Let's cut to the must-see chase, which means jumping ahead to Sunday's big finales, starting with Showtime's Homeland, the series that topped my year-end Top 10 list (currently on display in TV Guide Magazine, soon to be posted, so stay tuned). Following last week's scorching episode, where Claire Danes earned her Emmy (and Golden Globes — but inexplicably not SAG) stripes with Carrie's meltdown after Brody's betrayal, the excellent first season wraps with an expanded 90-minute finale (10/9c). Brody is keeping his deadly secret close to the vest, in a manner of speaking, in anticipation of the vice president's big public announcement, while Carrie languishes in exile and depression, unable to convince anyone that the sky (or something) is about to fall. Where's it all heading? To a second season, thankfully, but not until our nerves are fully frayed.
An hour earlier, Dexter wraps a polarizing storyline some have loved and others have loathed (kind of depends how you feel about the big Doomsday reveal, among other factors). The sixth-season finale promises a major game changer, played out against the Miami police search for the Doomsday Killer, whose final apocalyptic act is scheduled to occur during a lunar eclipse. I figure after this many seasons — not to mention the book series, which I've mostly kept up with — I can handle anything the show throws at me, but please for the love of the Dark Passenger, no more amorous Deb-and-Dex dream sequences. That's Woody Allen creepy.
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Also ending Sunday, with the traditional two-hour finale followed by cast reunion, is CBS's Survivor: South Pacific (8/7c), where lately the tribal councils have felt more like faith revival meetings, complete with human sacrifice — as in the clueless, and clearly disturbed, Brandon giving his hard-won immunity necklace to Albert, thus ensuring Russell's nephew would be sent to Redemption Island. This week I'm rooting for Ozzy to win the final Redemption challenge, because if he gets to rejoin the game, and the final choice for the $1 million comes down to the "Dragonslayer" against the strongest (if not most strategic) player on the island, I'm sure Fan-Boy Cochran won't be the only one squealing in delight.
A final Sunday programming note: CBS's 60 Minutes (7/6c), TV's classiest and still most vital newsmagazine, features a Morley Safer interview with Meryl Streep (soon to be seen reveling in her Kennedy Center Honor), Lesley Stahl grilling House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Anderson Cooper amid the coral reefs off the Cuban coastline. I wouldn't miss any of these segments, regardless of the inevitable football overrun (in East and Central time zones, anyway).
Some highlights from the rest of the weekend:
Marking its 30th year, TNT's annual Christmas in Washington concert (8/7c) once again broadcasts from the glorious National Building Museum, with Conan O'Brien hosting, and performers including the tireless Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Victoria Justice and The Band Perry ... Need a zombie fix while The Walking Dead is on hiatus? Cable's Chiller channel presents its first original movie, Steve Niles' Remains (10/9c), based on the graphic novel about survivors of a nuclear catastrophe who are left to fend off the ravenous undead from a Reno casino. I'm betting it won't take long before you begin to appreciate how much better The Walking Dead is by comparison. ... For less grisly thrills, NBC's Grimm (9/8c) is new, with an episode titled "Let Your Hair Down" reminiscent of Rapunzel. In this week's case, a murder in the woods triggers the reopening of a missing-persons case, and Nick once again turns to Monroe to get a read on the now-feral abductee. ... HBO's absurdist animated comedy The Life and Times of Tim returns for a third season, and in the opener (9/8c), the aimless sad-sack hero becomes an assistant to a pro women's basketball player, then goes for a haircut before a job interview. Expect things to go badly.
Hey Laa-dy! One of the movies' most legendary clowns, also an innovative director who made an art of slapstick, gets his due in Encore's revealing and entertaining career retrospective Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis (8/7c). Still knocking 'em dead at 85 with a shtick that harks back to his roots as a child of burlesque and vaudeville, Lewis is seen in performance before a rapt audience, quipping, "What a stupid way to make a fortune." One man's "stupid" is seen as genius by a parade of admiring celebrities from Jerry Seinfeld to Steven Spielberg. In the movie-length special, Lewis reflects on the Beatles-like pandemonium surrounding the comic anarchy of his bromantic partnership with Dean Martin, and says of his string of movie hits, which earned him an almost godlike reputation abroad, "You have to create an atmosphere of fun." The only mention of his telethon years is in footage of his surprise 1976 reunion with Martin (brokered by Frank Sinatra), but as we watch, it's clear we'll always be Jerry's kids, engulfed in helpless laughter and admiration. Method is the centerpiece of a daylong marathon of Jerry Lewis classics, starting with The Bellboy at 1:50 pm/12:50c, and after the first showing of the documentary, his 1963 masterpiece The Nutty Professor at 10:05/9:05c.
Another student and fan of great comedy, late-night host Jimmy Fallon, makes his long-awaited return to Saturday Night Live (11:30/10:30c, NBC) as guest host — he has performed in skits since leaving the cast, but never as the main attraction. This is the last episode of the calendar year, so expect some surprises, especially with the well-liked Fallon aboard. Crooner Michael Bublé is making his second appearance as musical guest. (Is it too much to hope for a reprise of "Hamm & Bublé?" What has Jon Hamm been up to lately?)
So what are you watching this weekend?
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