers to assassinate Adolph Hitler and take control of the government.” Interviews with survivors, relatives, witnesses and historians bring the saga to harrowing life. Can Cruise handle the truth? (10 p.m.)
TUES NOV 25
Lights! Camera! Lycra! Tonight’s season finale of Dancing with the Stars promises nothing less than the presence of America’s sweetheart, Miley Cyrus. (9 p.m.)
Deepak Chopra will become the first and last guest ever to discuss Jesus in earnest on E! comedy show Chelsea Lately. Judging from his work with Mike Myers on Sundance’s Iconoclasts series, the guru can bring the funny, even if Mike Myers can’t anymore. (11:30 p.m.)
WED NOV 26
Says Rosie O’Donnell about her one-hour variety-show special, Rosie Live: "Variety shows were a big hit in the '70s when the economy was in the crapper, and gasoline was scarce, and people's belief in the political system was shaky. It's the right time.” Appearances by Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Ne-Yo, Alanis Morisette, Kathy Griffin, and one of O”Donnell’s childhood idols—no, not Babs—Liza Minnelli. Elizabeth Hasselback will sit it out. (NBC, 8 p.m.)
THU NOV 27
Things could be worse: in 1942, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was cancelled and the balloons reduced to rubber for the war effort. This year, the parade (Macy’s 82nd annual) will march on, featuring an army of Disney and post-American Idol stars, including David Archuleta, Trace Adkins and the Cheetah Girls. (9 a.m.)
Anderson Cooper is skipping the Vanderbilt family meal for a good cause: He’s hosting the second annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute, which awards $25,000 to ten “ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things.” So specific! Alicia Keyes and John Legend will croon, while Cameron Diaz, Forest Whitaker, Salma Hayek and Lucy Liu add sparkle. (9 p.m.)
We’re also giving thanks for a feast of cable marathons. Some high (and low) lights: Bravo serves up a hearty banquet of three Kathy Griffin comedy specials (1 p.m.) followed by a rich Real Housewives of Atlanta dessert. (7 p.m.) What better time than Turkeyday to view multiple episodes of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. And we’ll give the G4 network the last piece of pumpkin pie for airing an Arrested Development marathon.
FRI NOV 28
If you’re boycotting Black Friday (or have already returned from your 5 a.m. Wal-Mart run), the endless TV marathons continue --- perfect for spending quality time with the in-laws, without having to actually speak to them. Check local listings, or this great list.
SAT NOV 29
Forget Simba. The new National Georgraphic Channel special Man-Eating Prides examines a real issue: the spread of man-eating lions in Tanzania. Though it sounds like a bad Michael Bruckheimer pitch, Tanzanians are under siege. “Entire prides now consider humans fair game; over six hundred people have been killed by lions in Tanzania since 1990.” The show will explore why lion behavior is changing, and follow a lion-hunting team out to capture “a man-eater who has been terrorizing the region.” (8 p.m.)
What’s actor/director Liev Schreiber been up to? Maybe he’ll let slip a few personal details about baby mama Naomi Watts as he narrates the more earnest documentary Sputnik Mania, the story of the Russian spacecraft that goaded America into a space race and contributed to the development of NASA, not to mention the internet, cell phones, and GPS. (History Channel, 10 p.m.)
Nicole Ankowski has lived in Ohio, Oakland, and on the high plains of South Dakota, but is now proud to call Brooklyn home. She wrote for alternative weekly papers in the first two states, and tried to learn Lakota in the last. (The vowels can be tricky.) She just earned her MFA in Creative Writing and has been published in Beeswax literary journal. She is unable to resist good writing or bad TV.