December: Prestige Movie Time, but Dreck on TV

Looking at the TV review list for December, I’ve come to a rather unpleasant realization.

While the end of the year yields prestige movies eager for awards recognition, the TV window between the November sweeps and the arrival of midseason fare — other than remaining episodes of elite cable dramas, Christmas specials and sports — is largely the time for desk-clearing dreck.

If December is a relative feast for movie critics — at least, compared to the summer, when they load up on sequels and superheroes — it’s a time of brain-numbing famine for their TV counterparts. (The movie side of the equation, notably, could be heard articulated by New Yorker critic David Denby Tuesday morning in an interview on NPR station KPCC, plugging his new book “Do the Movies Have a Future?” Denby complained, among other things, that studios check their brains 10 months of the year, before getting serious come November.)

TLC, in particular, seems to be trotting out a couple of new programs a week in December to suppress critical appetites, with titles like “Cheer Perfection,” “Amish Mafia” and “Extreme Cougar Wives.” As I noted in my recent column, the glut of holiday movies and specials can also reduce one’s teeth to paste, through a combination of sweetness and gnashing.

Of course, the slowdown in December is only a minor respite before a crush of new programs in January, the traditional midseason onslaught. Happily, that includes the third season of PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” which showed up in the mailbag right after Thanksgiving. (No, I haven’t begun wading in yet; some things need to be savored — and, oddly, binged on.)

Still, if movie critics saddled with the latest “Transformers” sequel occasionally feel envious as TV scribes sit down with a new batch of “Mad Men” or “Treme” episodes, well, come holiday time, the stocking is on the other foot.

Ho friggin’ ho.

 

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