Diane Werts writes about television for Newsday. Werts previously was the founding editor of Newsday's trend-spotting magazine TV
Off the Wall gets serious.
CHRISTMAS Who's celebrating early this week? Vanessa Williams, in the 2000 movie "A Diva's Christmas Carol" (Saturday at noon, Lifetime). And Billy Ray Cyrus, in the movies "Christmas in Canaan" and "Christmas Comes Home to Canaan" (Monday at 5 and 7 p.m., Hallmark Movie Channel). Plus episodes of "Mad Men" (Sunday at 8 a.m., AMC), "Roseanne" (Monday at 10:30 a.m., WE), "The Hughleys" (Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., FXX), and "Doctor Who" (Tuesday at 11 p.m., Thursday at 10 p.m., BBC America). Seeking other options? Try streaming seasonal freebies from "Barney Miller," "Family Ties," "Lou Grant" and "The Bob Newhart Show" at hulu.com.
TV DOES HISTORY And a controversial boxer does his own tumultuous life. "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" (Saturday night 8-9:30, HBO) documents the autobiographical one-man show directed by Spike Lee. "The Challenger Disaster" (Saturday night at 9, Science/Discovery) dramatizes the investigation into 1986's space-shot shocker, with William Hurt, Bruce Greenwood and Brian Dennehy. "Lincoln@Gettysburg" (Tuesday at 9 p.m., PBS/13) marks the 150th anniversary of the landmark Civil War address by studying it as the dawn of the information age, its words gone viral by means of the telegraph, a fresh invention that also enabled the president to manage the war's far-flung battlefronts.
JFK 50 This week marks a full half-century since the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, were beamed directly into Americans' living rooms through the young medium of television. "As It Happened: John F. Kennedy 50 Years" (Saturday night at 9, CBS/2) recalls that new immediacy. "Kennedy's Suicide Bomber" (Sunday at 8 p.m., Smithsonian) revisits an earlier, unexecuted plot. Kevin Spacey narrates "The Day Kennedy Died" (Sunday 9-11 p.m., Smithsonian). The public's response fuels "Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy" (Sunday at 9-11 p.m., TLC). Assassination theories are examined in "JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide" (Friday 8-10 p.m., History). Tom Brokaw hosts "Where Were You: The Day JFK Died" (Friday 9-11 p.m. NBC/4). And two portraits of the president's assassin: the "Frontline" hour "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" (Tuesday at 10 p.m., PBS/13; Wednesday at 8 p.m., WLIW/21) and "Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live" (Friday 10 p.m.-midnight, History). Turner Classic Movies curates a night of Kennedy cinema-verite by renowned documentarian Robert Drew -- "Primary," "Adventures on the New Frontier," "Crisis" and "Faces of November" (Thursday 8 p.m.-midnight) -- along with the funeral film "Four Days in November" (midnight) and the Kennedy war drama "PT 109" (2:15 a.m.) starring Cliff Robertson. More at bit.ly/1an8aap.
(Sunday at 2 p.m., Thursday at 12:30 p.m., WE; Friday at 2 p.m., Logo), "The Hughleys" (Tuesday at 11 a.m., FXX) and "Mad About You" (Thursday at 10:30 a.m., FXX). View the holiday's provenance at history.com/thanksgiving.