The ‘Sesame Street’ Gang, NBC’s ‘American Auto’ Preview, A ‘Colossal Cartoon Christmas,’ Meet ‘The Larkins’

Witness the origins of Sesame Street in an HBO documentary. After the final performance of The Voice, NBC previews a promising new workplace comedy from the creator of Superstore. Nostalgia is the ticket in MeTV’s collection of vintage Christmas-cartoon shorts and in Acorn TV’s 1950s-set family dramedy The Larkins.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street

Documentary Premiere

Based on a terrific book by my former colleague Michael Davis, a new documentary sheds light on the formation of Sesame Street, still influencing generations of children with fast-paced educational entertainment after more than 50 years. Street Gang depicts how TV executive Joan Ganz Cooney and Sesame Workshop co-founder Lloyd Morrisett realized their vision to use the medium’s power to draw children in with music and comedy—and, most essentially, with the universally adored Muppets of Jim Henson, creating an inclusive and ever-evolving neighborhood that would speak to underrepresented minority and urban audiences.

The Cast of American Auto
NBC

American Auto

Series Premiere

Following the live performance finale of The Voice (8/7c), NBC sneak-peeks a strong new workplace comedy from Superstore’s Justin Spitzer, set in the corporate suites of a Detroit car company that has seen better days. Much to the annoyance of founding-family scion Wesley (Jon Barinholtz), Payne Motors has brought in a new CEO (the delicious Ana Gasteyer) with roots in pharmaceuticals and zero passion for anything with wheels. Her insecure underlings scramble to win her favor and shield her from public-relations mishaps—not easy when their new prototype for a self-driving car reveals an unfortunate blind spot. Good news: The second episode (at 10:30/9:30c) is even funnier. American Auto will air regularly on Tuesdays starting in early January.

MeTV’s Super Colossal Cartoon Christmas

Special

I love Charlie Brown, Rudolph and the Grinch as much as anyone, but here’s a chance to savor some lesser-seen animated holiday classics, dating from the 1930s to 1979. It’s a two-hour feast of vintage animation, hosted by Toon In With Me’s Cartoon Curator Bill Leff and his puppet sidekick, Toony the Talking Tuna (Kevin Fleming). Highlights in this festival of cartoon shorts include Tom & Jerry’s Oscar-nominated The Night Before Christmas from 1941, 1933’s Seasin’s Greetinks! with Popeye and the gang, 1979’s Fright Before Christmas with Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil and more rare gems from animation masters Tex Avery and Max Fleischer.

The Larkins

Series Premiere

Described by many a British critic as “warm-hug” TV—and what could be more suitable this time of year—a new series adaptation of H.E. BatesThe Darling Buds of May introduces the lovably eccentric Larkin family. Their cozy life in the pastoral wonderland of Kent in the late 1950s is only slightly marred by local gossip—and the arrival of a tax man who takes a shine to their carefree eldest daughter.

For those seeking more holiday diversion, some eclectic options:

  • 20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir (8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell hosts a two-hour retrospective of memorable performances with the choir, a tradition briefly interrupted in 2020 by the pandemic. Among the many greats featured: Broadway stars Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth and Kelli O’Hara, opera greats Renée Fleming, Frederica von Stade, Bryn Terfel, Nathan Gunn, R&B headliners Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole, and many more.
  • Maps and Mistletoe (8/7c, Lifetime): A professional map maker (Humberly González) is asked to design a novelty North Pole map, which brings her up close and personal with an actual North Pole explorer (Ronnie Rowe). Frosty? Not for long.
  • Let’s Get Merried (9/8c, VH1) Eva Longoria is among the executive producers of a rowdy comedy about a holiday-averse woman at a bachelorette weekend who impulsively (possibly drunkenly) decides to marry the man of her dreams that day—though she hasn’t met him yet.
  • House Hunters Ho Ho Home (10/9c, HGTV): Airing each night through Friday, this brand extension features Oregon real-estate agent and Santa impersonator Albie Mushaney, who helps clients find their dream homes—then decks their halls with all manner of festive decoration.

Inside Monday TV:

  • Gordon Ramsay’s Road Trip: European Vacation (8/7c, Fox): The ubiquitous TV chef hits the road in the first of several new Road Trip specials, with fellow chef Gino D’Acampo and French maitre’d Fred Sirieix along for the ride. Their itinerary includes Italy, France and Scotland, where they’ll sample all the best regional cuisine.
  • All American (8/7c, The CW): It’s prom night in the high-school football drama’s midseason finale, but Spencer (Daniel Ezra) is busy trying to fix a mistake made by his teammates.
  • The Rise and Fall of LuLaRoe (streaming on discovery+): Previously the subject of a tell-all docuseries on Hulu, a new special brings viewers up to date with fresh details about the embattled leggings company.