Between network, cable and streaming, the modern television landscape is a vast one. Here are some of the shows, specials and movies coming to TV this week, Dec. 7-12. Details and times are subject to change.
THE CALL OF THE WILD (2020) 7 p.m. on HBO Family. This latest adaptation of Jack London’s 1903 novel, about a dog getting de-domesticated in the Yukon, has a pair of very expensive stars. One is Harrison Ford. The other is Buck, a cutting-edge computer-generated canine. “Pondering this interspecies communion — between a craggy star and a digital dog (based on a man playing a dog) — may prompt howls into an existential void,” Ben Kenigsberg wrote in his review for The Times. “But as the basis for a family crowd-pleaser, the pairing is often irresistible.”
INDEPENDENT LENS: CHARM CITY (2018) 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). The documentarian Marilyn Ness looks at violent crime in Baltimore — and some of the people working to fight it — in this affecting documentary. Picking up a few months after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, Ness follows subjects on multiple sides of the issue, including community organizers, a cop and a councilman. The resulting film “captures up close the way violence transforms neighborhoods and families with an immediacy that transcends headlines or sensationalism,” Ben Kenigsberg wrote in his review for The Times.
ZZ TOP: THAT LITTLE OL’ BAND FROM TEXAS (2019) 8 p.m. on Reelz. If you were directing a documentary about the rock band ZZ Top, where would you start it? With a childhood image of the band’s founding lead guitar player, Billy Gibbons, pre-beard? With contemporary footage of the group, now eligible for senior discounts, tearing through “Sharp Dressed Man”? Sam Dunn, the director of this recent documentary about the band, doesn’t do either: He shows footage of Texas landscapes, with a recording of the early-20th-century Texas blues singer Henry Thomas playing over it — in a nod to the way both Texas and early blues shaped ZZ Top’s sound. The movie covers the band’s decades-long career, from before the release of their first album in 1971 (aptly titled “ZZ Top’s First Album”) to the present day. That’s a lot of ground to cover. As Gibbons told The Times in 2005: “We’ve been in this band longer than school, longer than marriage, longer than anything else we’ve ever done.”
DR. SEUSS’ THE GRINCH MUSICAL 8 p.m. on NBC. Families looking for a contemporary take on Dr. Seuss’s lean, mean, green Christmas-gift-stealing machine have several options to choose from, including movie versions with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jim Carrey. They’ll get a fresh one this year in the form of this televised production of the Grinch musical, with the Broadway star Matthew Morrison.
KISMET (1955) 6 p.m. on TCM. For a musical with vintage CinemaScope flair, consider this film version of the 1953 Broadway musical-comedy “Kismet.” This version of the story, about a poet (Howard Keel) scouring Baghdad looking for a rich suitor for his daughter (Ann Blyth), was brought to the screen by Vincente Minnelli, just a few years after Minnelli directed “An American in Paris.” Bosley Crowther, in his 1955 review for The Times, was underwhelmed. Minnelli, he wrote, directs the script “as though it were the marching orders for the Macy parade.” He added that the film “moves at a ponderous tempo, as though it is meant to give all the spectators a chance to see it fully as it goes by.”
ONE NIGHT ONLY: THE BEST OF BROADWAY 8 p.m. on NBC. Tina Fey will host this two-hour special, a benefit show for the nonprofit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The broadcast is slated to include outdoor performances by the cast members from several Broadway musicals, including “Ain’t Too Proud,” “Chicago” and “Jagged Little Pill.” Kelly Clarkson, Brett Eldredge and Patti LaBelle will also perform, alongside appearances by a roster of other celebrity guests.
MICHAEL KOSTA: DETROIT. NY. LA 11 p.m. on Comedy Central. As a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” the comic Michael Kosta has found creative ways to make humor in quarantine this year, including hosting a “travel show” from his apartment. This stand-up special, filmed before the pandemic, finds Kosta making city-specific jokes on more traditional stages in Los Angeles, Detroit and Manhattan, where he offers his interpretation of New York’s fabled unsleeping energy: “It’s not energy, you idiots, it’s panic.”
THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART (2020) 8 p.m. on HBO. When the Bee Gees had their first hit song, “Spicks and Specks,” in the 1960s, the band’s three sibling members Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb were all under 21. “We were still kids, and we were still very naïve,” Barry Gibb said in a recent interview with The Times. “I don’t think the naïveté went away for a long time.” The peaks and valleys of the career that followed — which included an effective breakup, then a dive into disco — are the subject of this new documentary, directed by Frank Marshall.
COUPLES THERAPY: THE COVID SPECIAL 8 p.m. on Showtime. The coronavirus pandemic’s effects on romantic relationships — sometimes working as a catalyst, sometimes as an extinguisher — has been discussed and written about at length. But this special should offer some particularly palpable case studies. The first season of “Couples Therapy,” a Showtime docuseries, followed Dr. Orna Guralnik, a therapist, as she ran in-person sessions with various couples. Dr. Guralnik moves to video chat for this new entry, offering a look at both the pressures of pandemic romance and the ups and downs of remote therapy. “Scripted shows have of course given us plenty of insightful, probing therapists and complex, resistant-to-change patients,” Margaret Lyons wrote in The Times when the show debuted last year. “The power here is the reality of it all, the rawness and ridiculousness of the human condition.”