Good morning! The wave of holiday reality TV that began six weeks ago continues this week with our final set of holiday-themed reality competition show premieres, though there may be a few specials to come later.
There are a scattering of other unscripted premieres—one-off specials and full series—but it seems like the momentum is slowing for now. That’ll change in January, though, when more than 30 reality shows will premiere in the first week of 2020 alone. It’s a gift!
What I recommend this week
The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition returns with a new season of double episodes airing each week (ABC, Thursdays at 9). If you’ve run out of Netflix episodes of GBBO, this show will fill that Baking Show void for sure.
The American version—now in its fifth season—no longer has Mary Berry, but it does retain the charm and camaraderie of the original, and is a perfect winter treat.
Like last season, this will be judged by Paul Hollywood and Sherry Yard, and hosted by Emma Bunton and Anthony “Spice” Adams.
Bonus recommendation! Making It season two is finishing its oddly scheduled run this week (Monday and Tuesday at 10, Wednesday at 9). It’s a must-watch, and has improved over its strong first season.
For some inexplicable reason, NBC decided to burn through the entire season in less than two weeks, with such a bizarre schedule that a calendar appears in previews.
The episodes, though, have been a delight: Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman are even more appealing as hosts and pun machines, and the talented cast is so fun to watch—even in team challenges.
When the cast read the notes that Jessie wrote for them as part of her interactive yard display, it was clear how connected they all are to each other.
The judging, well, it still sucks, and is the one part of The Great British Bake-Off that Making It has failed to replicate. (The Etsy product placement within the judging makes it even more crass.) But overall, it’s terrific.
Holiday specials and other reality TV premieres
There are five holiday specials airing this week, most of which are connected to existing reality shows:
- Beat Shazam (Fox, Monday, Dec. 9, at 8), a “holiday-themed episode” of the song-identifying competition
- Chopped has two back-to-back holiday episodes (Food Network, Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 8): First, a Chopped Junior special “Holiday Gift Baskets” episode, and then the “Holiday Sugar and Spice” episode when four returning contestants deal with basket ingredients such as chocolates that have to be unwrapped and “a candy cane with an unconventional flavor,” according to Food Network
- Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways are actually three nights of Ellen playing Oprah as she gives away “incredible gifts to unsuspecting people” (NBC, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 8). Celebrity guests include Jennifer Aniston, Jason Mamoa, and Sterling K. Brown.
- Good Eats has two holiday episodes (Food Network, Sunday, Dec. 15, at 8), with Alton Brown exploring “the history and technique of the classic Hanukkah dish” in the episode “Whole Latke Love,” followed by “Holiday Spirits,” which is about alcoholic drinks, not ghosts of Christmas past and future.
If you hate the winter holidays and want to pretend it’s Halloween, Travel Channel has you covered: These Woods are Haunted (Travel Channel, Tuesdays at 10) has people telling stories about times when they went into forests and were scared.
Discovery launches its car-focused Monday nights with new seasons of:
- Diesel Brothers (Discovery, Mondays at 8)
- Dirty Mudder Truckers (Discovery, Mondays at 9)
- and Twin Turbos (Discovery, Mondays at 10).
Also returning with a new season is David Bromstad’s My Lottery Dream Home (HGTV, Fridays at 9), which is like House Hunters except with David Bromstad and lottery winners.
And new this week: Behind Bars: Women Inside (A&E, Tuesdays at 9), a documentary series that filmed at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center.
In feature documentaries, there’s Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching (HBO, Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 9), which profiles coaches Bill Belichick and Nick Saban and “explores a four-decade-long friendship between two of the most successful and revered football coaches,” according to HBO.
Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements (HBO, Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 9) is “an intergenerational tale of deafness,” HBO says, as it follows an 11-year-old piano player who has a cochlear implant, but whose grandparents have been completely deaf for most of their lives.
Mel Brooks Unwrapped (HBO, Friday, Dec. 13, at 9) explores the comedian’s career through “interviews and verité footage of the now 93-year-old Brooks,” according to HBO.
Same God (World and PBS affiliates, Dec. 13, check local listings) is a documentary about a professor who posted a Facebook photo wearing a hijab to support Muslim women, with a caption that said, “we worship the same god.” She was fired, and the documentary “follows the journey of Dr. [Larycia] Hawkins while exploring the polarization taking place within the evangelical community over issues of race, Islam, religious freedom…and Donald Trump.”
And finally, Chef Marcus and Vivian: A Taste of What’s Next (PBS, Friday, Dec. 13, at 8:30) follows PBS chef/hosts Vivian Howard and Marcus Samuelsson as they explore L.A.’s food scene. It will be followed by a preview of a season-two episode of Marcus’ No Passport Required. Both shows return in 2020, and are on the winter 2020 reality show schedule.