Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Netflix spends all the gold and spices in the land in an attempt to make Marco Polo its very own Game Of Thrones

Benedict Wong, Uli Latukefu, Lorenzo Richelmy (Courtesy of Netflix)

Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Friday, December 12, and Saturday, December 13. All times are Eastern.

Top pick

Marco Polo (Netflix, Friday): Netflix goes all in with this $90 million miniseries about the swashbuckling adventures of the legendary explorer as he discovers the court of Kublai Khan. Sure, it already existed before he stumbled upon it, but, hey, nice effort. Joshua Alston, reviewing the whole, binge-able series, says it’s no Game Of Thrones, and Netflix is no HBO. But, again, nice effort, which Kyle Fowle will be tracking through daily reviews (give or take a few upcoming holidays).


Nick Offerman: American Ham (Netflix, Friday): I wanted to make this Netflix presentation of Offerman’s one-man show—described as “a collection of anecdotes, songs and woodworking/oral-sex techniques”—the Top Pick this week, but Polo’s press was just too overwhelming. I can only hope that this picture will makes up for Offerman’s runner-up status; read Erik Adams’ review to find out:

Offerman would do pretty well at the court of Kublai Khan I imagine.

Also noted

The Legend Of Korra (12 p.m., Friday): Oliver Sava is loving the way this season in developing. I am loving that his last review contained the phrase “flying mecha-suits.”


Constantine (NBC, 10 p.m., Friday): Constantine and crew head to Mexico City, where there’s some evil brewing. At least the show’s taking the guy out of America for once, although whether it’ll discover any of John’s comic book darkness there, Brandon Nowalk isn’t sure, if this quote from last week’s review is any indication:

Constantine really wants us to believe he’s cynical, too, as evidenced by his numerous wrapped condoms and unsmoked cigarettes. He sure does smirk a lot. But he also spends all his time sitting on the metaphorical pew against the church doors trying to hold evil out. There’s only so much weariness we’ll buy.


Comedy Bang! Bang! (IFC, 11 p.m., Friday): It’s a clash of conceptual comic fake talk shows when Eric Andre stops by. LaToya Ferguson is hoping Eric, Scott, and Reggie break out into a full-on comedy WWE Battle Royale but, to be fair, that’s how she wishes all TV shows turned out.

Saturday Night Live (NBC, 11:30 p.m., Saturday): Martin Freeman makes his first ever appearance on the show, alongside musical guest and fellow Brit Charli XCX. Dennis Perkins likes to imagine that Freeman came into the writers room this week and said, “No Sherlock or Hobbit jokes,” just to see if he could make some heads explode.

“Oh, and no Office jokes as well.” “You bastard-man, Freeman.”

TV Club Classic

Doctor Who (Classic) (2 p.m., Saturday): Everybody’s favorite Doctor (ok, mine) Tom Baker takes on the pesky “Androids Of Tera” in this classic Doctor Who. Christopher Bahn is our guide, Romana our companion.


The Twilight Zone (12 p.m., Saturday): Zack Handlen just finished up seven years of Sons Of Anarchy coverage (for which we should all pitch in and get him a little present), and now his long, spooky journey through The Twilight Zone comes to a close as well with his reviews of “The Fear” and “The Bewitchin’ Pool.” Godspeed, li’l Zack—it’s nappy time.

Elsewhere in TV Club

Just in time for the A.V. Club’s year-end best/worst-of lists, Kyle Fowle shows up with a For Our Consideration about how year-end lists are contrary to the spirit of criticism and true enjoyment of pop culture. Way to tell us after we did all that work, Kyle. Then—it’s time for another best-of list! (Sorry, Kyle). All of the A.V. Clubbers come out swinging with their picks for the best shows of the year that didn’t make the official best-of list! We are collectively very angry! Thankfully, Libby Hill’s on hand to cool us all out with her review of Sufjan Stevens’ Songs For Christmas which will make us all remember the reason for the season, causing a huge, hand-holding Whoville-style A.V. Club singalong.


What else is on

Cristela (ABC, 8:30 p.m., Friday): In this Christmas episode, Cristela stays home with her mom and makes their traditional holiday tamales. Which sound so much better than stupid fruitcake.


Grimm (NBC, 9 p.m., Friday): This episode’s called “Chupacabra,” so that must mean it’s time for the Grimm monster pic of the week!

He actually looks a little werewolf-y, but we’ll allow it

Nas: Time Is Illmatic (Showtime, 9 p.m., Friday): Rapper Nas takes a look back at his influential 1994 album Illmatic and the world that shaped it in this acclaimed documentary. Andrea Battleground’s positive review back in September suggests she thought it was “ill.” (I’m sorry Andrea—you in no way said that.)

The Birthday Boys (IFC, 11:30 p.m., Friday): It’s not a great sign that I’ve watched every episode of this generally amusing sketch show and can’t remember one cast member’s name. Thankfully, the very memorable Thomas Lennon and Tony Hale guest star, as the Boys take down that pesty Internet.


College Football: Army vs. Navy (CBS, 3 p.m., Saturday): Until the cockeyed new playoff series starts, this traditional matchup featuring two military academies that are not very good at football will have to hold us over.

UFC On Fox (Fox, 8 p.m., Saturday): There’s gonna be some punchin’. Almost certain of it.


The Best Christmas Party Ever (Hallmark, 8 p.m., Saturday): There’s no party like a Hallmark party, ‘cause a Hallmark party’s got doilies!

The Santa Con (Lifetime, 8 p.m., Saturday): A con man gets sentenced to be a mall Santa and promises a kid that his estranged parents will get back together for the holidays. Don’t listen to him kid—it’s a con! (This movie also stars Steve Urkel, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and Cliff from Cheers, which a sentence that didn’t exist before.)


30 For 30: The U Part 2 (ESPN, 9 p.m., Saturday): The festering cesspit of corruption and football greatness that is the University Of Miami Hurricanes is the subject of this second ESPN documentary from director Billy Corben. This time, the ‘Canes rise from their most recent scandal to win a national championship, only to be brought low by a villainous booster’s Ponzi scheme. It’s like Friday Night Lights season two—except it never got better. (Coach Taylor could turn this program around. I just know it. But what does Noel Murray think?)

Atlantis (BBC America, 9 p.m., Saturday): The intrepid heroes of this sword-and-snorkels adventure series find themselves in the middle of a necropolis. Which is much, much less cool than finding yourself in Metropolis.


The Missing ( Starz, 9 p.m., Saturday): Events in the past continue to lead Tony and Emily to clues about their son who remains, yes, missing.

In case you missed it

The Middle/The Goldbergs: Will Harris gives high marks to a pair of holiday episodes on these steady family series. Only one is Christmas-themed. You can probably guess.


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