As much as I love TV, sometimes I just need a break–to catch up on shows that are piling up on the TiVo; to catch up on movies; to catch up on things that don’t involve TV. So when mid-December rolls around, I tend to breathe a great sigh of relief. Finally, I can panic about the rapid approach of Christmas without the distraction of television.

That said, it’s not like the airwaves are going black. There’s plenty of stuff to watch this week…

…although I’m not sure the return of “Fear Factor” to the weekly line-up is really something America’s been clamoring for. But I suppose Joe Rogan’s gotta do something for a living, right? It’s back tonight at 8 P.M. on NBC.

On the other end of the spectrum is this week’s pick: Great Performance’s presentation of the San Francisco Ballet production of “The Little Mermaid” on PBS. I saw the ballet earlier this year, and thought it was a stunner, (read Appeal dance writer Becca Klarin’s two takes on it here and here), and am looking forward to seeing it again, this time up close and personal. Catch it Friday, December 16th at 9 P.M. on KQED.

As the end of 2011 grows closer, the number of year-end countdowns grows. This week’s biggie is Barbara Walters’s annual “The 10 Most Fascinating People” special, which airs Wednesday the 14th at 9:30 P.M. on ABC. Of course the number-one most fascinating person remains a badly-kept secret until showtime, but judging from the other people on the list, including Kim Kardashian, Pippa Middleton, Katy Perry, Derek Jeter, and Simon Cowell, I don’t have my hopes up for an appearance by an important head of state. Unless that state is New Jersey, and that head is Snooki.

Katie Couric’s got her own take on 2011, and will be presenting it in a two-hour special creatively called “The Year With Katie Couric” on Thursday the 15th at 9 P.M. on ABC. Be on the look out for: Bin Laden, royal wedding madness, the 99%, and batshit crazy Republicans. 2011 was nuts, yo!

Finally, in Christmas-related TV, there are reruns of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Thursday the 15th at 8 P.M. on ABC, and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” on Saturday the 17th at 10 P.M. on ABC Family. 

And Jimmy Fallon is hosting “Saturday Night Live,” (11:30 P.M. on NBC) which, being the last show before the holiday, is bound to have a lot of Christmas craziness. And I hope it involves Vincent Price in some capacity.

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the author

Rain Jokinen watches a lot of television and movies and then writes things about them on the Internet. She's a San Francisco native, and yeah, she'll rub that fact in your face any chance she gets.

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