Worth Watching: A 'Moodys' Family Christmas, Family Visit on 'Survivor,' Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, 'Vikings' Final Season
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
The Moodys (9/8c, Fox): Think of this short-run comedy as an acerbic antidote to the heaping helpings of holiday schmaltz so prevalent elsewhere. This decidedly offbeat limited series — six episodes, airing back-to-back tonight, then again next Monday and Tuesday — stars Denis Leary and Elizabeth Perkins as the parents of a barely functional brood of grown children who gather for a harried, rather than entirely merry, Christmas. It opens with mom shooting the head off a mantlepiece Santa, then backtracks several days to show how they got to this breaking point. (See the full review.)
Also going a bit darker than the usual holiday fare: Freeform's Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas (9/8c), an odd twist on a rom-com in which Jess (The Bold Type's Aisha Dee) dies in a car accident on the way home from a great first date with Ben (Insecure's Kendrick Sampson), whom she inadvertently "ghosts" from the other side. The only person who can still see and hear Jess is her BFF Kara (Orange Is the New Black's Kimiko Glenn), who must figure out how to get her unstuck from Earth — and Ben.
Survivor (8/7c, CBS): Typically one of the most emotional episodes of any season, the family visit is likely to bring many of the remaining contestants some much-needed joy — although it could also fuel resentments depending on who gets to take advantage of an extended stay. The timing is also tricky, as this is happening just as alliances continue to shift among the tribe.
Christmas in Rockefeller Center (8/7c, NBC): Another annual holiday tradition builds up to the lighting of the mammoth Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, this year a 12-ton Norway Spruce from Orange County, N.Y. With the Today crew (Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin, Al Roker) hosting, the two-hour entertainment spectacular features performances by John Legend, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Ne-Yo, Gwen Stefani, Brett Eldridge, Derek & Julianna Hough, Skylar Astin and Alex Newell (from NBC's upcoming musical series Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist), the eternal Radio City Rockettes, and Jon Bon Jovi with a new song "Unbroken," which honors America's veterans while acknowledging many of their struggles with PTSD.
Vikings (9/8c, History): The robust historical drama returns for the first half of a 20-episode sixth and final season with a two-hour opener picking up in the wake of the epic battle between brothers. While victorious Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) struggles in his new role as king of Kattegat, ruthless brother Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen) wanders afar, eventually landing in Russia, where he'll learn it's still possible to be shocked by the merciless antics of Prince Oleg (Danila Kozlovsky). While the Viking army continues its march through Scandanavia, Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) and Torvi (Georgia Hirst) head to Iceland to investigate the disappearance of Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård).
Inside Wednesday TV: Even with so much intrigue swirling around The CW's Riverdale (8/7c), sometimes a high-schooler still needs to deal with matters like college decision letters. Enter Riverdale High's guidance counselor, Mrs. Burble (Suits veteran Gina Torres), helping Archie (KJ Apa) and the gang deal with the stress of it all… E! previews a new interview series, In the Room (8/7c), in which E! News star Jason Kennedy chats with celebrities in their home. First subject: NFL great Tom Brady… The Dunphy home is a full house on ABC's Modern Family (9/8c) when Dylan's (Reid Ewing) hippie mom (Tony winner Rachel Bay Jones) and Claire's (Julie Bowen) lonely stepdad (Ed Begley Jr.) decide to pay a visit… Discovery pits Man vs. Bear (9/8c) in a new series in which hardy humans of both sexes (including an MMA fighter) square off against their grizzly counterparts in contests of strength and stamina, including logrolling and tug-of-war… Travel Channel sends a team of researchers and experts into the Oregon forestland to seek out an elusive mythical beast in the eight-part "investigative adventure" series Expedition Bigfoot (10/9c)… CNBC's Five Day Biz Fix (10/9c) enlists husband-wife team Chrissy and Erik Kopplin to whip small businesses into shape on a tight timetable. First challenge: transforming a tiny Manhattan hotel room into a high-end sushi eatery… Streaming on Sundance Now: the dark New Zealand mystery thriller The Gulf, starring Kate Elliott as a detective who loses her memory after a car crash that killed her husband. Investigating her own murky past for clues unearths some morally challenging truths.