Fear Factor

On the 12th day of December, with only 12 days (gulp) until Christmas Eve, here's a dozen topics of interest — or possibly disinterest — regarding today's unusually busy, for mid-December, TV lineup.

Mother's Day: On CBS's biggest Monday hit, Two and a Half Men (9/8c), Mimi Rogers drops by the Malibu manse as Walden's mom. Alan, naturally, is smitten (ewwww), but in the opposite-of-nurturing tradition of mothers on this show, she reveals a secret about her son that sends the normally laid-back billionaire over the edge.

Be Afraid: NBC reaches back into its arsenal of past hits in hopes of scaring up ratings with new episodes of the often-revolting Fear Factor (8/7c), starting with a two-hour premiere including such stunts as eating scorpions, being strapped to a semi truck's grill and escaping a submerged car, always with host Joe Rogan egging them on. The first episode features family teams of two, and the second pits four teams of executives against each other. This network could use some good ratings news, but does it have to come in this package?

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Getting Lei'd:
As Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim) prepares to tie the knot with Malia (Reiko Aylesworth) on CBS's Hawaii Five-0 (10/9c), the team takes on the case of a man left for dead in an abandoned WWII bunker. What does this have to do with the Jane Doe being investigated by the combative Capt. Fryer (Tom Sizemore)? And will any of this ruin the wedding?

In the News: Two big names make their first appearance on NBC's Rock Center With Brian Williams (10/9c). The one getting headlines is the formerly press-shy Chelsea Clinton, leveraging her celebrity into a contributor's spotlight. She reports a "Making a Difference" segment on Annette Dove from Pine Bluffs, Ark., founder of TOPPS, an after-school and summer program targeting needy children. But the real journalistic "get" is the arrival of former ABC News legend Ted Koppel, who years ago reported from Iraq, embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division during the invasion of Baghdad. In a special report, he returns to the scene to cover the military's withdrawal of troops.

Beginning of the End: In the next-to-last episode of Fox's Terra Nova (8/7c), the season-long mythology kicks into high gear. The colony prepares for war as the "Sixer" mole is confronted by Cmdr. Taylor and Jim Shannon, while Taylor's estranged son Lucas hurries to get his device ready for the arrival of the 11th Pilgrimage. It all comes to a head in next week's two-hour season finale.

The End of the Beginning: HBO's low-rated dramedy Enlightened (9:30/8:30c) wraps its first season, coming off last week's best-of-show episode — which happened to focus on the show's most relatable character (Diane Ladd as Amy's skeptical mom) — with its renewal still pending. HBO is known for keeping even its most marginal properties alive (How to Make It in America, anyone?), but this could be another litmus test for the network's indulgence of shows that fail to catch on. In the finale, Amy (Laura Dern) again tries to force change at work and in her personal life, urging Levi (Luke Wilson, the show's other key asset) to get treatment.

OWN-ing It: Zach Anner, the most memorable personality to emerge from the Your OWN Show reality contest, finally gets his own show: Rollin' With Zach (8/7c), a humor-laced travelogue in which the host, who has cerebral palsy, travels the U.S. in search of adventure. The back-to-back opening episodes take Zach to Los Angeles, where he tries out on The Price Is Right and goes surfing, and Chicago, where he straps on water skis on Lake Michigan.

Homecoming: A world traveler comes home to New York City in a special holiday edition of Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (10/9c), which takes a disorienting, hallucinatory approach to Bourdain's stay at the Ace Hotel, with special effects and animation and guest appearances by Norah Jones and Christopher Walken.

Talking About Manhattan: Adding to the Christmastime congestion in the Big Apple, CBS's daytime The Talk (check local schedules) invades New York City for a week of shows, set in the spectacular Grand Foyer of Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. First-day guests include Sex and the City veteran Kim Cattrall, currently on Broadway opposite Paul Gross in Noel Coward's Private Lives, and Unforgettable's Dylan Walsh.

Going for Broke: In back-to-back episodes of CBS' freshman hit 2 Broke Girls (8/7c), we get to see just how far the former socialite Caroline (Beth Behrs) has fallen. In the first episode, she goes to Barney's — the store, not the dinosaur — to try to return some pricey jewelry for cash and learns she's persona non grata at an institution that used to cater to her every whim; and in the second, a repeat from October, she and Max (Kat Dennings) break into Caroline's plush old digs — or, as Max puts it, "This is the room that OMG was designed for" — to retrieve her bite guard.

On Your Toes: Who doesn't love a good production of The Nutcracker ballet? Cable's Ovation channel has scoured the globe for some of the best versions, and in the fifth annual Battle of the Nutcrackers (8/7c), hosted by Nigel Lythgoe and Debbie Allen, a different production will be spotlighted each night this week. First up: the U.S. TV premiere of a 2007 staging from St. Petersburg, Russia's State Academic Mariinsky Theater. Viewers can vote online, and the winner will be revealed on Christmas Eve.

The Yule Tide: The Christmas movie cavalcade continues, and you can choose between two '50s chestnuts: On TCM, the definitive 1951 version of A Christmas Carol (8/7c), starring Alistair Sim as Scrooge; or on AMC, the 1954 Irving Berlin musical White Christmas (8/7c), worth watching again if only for Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye's "Sisters" act.

So what are you watching tonight?

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