Where to be and what to watch...


Monday, Dec. 20

God bless those busy elves at the NCTA! The rest of the media industry might be going on auto-pilot this week as a prelude to next week's total work stoppage, but not the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Soon-to-exit CEO Robert Sachs is even holding a year-end media briefing après lunch at the group's Washington headquarters. What's this? Ah, a press release: “TV Guide's Greatest Moments 2004 to be hosted by Tom Bergeron, with special appearance by TV Guide Channel's signature talent, Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers.” Signature? Talent? Still, we're a sucker for fond looks back at the recent tele­visual past. Here's hoping the show (ABC, 8 p.m. ET) doesn't skimp on footage of Howard Dean's “I Have a Scream” speech and newly hired Fox News Channel contributor and Civil War re-enactor Zell Miller rattling his saber at Chris Matthews on Hardball.

Tuesday, Dec. 21

Tonight, CBS shows The 27th Annual Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (9 p.m. ET). The honorees, hosted by President Bush and Laura Bush: Warren Beatty, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Elton John, Joan Sutherland, and John Williams. Yes, we all read the field dispatches after the taping on Dec. 5, but there will still be something otherworldly about hearing the loopy Robert Downey Jr. in this setting touting Elton John as “the other first lady.”

Wednesday, Dec. 22

Unless they are out Christmas shopping, the FCC enforcement bureau is likely scouring NBC's tapes of the Summer Olympics' opening ceremony for evidence of indecency. (They're looking in the wrong place: Check out the U.S. men's basketball team's performance in Athens.) Since the FCC maintains that it has to launch an investigation if it receives a single indecency complaint, it won't be long before free-speech groups realize they can tie up the whole commission by raining down complaints about everything from Ann Coulter's short skirts to Big Pharma's nonstop advertising for erection medicine.

Thursday, Dec. 23

On E! Entertainment Television tonight: The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Concert
(8 p.m. ET) from the Oslo Spektrum. Performers include Tony Bennett (“I left My Heart in Sandnessjøen…”), Diana Krall and Joss Stone. The shindig is in honor of this year's laureate, Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who seems to have toned down her bizarro AIDS theorizing lately. Your hosts: Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey. C'mon, don't you think that, when Oprah got the call mentioning “Nobel” and “come to Oslo,” she thought for half a second it was about something a lot bigger than a hosting gig?

Friday, Dec. 24

The hypnotic fireplace-in-your-TV Yule log video immortalized by WPIX New York goes national on Superstation WGN in the wee hours (1:30 a.m. ET). Network news assistants stare into the flames, thinking about the skeleton crews at bureaus during the holidays and wondering if Santa will bring them a big break for Christmas. Bin Laden's been captured! Where's Jennings? Where's Koppel? Topher, get in that chair and tell America! —Mark Lasswell

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