The best thing about the new year? The late-night shows all returned last week after a holiday break that left us in the throes of a comedy famine. Well, the famine is officially over.
1) One last Christmas hurrah on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”: Jimmy presented another one of his “Christmas YouTube Challenges” when he returned to ABC this past Monday.
This one consisted of video clips of crying, screaming kids that his show didn’t use in its first much-talked-about go-round a few weeks before Christmas. This is one of those bits where Jimmy invites parents, basically, to really disappoint their small children with terrible Christmas gifts and then videotape the kids’ tears and tantrums so that we can all see them on the “Kimmel” show. Some have lambasted Jimmy for this practice, but nevertheless, the videos are extremely popular — watched by millions on YouTube and elsewhere.
2) Two words: Gary Busey: Is there anyone on TV more fascinating than this guy? Well, maybe — but it is true that he has a tendency to say the darndest things, such as the statements he made this past week on the new “Celebrity Wife Swap” on ABC, when he told minister Ted Haggard’s wife Gayle about his — Gary’s — past lives. Among other claims, he insisted he was once a female witch who was burned at the stake. This claim was so arresting that Jay Leno featured it in his “Tonight Show” monologue Friday night.
3) From Uncle Milty to “Work It”: Men in women’s clothing? It’s been a staple of comedic entertainment since ancient Greece (we presume) and a regular feature of TV comedy at least since Milton Berle, but suddenly, the practice has become a lightning rod for controversy as gay and transgender groups lined up to protest the new ABC sitcom “Work It” about two manly men who dress up as women to get jobs. OK, call us insensitive, but we happened to think this ridiculous, implausible cross-dressing comedy was pretty funny. So, we offer it here for your own inspection.
4) “The Smartest Show on TV”: And you are welcome to quote us in your advertising, IFC, because we are suddenly addicted to “Portlandia.” This satirical series — a parody of Portland, Ore., produced by co-stars Fred Armisen and Wild Flag rocker Carrie Brownstein, with exec producer Jonathan Krisel — started its second season Friday night, preceded by a knockout writeup in The New Yorker and a star-studded premiere party in New York attended by all the “Portlandia” principals (who include Lorne Michaels, the show’s behind-the-scenes overseer) and a bevy of Armisen’s pals from “Saturday Night Live.” Thanks for the party, IFC, and thanks also for giving this series a second season — we’re loving it.
5) Still on top: You can’t go wrong with TV’s top-rated show, right? “NCIS” came back with a new episode this past Tuesday and drew just shy of 20 million viewers — which will probably be enough to crown this CBS series as the week’s No. 1 show for the first week of 2012.