Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Clooney, a castle, and Christmas lights are all on TV this fine day

Illustration for article titled Clooney, a castle, and Christmas lights are all on TV this fine day
Photo: Netflix, Lifetime, ABC

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Wednesday, December 23. All times are Eastern. 

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Top pick

The Midnight Sky (Netflix, 3:01 a.m., premiere): “The astronaut-drama stuff isn’t top-tier within the recent annual tradition of sending stars to the stars, but it does the job. Clooney seems to take his cues from the folks who have directed him, and while it’s hard not to miss the days when he was cribbing from Steven Soderbergh circa Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, his workmanlike imitation of Alfonso Cuarón beats the curdled Coens-ana of his last directorial feature. (And it’s less expected to boot; he’s never really chased this kind of big-budget thrill before.) Suburbicon also tried to tell two stories at once, to woeful effect; this time, the jagged shape of the thing somehow becomes more compelling as it goes, methodically narrowing its dramatic options as the ship approaches its ruined home.” Read the rest of Jesse Hassenger’s film review. 

Regular coverage

Wild cards

We’ve reached the point in this long, long year when most of the broadcast options are either a) Christmasy or b) repeats. So for the rest of 2020, we’ll be highlighting some of those festive things, but also some great shows or episodes from the year you might have missed.

A Holly Dolly Christmas (CBS, 8 p.m.): Okay, this one is technically both festive and a repeat, but it’s Dolly! What are we supposed to do, not tell you that there’s a holiday special on CBS that’s just Dolly Parton and her band, making music and telling stories?

Christmas At The Castle (Lifetime, 8 p.m., premiere): The relevant details, for your Lifetime Christmas Movie bingo card, are “perfume expert,” “Scottish Highlands,” “recalcitrant aristocrat,” and “fake documentary.”

The Great Christmas Light Fight (ABC, 9 p.m., back-to-back episodes, eighth-season finale): It’s competitive decoration, on television! After this year, no judgment whatsoever if the most soothing thing for your brain is two hours of high-stakes light-up candy cane placement.

Betty (HBO, premiered in May): “To simply describe Betty as an expansion of Crystal Moselle’s 2018 film Skate Kitchen is to radically undervalue just how creatively transformative the series became in growing beyond its source material. While the film’s Altman-meets-Linklater sensibility is undeniably compelling, Betty takes everything that worked there and deepens it, mining rich veins of pathos, weighty social drama, and penetrating character study in equal measure. The young women navigating New York City’s male-dominated skateboarding subculture feel both idiosyncratically authentic and instantly relatable, which is testament both to the bond of their collective relationship and the inspired performances of the core group.” Read the rest of Alex McLevy’s thoughts on Betty in our list of the year’s best television.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!