Tuesday, Dec. 1 (FX)
Season Finale: It gets half the hype of Mad Men, but about twice as many viewers— in fact, FX’s biker drama Sons of Anarchy has occasionally scored higher ratings than NBC’s Jay Leno Show and ABC’s The Forgotten, and they’re on allegedly major networks. But, since the broadcast nets don’t have balls anymore, it’s up to cable and uncompromising producers like SOA’s Kurt Sutter to create programming for adults with IQs over 50. Likewise, every actor has killed it in Sons of Anarchy’s second season, from previously unconvincing lead Charlie Hunnam (as Jax, the motorcycle gang’s conflicted co-leader) to guest star Ally Walker (hitting more notes in her few episodes here as an ATF agent than she did over four years on Profiler) to even Henry Rollins (still can’t act, but he makes a good thug). This is the Other Best Drama on TV.
Wednesday, Dec. 2 (TruTV)
Series Debut: Seven years ago, comedian Kevin Nealon hosted The Conspiracy Zone on TNN (now known as Spike, or the UFCSI Channel), with a rotating guest panel of “experts” and fellow comics like Kathy Griffin and Ann Coulter. Former pro ‘rassler and governor Jesse Ventura isn’t funny out of tights, but when the host and his camera crew try to gain access to a base in Alaska from where the U.S. guv’ment “controls the weather” in the Conspiracy Theory premiere, that’s comedy. But, until he tackles how all of the Beatles’ music was written by a New World Order think-tank for mind-control purposes or why a half-assed cable network stole the name of my damned column, not interested.
Wednesday, Dec. 2 (A&E)
Series Debut: Sounds like a Robot Chicken scenario, but it’s real: The network that brought you Criss Angel, Gene Simmons and 586 Criminal Minds reruns today is presenting Steven Seagal: Lawman. What you probably don’t know: Seagal has been working as a deputy in Louisiana for the past 20 years. Commendable, but Lawman will also follow Seagal’s off-duty “musical performances and philanthropic efforts” (ack!).
Sunday, Dec. 6 (SyFy)
Miniseries Debut: The problem with Tin Man, 2007’s “dark re-imagining” of The Wizard of Oz? Too protracted—six hours is waaay too long to spend with Zooey Deschanel. Alice, a remake of Alice In Wonderland from the same people, is a relatively brisk four hours and 100-percent Zooey-free, so it’s already better. In this modernized version, Alice (Caterina Scorsone) isn’t a child, but a 20-something big-city karate instructor (!) who chases her goon-napped boyfriend through the Looking Glass and lands in a casino-laden Wonderland that resembles Terry Gilliam’s Brazil by way of Sin City. Once there, Alice learns that people from her world are being abducted to Wonderland and having their emotions extracted to be doled out as currency by the evil Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates). Scorsone is solid, the special effects are impressive and, despite some cheeseoid overacting by Bates and Matt Frewer (as the White Knight), the balance of humor and drama is fairly true to Lewis Carroll’s original Alice tales. Caveat: RoboRabbit, baaad idea. Concludes Monday, Dec. 7.
Monday, Dec. 7 (TNT)
Series Debut: Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher are 40-something pals, all dealing with midlife crises: Romano’s a divorcee and failed golf pro who now manages a party store and a gambling habit, Bakula’s a failed actor who bangs younger women, and Braugher’s a heart-failure candidate who works at his dad’s car dealership. Oh, and Men of a Certain Age is a comedy that fails at generating any laughs.