As much as I'd like to go out on New Year's Eve, I feel obligated to stay home watching TV as a service to you, the reader. (I also have nothing better to do.) Luckily, the night is filled with wonders, offering something for everyone. Well, everything except human companionship.
If you want to get grossed out one more time in 2007, there's a gruesome CSI marathon on Spike (8 p.m.). If you want to get grossed out while spitting milk through your nose (thereby grossing out others), there's a South Park marathon on Comedy Central (8:30 p.m.).
On HBO, you can wallow in finely tuned cynicism with an Entourage marathon (6 p.m.). At 11:05 p.m., HBO's prostitute-oriented reality series breaks into song with a special episode called Cathouse: The Musical. Festive.
While everyone else is looking forward to 2008, I'll be looking backward to 1962 with the Beverly Hillbillies marathon on TV Land (5 p.m.). Is there a more elegant way to ring in the new year than to sup with the Clampetts at the fancy eating table, with its green felt top and six pockets for handy storage?
For those who'd like to simulate the experience of a real party, with none of the hassles, there's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve (9 p.m., 10:35 p.m. & 12:05 a.m.), with Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus and Fergie; New Year's Eve Live (10 p.m., Fox), with Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis and Lifehouse; and New Year's Eve With Carson Daly (10:35 p.m., NBC), with Lenny Kravitz and Alicia Keys. You get to see the ball drop in Times Square and lots of people having a good time. Can you imagine how long it will take them to find their cars and drive home? Suckers.
Saturday, 7 pm (Animal Planet)
Werner Herzog's documentary profiles Timothy Treadwell, a passionate fool who devoted his life to grizzly bears. Treadwell wasn't really a scientist, but he played one on TV, filming himself with the bears for a series of self-aggrandizing specials. He invaded their space, gave them cutesy names and treated them like human friends. The bears finally had enough, casually eating him at his campsite.
This is the rare Animal Planet show whose ending might be enjoyed more by animals than by people.
Sunday, 9 pm (BBC America)
Beginning at age 8, a British boy named Richard knew he was a female trapped in the wrong body. The only solution, he felt, was to take female hormones, rename himself Lucy and plan for a sex-change operation.
We all know what would happen to Richard if he lived in the United States - the Boys Don't Cry treatment. But this documentary suggests a greater degree of tolerance in England. Richard confessed his secret to the women in his family, fearing the worst. But they were almost immediately supportive. "It's just something that happens, and no one knows why," says his grandmum.
Next Richard had to face the menfolk, but they were supportive too. Even a tough old granddad fought to overcome his prejudices. "I thought it was wrong, but eventually I got used to it, and now I accept it," he says. "I'm very pleased that he's killed off Richard and now Lucy is Lucy."
Clearly, England breeds a higher quality of old geezer than we do here.
Kenny vs. Spenny
Sunday, 10:30 pm (Comedy Central)
In Comedy Central's reality series, friends Kenny and Spenny face off in stupid competitions. One showdown focuses on farting, with each trying to outdo the other. "I will be a fart machine," says Kenny (or is it Spenny?), stripping to his underwear and putting a lighter to his butt.
The opening credits promise "glory to the winner, humiliation to the loser." But Kenny vs. Spenny heaps humiliation on both winner and loser, not to mention Comedy Central.
The Biggest Loser
Tuesday, 7 pm (NBC)
For its fifth season, the weight-loss reality series features a new twist: pairs. The teams vying to shed the most pounds include a mother and son, best friends, a married couple and a divorced couple.
The Biggest Loser has always been psychologically intense. Can you imagine how heated it will get between team members as they're forced to diet in tandem? We may finally learn if it's possible to beat someone to death with a slice of low-carb sugar-free cheesecake.
Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil & the Presidency
Wednesday, 8 pm (PBS)
This documentary wrestles with Andrew Jackson's legacy. He was revered in his lifetime, to the point where Americans yearned to vote for him on the eve of the Civil War - decades after his presidency - as the only man who could save the Union. Today, we're not so enthusiastic. The historians quoted here acknowledge Jackson's accomplishments, saying he enlarged the possibilities of American democracy. He fought for the common man and, as a general in the War of 1812, won the most surprising victory in American history.
But the historians can't ignore Jackson's epic flaws. He fought for the common man so long as the common man was white. His treatment of African Americans and Native Americans was appalling. He killed someone over a gambling debt, flew into rages and tended toward autocracy. In today's parlance, he was "an asshole."
In other words, Jackson had his good sides and his bad sides. Just like today's politicians, except for the good sides.