Worth Watching: Thanksgiving Balloon Cliffhanger, Football Galore, Apple's Creepy 'Servant,' 'Merry Happy Whatever' on Netflix
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
The 93rd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (9 am/8c, repeated at 2 pm/1c, NBC): Some traditions die hard, and some depend on the winds — which is why it won't be decided until the last minute whether weather conditions in New York City will keep the legendary balloons, including a new Astronaut Snoopy, from flying. The yearly parade through the streets of Manhattan will still be a festive event, reportedly being kicked off by the dancing singers of Broadway's Tony-winning Ain't Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations. Also expected to perform: Celine Dion, Frozen diva Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Billy Porter, Debbie Gibson, The Muppets, Natasha Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Chicago and many more. Plus marching bands! And Santa! Hosted as always by the Today team (Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker).
Also on display, starting at noon/11c on NBC: The National Dog Show, hosted by John O'Hurley and American Kennel Club-licensed judge David Frei, with Mary Carillo reported from the show ring, and Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir doing their best to upstage the canines as they provide backstage commentary. A new breed is joining the mix this year: the Azawakh in the hound group, a sighthound known for a short coat and long, lean appearance. Hot dog!
On the Gridiron: Thanksgiving is unimaginable without NFL action, and the Detroit Lions continue their tradition as Turkey Day hosts on Fox (12:30/11:30c) by welcoming the Chicago Bears to Ford Field. Also on tap: a match-up of the Buffalo Bears against the Cowboys in Dallas on CBS (4:30/3:30c), and in prime time on NBC, the New Orleans Saints head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in an NFC South rivalry game.
Servant (streaming on Apple TV+): If you'd rather get your creep on, the new Apple streaming service complies with a bizarre series from executive producer M. Night Shyamalan (who directs the premiere) and creator Tony Basgallop (Inside Man) that kept reminding me of Rosemary's Baby with its suffocating and claustrophobic weirdness. I can't help wishing Servant was a limited series — it was renewed for a second season before premiere — because it's hard to imagine the shocking and unsettling premise sustaining over the long haul. Or even over the entire first season. But the first three episodes available now kick off with a Gothic chill as we're introduced to Dorothy (Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose), a Philadelphia TV reporter who's been lost for weeks in grief over her infant son, Jericho, while her chef husband Sean (Toby Kebbell) seems more interested in preparing exotic dishes in the kitchen. (Wait till you see his way with an eel.) When they invite Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), a seemingly naïve and quietly devout 18-year-old nanny from Wisconsin, into their posh home, she goes along with the subterfuge that little Jericho is still alive. Until things change. Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) tries to lighten the mood in appearances as Dorothy's brother, Julian, who's just as baffled as we are.
Apple's ongoing series push up their regular Friday episode drops a day early, including The Morning Show, in which Alex's (Jennifer Aniston) personal life falls apart, even as her off-camera relationship with co-anchor Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) appears to thaw. Though for how long?
Merry Happy Whatever (streaming on Netflix): The streaming giant goes the more traditional route with a shiny, multi-cam family sitcom, also set in Philadelphia. Dennis Quaid stars as local sheriff Dan Quinn, a widower whose overbearing style creates an obstacle when youngest daughter Emmy (Bridgit Mendler) returns home from L.A. with her boyfriend Matt (Brent Morin), a struggling musician who struggles to fit in to this very close-knit family… If you'd rather just settle in for a movie, Netflix offers the family comedy Holiday Rush, starring Romany Malco (A Million Little Things) as a New York DJ who loses his job at the worst time, because his spoiled kids have just come up with this year's Christmas gift lists. Downsizing will teach them all some necessary life lessons.
Inside Thursday TV: Now streaming on Hulu: Mike Wallace, Reporter, a feature documentary profiling the legendary 60 Minutes correspondent, with a special focus on his brash interviewing technique, whether in the company of celebrities or scoundrels, sometimes both… Surely the Hallmark Channel wouldn't go dark for the holiday. Digest your meal with Christmas at the Plaza (8/7c), a big-city romance starring Elizabeth Henstridge as a historian preparing an exhibition on the iconic New York hotel, where she meets a handsome decorator (Ryan Paevey) and maybe they should get a room… Musical variety and corporate synergy collide in ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration (8/7c), hosted by Glee's Matthew Morrison, Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton and Jesse Palmer from Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Morrison and Bunton perform holiday standards, with guest appearances by Dancing with the Stars finalist Ally Brooke, Pentatonix, Sting and Shaggy, Ingrid Michelson and Andy Grammer, and electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling doing her magic with "Carol of the Bells."… Casey Webb (Man v. Food) hosts Food Network's competition series Santa's Baking Blizzard (9/8c), in which skilled bakers and ice sculptors toil to create spectacular Christmas scenes for judges Jocelyn Delk Adams, Amanda Freitag and Zac Young.