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TV shows to watch this week: Dolly Parton saves Christmas special with old-time religion

Neal Justin, Star Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

'Dolly Parton's Mountain Magic Christmas'

Parton serves up plenty of cheese in this old-fashioned holiday special, channeling the late Olivia Newton-John in a "Grease" parody and trading stale jokes with an angel played by Willie Nelson. Those moments are pretty awful. But the 76-year-old legend eventually ditches the ridiculous production numbers for some stripped-down spiritual numbers, including a moving hymn with Miley Cyrus and a solo version of "Hello God," which she wrote in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. "I hope I haven't crammed God or Jesus down anybody's throat," she says before a triumphant finale. Atheists who worship country music won't mind a bit. 8 p.m. ET Thursday, NBC; Peacock

'George & Tammy'

George Jones and Tammy Wynette, who set their tragic love story to music, are touchingly portrayed in this six-part series. In many ways, it's a pretty standard bio pic, with director John Hillcoat hitting the predictable highs and lows of the couple's volatile relationship. But stars Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain elevate every moment. They even provide their own dead-on vocals. Don't be surprised if Chastain adds an Emmy to her already crowded shelf of awards. 9 p.m. Sunday, Showtime and the Paramount Network

'Branson'

This Richard Branson documentary runs for more than four hours, and the billionaire probably thinks it's too short. Branson's ego bursts off the screen, but his enduring optimism keeps you engaged. Director Chris Smith ("American Movie") includes quite a bit on his subject's business deals but he's most enthralled with the absurd adventures in which Branson strives to be a modern-day Phileas Fogg. The last of the four episodes, which deals almost exclusively with the recent space expedition and is longer, is a bit tedious. 10 p.m. Thursday, HBO; HBO Max

'Falling for Christmas'

Lindsay Lohan may someday return to big-screen glory. In the meantime, she does a fine job of slumming in this cookie-cutter holiday movie that could have just as easily run on Hallmark with "Mean Girls" co-star Lacey Chabert. Lohan plays a spoiled brat who loses her memory — and her stuck-up ways — after a skiing accident. There's nothing funny or original in the movie, but watching Lohan enthusiastically reembrace her early, wholesome persona is kind of a Christmas miracle. Netflix

 

'Laura Ingalls Wilder: From Prairie to Page'

This "American Masters" episode, first aired in 2020, emphasizes Wilder's time in Minnesota so much that Twin Cities PBS was recruited as a producing partner. Despite the overall celebratory tone, director Mary McDonagh Murphy doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of the "Little House" books, including the negative depictions of Native Americans. 9 p.m. Monday, PBS

'A Christmas Story Christmas'

Fans of 1983's "A Christmas Story" get to find out how an adult Ralphie deals with fatherhood and the holiday spirit in this sentimental sequel that falls short of capturing the ghosts of Christmas past. There are lots of clever sequences, including a drunken sled challenge and an ill-fated shopping trip. But Peter Billingsley, who also played the kid in the original movie, and the rest of cast aren't nearly goofy enough. HBO Max

'Stutz'

Jonah Hill profiles his psychiatrist, Dr. Phil Stutz, in this artsy documentary that ends up saying as much about the actor as it does about his therapist. Stutz starts off as a seemingly willing subject, sharing anecdotes from his troubled childhood and his battle with Parkinson's disease. But he keeps turning the tables on his client, turning the interviews into a self-examination for both of them. It's a low-key, but fascinating experiment. Netflix

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©2022 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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