Worth Watching: A Musical ‘Grinch,’ ‘Christmas Light Fight,’ ‘Race’ Sprints Through Manila, HBO’s ‘Alabama Snake’
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical! (8/7c, NBC): Messing with a confirmed classic is always dangerous — I’m still trying to erase the live-action Grinch movie from memory — but I’m happy to see that this new stage musical based on the Dr. Seuss fable manages to incorporate the two timeless songs (“Welcome Christmas” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”) from the peerless 1966 animated original. Glee‘s Matthew Morrison assumes the costume of the grouchy Grinch who’s determined to ruin Christmas for the unflappable Whos of Whoville below in a production filmed at London’s Troubadour Theatre, with music and lyrics by Mel Marvin and Tim Mason. Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story) narrates the tale as Old Max, while Booboo Stewart (Descendants) plays the younger version of Grinch’s canine sidekick. Newcomer Amelia Minto is Cindy Lou Who, whom we trust will help melt the Grinch’s lonely, calcified heart. If this fails to deliver, we’ll still have the beloved Chuck Jones toon, which NBC will repeat on Christmas night.
The Great Christmas Light Fight (8/7c, ABC): Why are we wearing our shades inside? Perhaps to protect us from the glare of this annual competition of electrifying proportions, in which families across the country display their elaborate home Christmas-light extravaganzas for a potential $50,000 prize, which might help pay off a bit of their power bill. Carter Oosterhouse and interior designer Taniya Nayak host and judge the wild layouts, which in back-to-back episodes includes a teddy bear-themed Christmasland in St. Louis, a dazzling synchronized light show in Boise, Idaho, and a drive-through head-turner in Brownsville, Tenn.
The Amazing Race (8/7c, CBS): Every second counts in the penultimate leg of this year’s Race, which marks another first: the city sprint. As the final four teams navigate the Philippines capital of Manila, there are no road blocks or detours, but challenges demanding speed as they try to make it into next week’s final leg. This could either work well or backfire for NFL buddies DeAngelo and Gary, who the rest of the former “Mine Five” alliance were conspiring against last week.
Alabama Snake (9/8c, HBO): Tiger King, step aside. Those of us who are even more petrified of snakes will certainly shudder in thrall to HBO’s latest true-crime documentary, which tells the Southern Gothic story of how Pentecostal minister and snake handler Glenn Summerford was accused in 1991 of trying to kill his wife Darlene by forcing her hand into a rattlesnake bed. Darlene is interviewed, along with their son Marty, Glenn’s ex-wife Doris, the lead detective, now-retired Clarence Boite, and historian Dr. Thomas G. Burton, whose knowledge of the folklore and culture of Pentecostal snake-handling churches proves instrumental in his audio interviews with the fallen preacher.
Inside Wednesday TV: The Netflix docuseries The Surgeon’s Cut dissects the work of four top surgeons from around the world, who discuss their groundbreaking operations in the fields of fetal medicine, neurosurgery, transplant surgery and cardiology… MTV’s The Challenge: Double Agents (8/7c) sends teams of veteran players and rookies to Iceland for a chilling reality contest with an espionage theme… As the first season of The CW’s Devils (8/7c) nears the end, Massimo (Alessandro Borghi) makes a move against Dominic (Patrick Dempsey), hacking the company’s servers to expose the scandal, but the fallout could cost him his career… Change is hard, including for the members of CBS’s SEAL Team (9/8c), who are trying to adjust to the new team dynamic… Aaron Wallace (Nicholas Pinnock) is thankful to be spending his first Thanksgiving out of prison on ABC’s For Life (10/9c), which doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing at home.