New Year’s Eve TV shows are sad enterprises.
For starters, they are almost always uninteresting, which is fine because they typically do nothing but fill out the background noise of New Year’s Eve parties until 11:59:30. Their longevity seems to exist solely in schadenfreude, and even then it’s still pretty ephemeral.
And yet they are such grandiloquent, sincere productions! Nowhere will you see a televised event that tries so hard to amaze such an inattentive audience as a New Year’s Eve TV special.
But the NYE special abides. Like dogs in the pound, they are eager and appreciative of your minimal recognition, happy to have not yet been totally forgotten. This year, as with every year, you have your pick. See how they bark for you!
Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2012 (ABC): Let’s start with the obvious. This installment of the awkwardly titled and long-running NYE juggernaut is pretty much what you’d expect in that, like a jealous child who hoards toys from his siblings, ABC has scooped up every celebrity they can with complete indiscrimination. Performers and guests include Jenny McCarthy, Fergie, Ben Flajnic, Florence & the Machine, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO, the Band Perry, Blink-182, OneRepublic, Gym Class Heroes, Talo Cruz, Will.i.am, Train, Jennifer Hudson, and Christina Perri. The countdown will be presided over by Lady Gaga, whom Ryan Seacrest considers “one of the most exciting and relevant artists of our time!” Scintillating! Starts at 10:00 p.m. ET.
New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly (NBC): The anemic little brother of “Rockin’ Eve” has somehow nabbed superior talent this year; don’t ask me how. Drake, Jessie J, Ricky Gervais, Cee Lo, J.B. Smoove, Tony Bennett, Megan Hilty will all be there. Okay, “superior” may be a bit extreme. At least they have Jimmy Fallon. Starts at 10:00 p.m. ET.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks (CBS): The fireworks at Penn’s Landing are something of a tradition. Appreciate this special for what it is: a live broadcast of colorful explosions, probably set to “Aud Lang Syne.” Starts at 11:30 p.m. ET.
Dancin’ On Air New Year’s Eve Special (WPHL): “Dancin’ On Air” was a Philly specialty back in the 80s, but it was cancelled decades ago. This will literally be archive footage from 1983-1984. Starts at 11:30 p.m. ET.
Coldplay New Year’s Eve: An Austin City Limits Special (PBS): Coldplay will be playing a show featuring songs from “Mylo Xyloto.” Great, if you’re into that sort of thing. Starts at 11:00 p.m. ET.
[American Country] New Year’s Eve Live (Fox): Details on Fox’s NYE plans are a bit fuzzy; some sources are talking about an “American Country” version featuring appearances by Toby Keith (obviously), Eli Young Band, Lauren Alaina, Rodney Atkins, Joe Nichols, and others. Oh, and the host will be Chumlee.
Which sounds at once better and worse than the other version, the plain old “New Years Eve Live,” hosted by Nancy O’Dell, featuring “American Idol” runner-up David Archuleta, Travie McCoy, Brandy, and Jabbawockeez. (You remember them, right?) Mariah Carey is also set debut her new music video, “Auld Lang Syne” here.
Go to Fox.com and the banner advertises the former; click the link and you get a description of the latter. Always like to keep us guessing, Fox does. Starts at 11:00 p.m. ET.
New Year’s Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin (CNN): I’ve always liked Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper’s show the best because they always sort of embraced its weird existence. Kathy Griffin’s foul and unpredictable mouth alongside Anderson Cooper’s aw-shucks sensibility makes for fun and capricious TV with occasionally funny moments: just the kind of thing you need when you want the highlights without having to pay too much attention. Who cares who’s performing? Starts at 11:00 p.m. ET.
NYE in NYC 2012 (MTV): So this is a thing. I don’t want to talk about it. Starts at 11:00 p.m. ET.
All American New Years (Fox News) If you think that New Year’s Eve is the right time to assert your down-home brand of patriotism to your friends, put this on. FOX hauled out Megyn Kelly and Bill Hemmer, their prettiest talent, to host appearances by Big & Rich, the cast of “Rock of Ages,” Trace Adkins, Gin Blossoms, “American Idol” runner-up Katherine McPhee, you get the picture. Something tells me that the intern who posted the write-up knew what he or she was doing when writing “This New Year’s, ring it in right!” Starts at 11:00 p.m. ET.
New Year’s Eve Dance Party (Fuse): It’s exactly what it sounds like. Put it on for the music and the pretty faces. Starts at 10:00 p.m. ET.
Watch What Happens Live: Andy’s New Year’s Party (Bravo): I’m sorry, but I know very little about this party, or the man hosting it. What I can tell you, though, is that Jimmy Fallon is supposed to be there, as well as various members of the “Real Housewives” series and, get this, Jimmy McMillan. Hot messes start at 10:30 p.m. ET.
If these specials just aren’t for you, there are a ton of marathons that would be all too happy to oblige. The best one has to be the “Twilight Zone” marathon on SyFy, which starts at 9:00 a.m. ET on the 31st and continues straight into the morning of the 1st. Old ones, too! Like, ones with Rod Serling!
A close second is the “Three Stooges” marathon that will start at 6:00 p.m. ET on IFC. Either choice would be more fun than the “Walking Dead” marathon on AMC, the “Top Gear” marathon on BBC, the “Moonshiners” marathon on Discovery, or the weird drug documentary marathon on History.