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The Globe and Mail

Seven Days of Television: December 23 to December 29

A select viewing guide to the next seven days of television

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MONDAY DECEMBER 23 Hollywood Game Night (NBC, CTV Two, 10 p.m.) Sometimes the strangest TV concepts come back. Tested briefly last summer, this series is supposedly inspired by the famously fabulous house parties put on by former Will & Grace mainstay Sean Hayes, who also serves as executive producer. Hosted by Glee’s Jane Lynch, the format gives each of two contestants a team of three celebrities, who engage in a series of madcap cocktail-party parlor games that will result in one player taking home $25,000. Stars tapped for tonight’s second-season opener include Ray Romano, Rachel Bilson, Cheryl Hines and, weirdly, tennis ace Andy Roddick.

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TUESDAY DECEMBER 24 Scrooge (CBC, 8 p.m.) Yes, Virginia, some Christmas Eve viewing traditions are alive and well. For the umpteenth year, CBC airs this classic 1951 version of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale A Christmas Carol. What separates this version from the others is the masterful portrayal of the curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge by Alastair Sim. With his plummy voice and tousled hair, the English actor throws his heart and soul into the role, which ends up making the redemption story more believable than most incarnations. Also watch for a very young Patrick Macnee, who later went on to greater fame on TV’s The Avengers, as a young Jacob Marley.

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WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 25 Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade (CBC, 10 a.m.) If the kids are bored or have already broken their new toys on Christmas morning, try sitting them in front of the TV for this annual Disney tradition. The eponymous Neil Patrick Harris hosts from Disney World Resort in Florida, while Nick Cannon hosts from Disney Resort in California, and in between there are musical performacnes from the likes of Demi Lovato, boy-band The Wanted and Mary J. Blige. The catch: If the kids do watch it, they’ll nag you for months to take them on a Disney trip.

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THURSDAY DECEMBER 26 20/20: Mysteries of the Castle: Beyond Downton Abbey (ABC, CH, 9 p.m.) In preparation for the upcoming fourth season of Downton Abbey (which returns to PBS on January 5), ABC News fixture Amy Robach helms this splashy special from the real-life English castle that inspired the period-piece series. Mostly it’s a primer on plotlines from the past four seasons and a look at how the show’s international hit status with insight from both the stars and rabid fans. How closely does Downton Abbey follow real historical events? Watch and learn.

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FRIDAY DECEMBER 27 What We Wasted Our Year On (NBC, 9 p.m.) Get ready for snarkiness. Hosted by Today Show wiseguy Willie Geist, this retrospective special rewinds the past year’s stories weren’t exactly news but still had people talking. With critical perspective from comedians Nikki Glaser, Seth Herzog and Sherrod Small, the program is shot before a live audience and will revisit such non-newsy stories as Grumpy Cat, Paula Deen’s bad language and Miley Cyrus twerking her tail off. And will Toronto mayor Rob Ford make the TV-timewaster cut? Of course he will.

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SATURDAY DECEMBER 28 The Ugly Truth (Slice, 7 p.m.) Remember Katherine Heigl? The former Grey’s Anatomy regular delivers a solid big-screen turn in this breezy 2009 romantic comedy. Heigl plays the beautiful but single Abby, the driven producer of a struggling morning TV show. To boost ratings, the station hires a cable TV personality named Mike, played by Gerard Butler, to host a segment delivering relationship advice from the male viewpoint. Of course he’s a boor and naturally the segment is a hit, much to Abby’s chagrin. Their relationship takes a weird turn when Mike is tasked with finding Abby the perfect partner. Do opposites attract? Only in the movies!

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SUNDAY DECEMBER 29 The 36 th Annual Kennedy Center Honors (CBS, 9 p.m.) Stick around show business long enough and you’re bound to go to the White House to receive this prestigious honour. Filmed last month, the annual event pays homage to singer-songwriter Billy Joel, musicians Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock, opera superstar Martina Arroyo and actress Shirley MacLaine, all of whom began a creative career in childhood and never stopped. A good chunk of the program is devoted to the tribute to Joel, which includes fellow troubadour Rufus Wainwright leading the crowd in a singalong version of Piano Man. Even Barack and Michelle join in!

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