Is he a good Santa or a bad Santa? Sounds like a case for Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), and in a very campy Christmas episode of TNT's The Closer (9/8c) — one of many holiday episodes we'll be weighing in on this week — the Santa is question (and under questioning) is played by Fred Willard, so at least you know you'll be entertained. When a fellow Santa is killed during a sabotaged zip-line stunt at the "North Pole Village" run by Willard, he is brought in to the precinct in full costume, drinking and smoking and barfing and raving. This causes great dismay for Christmas-loving Buzz (Phillip P. Keene, resplendent in a reindeer sweater), who's accompanied by his head-turning sister Casey (FlashForward's Christine Woods), an instant favorite among the guys in the precinct, described at one point by a petulant Brenda as looking "like a bunch of diabetics standing in front of a candy store." But the biggest gift of all for me is the return of Mark Pellegrino in his devilishly funny turn as Brenda's outrageous lawyer, who's asking for more money to continue working on her federal lawsuit. If you ask me, he's worth every penny.
The cartoon classic that defines Christmas TV, A Charlie Brown Christmas, returns to ABC (8/7c), and I can already feel myself dancing around the room to that jazzy Vince Guaraldi score. This year, it's paired with the new Prep & Landing cartoon Naughty Vs. Nice (8:30/7:30c), in which elves Lanny and Wayne race to rescue classified North Pole technology from a Naughty Kid hacker.
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Another week, another country-music extravaganza where someone's handing out awards. Replacing Fox's regular lineup for the night, the second annual American Country Awards lets fans vote for their favorites in a variety of categories, including touring. Trace Adkins hosts from Las Vegas with Kristin Chenoweth, and performers include Alabama — winner of the Greatest Hits Award — and Toby Keith, whose new hit "Red Solo Cup" will also be featured on Tuesday night's Glee. As you'd expect, last season's American Idol country faves Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina return to the network that gave them their big break.
The CBS comedy watch: When last we left How I Met Your Mother (8/7c), Robin had just told Barney she's pregnant. But that's not the last curve ball coming their way. ... On 2 Broke Girls (8:30/7:30c), the Brooklyn babes scheme to find a job for their old pal Chestnut, the horse that still lives in their backyard, in hopes of finding him some winter shelter. Because, really, that joke had played itself out by the second episode. ... Walden is caught between two women on Two and a Half Men (9/8c), when his romancing of new girlfriend Zoey (Sophie Winkleman) is interrupted by the surprise return of ex-wife Bridget (Judy Greer). I mention this primarily to call your attention to Judy Greer's terrific work in a small but pivotal role opposite George Clooney in the terrific new movie The Descendants. Still hoping she lands a hit TV show of her own someday. Also back in this episode: Melanie Lynskey as Rose, who we haven't seen since Charley's funeral.
Shipper alert: Tonight's Castle (ABC, 10/9c) puts Castle and Beckett in bed together — but there's a twist. (Isn't there always?) They're handcuffed in a locked room, with no clue about the whys and wherefores of this predicament.
So what else is on? ... HBO premieres the Oscar-winning documentary short film Strangers No More (6:45/5:45c), about life in a public school in Tel Aviv where Jews, Muslims and Christians live and study together, learning about tolerance in a part of the world where that can be in short supply. ... A&E investigates the hunt for The Long Island Serial Killer in a two-hour true crime special (9/8c). ... Syfy's diverting Peter Pan fantasy Neverland concludes (9/8c), with a test of young Peter's loyalty. If you missed the first half Sunday night, it's repeated at 7/6c. ... NBC's The Sing-Off crowned its winner (Pentatonix) last week, and returns for a live Sing-Off Christmas special, with groups from all three seasons performing holiday music along with the judges, including a duet with Sara Bareilles and Ben Folds. ... On a two-hour American Chopper (Discovery, 9/8c), tabloid terror Jesse James returns to the network for the first time since 2006 to take on the two Paul Teutels (Senior and Junior) in a motorcycle-building contest. Fans can vote for their favorite of the three choppers, and the results will be announced in a live episode Tuesday. ... In VH1's docu-series T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle (9/8c), cameras follow Grammy-winning rapper T.I. as he reunites with his wife Tameka ("Tiny") and family after a 12-month prison sentence. ... In Sundance's The Mortified Sessions (8/7c), interviewer David Nadelberg excavates celebrities' childhood photos, diaries, letters and other potentially embarrassing mementos to reveal what made them who they are today. First up in back-to-back episodes: Ed Helms, Mo'Nique and Eric Stonestreet.
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