Survivor: South Pacific ends its season with the traditional three-hour Sunday marathon (CBS, 8 p.m.). This has been one of the more well-cast seasons they’ve had in a while, but I can’t help thinking it could have been better had it not been dominated by Ben “Coach” Wade (playing for the third time) and disturbed nephew-of-a-famous-Survivor-loser Brandon Hantz. All of the veteran CBS reality shows – this one, The Amazing Race, and Big Brother – have to various extents adopted the belief that what viewers really want is to see the same old people playing the game. I think they’re wrong, but this is a losing battle.
To his credit, Coach has managed to either disguise his eccentricity this time around or made a genuine effort to change, because he’s played with less emotion and shown some real chops psychologically. But unlike “Boston” Rob Mariano, he doesn’t seem to be with tribemates who are falling down to let him have the win, and I suspect he won’t make it. I find myself rooting for Sophie, a rarity for this show in being a young woman who isn’t there to flirt or fill out a bikini. She seems to have a small edge going into this last week.
Also this week:
Monday: Fear Factor (NBC, 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.): Back and grosser than ever! The back-to-back episodes feature such heartwarming family entertainment as eating live scorpions and dropping from a helicopter into a moving speedboat. Weird as it may seem, this revival might do well for NBC as long as they don’t run it into the ground.
Tuesday: Raising Hope (Fox, 9:30 p.m.): Holiday homages are a mite overdone, but if anyone can find a non-gooey take on the formula, it’s these folks. Jimmy has an It’s a Wonderful Life experience when he imagines how his life would have gone had he never met Hope’s mother. Um … he would have wound up on Glee instead?
Wednesday: The Real World: San Diego (MTV, 10 p.m.): This isn’t the same San Diego season that they had a decade or so ago, but a whole new one that you might have missed because seriously, does anyone even realize this is still on? The highlight of the season finale is Nate getting drunk, so it’s not what you’d call a Very Special Episode.
Thursday: Burn Notice (USA, 10 p.m.): Jere Burns has had maybe his best role ever playing the resourceful, manipulative Anson. In the fifth season finale, Michael has to trust Sam and Fiona to keep Anson under wraps while he is off on a big mission for the CIA. The agency really knows how to ruin a Christmas.
Friday: Christmas in Washington 2011 (TNT, 8 p.m.): When you think about a good old-fashioned down-home Christmas, does our nation’s capital come to mind? Me neither, but this special pops up every year. The concert landed Justin Bieber this time around, presumably because he has a holiday CD to promote. Also appearing: Victoria Justice, Cee Lo Green, and Jennifer Hudson.
Saturday: Saturday Night Live (NBC, 11:30 p.m.): They all laughed – OK, I laughed – when they made Jimmy Fallon the host of Late Night. Now he returns to host SNL as a conquering hero. Never bet against the mojo of Barry Freakin’ Gibb! Michael Bublé classes up the joint as the musical guest.