Thursday is Thanksgiving, so that must mean television will be populated with several Christmas specials this week! No, really. The holiday special season gets underway in this final week of November, before the traditional turkey dinner even hits, let alone is cleared from the table.
I could rant for a week, but instead, I’ll just fill you in on the early stocking stuffers.
Things get underway on Tuesday, when Fox becomes the first to jump the gun with “An American Idol Christmas.” First and second season finalists and winners — Kelly Clarkson, Tamyra Gray, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke — will mingle amidst winter-themed sets belting out holiday favorites. For good measure, some of the “American Juniors” finalists will be on hand, too.
On Thursday night, just hours after Thanksgiving Day parade coverage (see below), NBC will pop out “Harry for the Holidays.” Harry Connick Jr. will give his New Orleans upbringing a New York twinkle for this special, which will also feature a guest appearance by Latin superstar Marc Anthony.
Things get a little more crowded on Friday, when cable gets into the picture as CMT posts country star Alan Jackson’s “Let It Be Christmas.” Along with performance of holiday favorites, the hour-long special will include an interview Jackson and his wife Denise.
That same night, Nickelodeon digs back into its archives to assemble “The Nick at Nite Holiday Special.” Clay Aiken, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Sarah McLachlan, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Lil’ Romeo, Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald will all be on hand to perform while stranded at the lodge during the big blizzard (Really. I couldn’t make this up.) Also on hand will be actors Ted Danson, Martin Mull, Al Roker, John Schneider and French Stewart.
And that’s not it for specials, either. Those are just the ones with a winter holiday angle to them.
The WB gets into the game on Sunday with “Christina Aguilera Stripped In London.” Captured recently at Wembley Arena, Xtina will be performing her hits and getting “Dirrty” for fans in the U.K. It’s just a tease for the full concert, which will be released next year on DVD.
NBC is looking to score big numbers in this final week of the fall sweeps with a two more blockbuster music specials. Tuesday will have “Shania Twain Up! Close and Personal,” where she performs with the formidable Alison Krauss & Union Station backing her up. On Friday night, the network visits “Justin Timberlake: Down Home in Memphis.” The pop star goes home, tours viewers around the Tennessee music Mecca, and event shares a duet with the great Al Green.
PBS will warm up Thanksgiving night with “Farm Aid 2003: A Soundstage Special Event.” Look for performances from Brooks & Dunn, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Hootie & The Blowfish, Trick Pony, Billy Bob Thornton, Dave Matthews and Los Lonely Boys, as well as Farm Aid founders John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and Neil Young.
And, of course, in the morning (on the East Coast, at least) there’s the “77th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” on NBC. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer will be on hand to host the coverage. Among the many stars walking down the streets of New York this year will be a good deal of music artists. Look for Ann Hampton Callaway, Chicago, Judy Collins, Kool & the Gang, Peter Nero, Mya, Aaron Carter, Harry Connick Jr., Stacie Orrico, Simple Plan, Peter Cincotti, Hilary Duff, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard, and the New York Yankees’ Bernie Williams, who happens to be a pretty good guitarist as well as a baseballer.
And then there’s football. On ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” you’ll see Ashanti hook up with Hank Williams Jr. to open the show with the “Are You Ready for Some Football” theme. Then it’s Michelle Branch backed by Atlanta Falcons defensive back Bryan Scott on keyboards going against 3 Doors Down featuring St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Kyle Turley on guitar in the “Monday at the Mic” competition semi-finals.
Then there’s the tradition Thanksgiving Day games, where folks fight to keep their eyes open against the effects of the tryptophan that is naturally a part of turkey.
Before the first game on Fox (Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers), you’ll hear Jason Mraz singing the National Anthem. Then Mary. J. Blige will be on hand at halftime as the featured performer in a salute to the United Way. The second game on CBS (Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins) will boast Toby Keith headlining the 2003 National Kettle Kick Off, which launches the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle fundraising campaign.
Not enough? How about Melissa Etheridge and Dolly Parton Friday on “CMT Crossroads,” Robert Earl Keen and Charlie Robison Saturday on PBS’ “Austin City Limits,” the individual members of Blink-182 guest co-hosting ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (Mon.-Wed.), Britney Spears and Barenaked Ladies in syndication Monday on “Live With Regis & Kelly” and “The Sharon Osbourne Show,” respectively.
Lastly, check out NBC’s hit nostalgic drama “American Dreams” on Sunday night to catch Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora guest-starring as Yardbirds-era Eric Clapton and singing “For Your Love.”