All the attention soaked up by the presidential election was one of the possible reasons for the NFL’s season-long ratings malaise, but a few weeks later, nationally broadcast games still aren’t where they used to be.
It’s difficult to make direct apples-to-apples comparisons with any TV ratings, but this week’s numbers were good for this season, and weak in the context of recent history. CBS grabbed its biggest NFL audience of the season on Thanksgiving, with 27.6 million viewers tuning in for Vikings-Lions, but that still ranks as the third-least-watched Thanksgiving afternoon game since 2009, according to Sports Media Watch. Monday night’s Texans-Raiders game was the most-watched game on ESPN since Week 4, but also the least-watched Week 11 Monday Night Football broadcast since 2010. The Thanksgiving primetime Steelers-Colts tilt was the highest-rated Thursday night game of the season, but also the lowest-rated Thanksgiving broadcast since 2012. Call it a guess, but that might happen when one of the teams has to start Scott Tolzien on a short week because their star QB has a concussion.
There are still no firm answers on what’s causing this, although I am prepared to say it’s definitely not FXM’s day-long Twilight marathon. But if you’re looking for programming to distract you from another day of poor NFL officiating, today’s got plenty of pro and college basketball, one or two top-flight European soccer squads, two MLS conference championships, a full day of Simpsons episodes, and an afternoon marathon of superhero movies. Check it out:
12:30 p.m. — beIN Sports Español — La Liga Soccer: Celta Vigo vs. Granada
Celta Vigo aren’t the worst side in La Liga. They give up a lot of goals, but they’ve also scored a fair amount, and they’ve won as many matches as they’ve lost. Granada, on the other hand, are the worst side in La Liga. They’re still hunting their first win. Throw them in the garbage.
1 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Cavs @ Sixers
The Cavs are going to beat the absolute hell out of the Sixers. Not just because the Sixers are bad, but because the Cavs are crushing everyone right now. They’ve won their last three games by an average of more than 24 points. In their last two games, they’ve averaged 132.5 points per game, in regulation. So, if you’re watching this game, you’re watching to see what the Cavs can do against a Sixers team that is basically overmatched anytime they’re not playing the goddamn Wizards. There will be highlights.
1:30 p.m. — ESPN — NCAA Men’s Basketball: Iowa State (21) vs. Gonzaga (11)
Both teams are undefeated. Iowa State convincingly thumped a pretty good Miami team in the semifinal, and Gonzaga won a tight one over Florida (also pretty good). This could be a fun one.
2:30 p.m. — beIN Sports Connect — Serie A Soccer: Roma vs. Pescara
Pescara are pretty horrendous. Roma should pound the bejeezus out of them.
2:45 p.m. — beIN Sports — La Liga Soccer: Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona
Barcelona will win, and probably handily, but there just aren’t that many possible combinations of good sides in La Liga, and those combinations find their way onto Sunday afternoon television only so often.
4 p.m. — ESPN — MLS Western Conference Championship: Colorado vs. Seattle
The Sounders won the first leg of this matchup, 2-1. Colorado’s away goal is big, as a 1-0 win at home would put them through.
6 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Clippers @ Pacers
The Clippers are a couple games into a six-game, 10-day road trip, and were beaten fairly convincingly by the Pistons Friday night. The Pacers are 8-9 on the season, and they’re coming off a resounding thumping of the Nets. This might fool you into thinking they’re a reasonably competent NBA team. Not so! They’ve got a bottom-10 Net Rating, and they talked themselves into the insane idea that filling two spots in their starting lineup with Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young would somehow make them a better basketball team. I guess we’ll learn a whole lot about one or both of these teams tonight.
7 p.m. — FOX Sports 1 — MLS Eastern Conference Championship: Montreal vs. Toronto FC
Montreal won the first leg, 3-2. Hopefully this will be another fast-paced match with plenty of scoring.
8:30 p.m. — ESPN — NCAA Men’s Basketball: Texas A&M vs. UCLA
The high-powered Bruins are undefeated, but they mostly haven’t beaten anyone of consequence. I guess this would count as a signature win, although A&M mostly aren’t really of consequence. UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball is really fun, if you’re looking for a reason to tune in.
9 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Rockets @ Trail Blazers
The Blazers are having a hell of a time stopping anyone these days. They’ve got the worst Defensive Rating in the NBA, and have a worse Net Rating than the goddamn Wizards. And this is bad news when facing the Houston Rockets, who have one of the best and most explosive offenses in basketball. But! This game will be played in Portland, where the home crowd is loud and energetic, and the home court advantage has been strong in recent years. If nothing else, this should be a very fast, supremely fun barn-burner.
1 p.m. — USA — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
You know the drill.
1 p.m. — FXX — The Simpsons
FXX is doing a really excellent multi-day sequential marathon of The Simpsons. Unfortunately, by the time football starts they will already be most of the way through Season 7, which means the really good episodes are long gone, and the sorta good episodes are few and far between. Still, you could do worse.
2 p.m. — Logo — Married...With Children
Logo is hilarious. Having lost the great Golden Girls War of 2016, they’re starting to nose in on the Roseanne game, starting their day with a morning run of episodes before switching to Married...With Children in the afternoon.
3:15 p.m. — Comedy Central — South Park
A couple hours of episodes smashed between desperate comedies Bruce Almighty and The Hangover.
7 p.m. — ABC — America’s Funniest Home Videos
A guilty pleasure.
8 p.m. — Comet — Mystery Science Theater 3000
A very good counterprogramming staple.
12:30 p.m. — AMC — The Matrix Reloaded
Get there early enough and catch The Matrix on AMC before this. Really, the only reason to watch this or Revolutions is if you’re determined to watch the whole trilogy. Incidentally, this isn’t the worst day-long movie series marathon today: FXM is doing a Twilight marathon starting in the late afternoon, and BBC America threw their day away on Underworld movies. Woof.
1:30 p.m. — VH1 — New Jack City
VH1 also has Friday lined up before this, and Space Jam lined up immediately after.
2 p.m. — FX — Captain America: The Winter Soldier
FX has four hours of James Cameron’s Avatar before this, if that’s your thing. Maybe interest in that bloated, braindead special effects orgy will increase with the opening of Disney’s Avatar-themed land at Animal Kingdom?
2:30 p.m. — Syfy — Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Slick counterprogramming today from Syfy: a little half-run of Indiana Jones movies taking them into and through primetime. I guess we can forgive them for leaving off Raiders of the Lost Ark.
3:30 p.m. — AMC — The Matrix Revolutions
If you’ve watched The Matrix and Reloaded, I guess you might as well stick around for this. AMC goes right to The Walking Dead after this ends, by the way.
3:30 p.m. — CMT — O Brother, Where Art Thou?
When CMT does movie counterprogramming on football Sundays, they almost always do it well.
4:15 p.m. — IFC — Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Smashed between Blade: Trinity and The Chronicles of Riddick.
5 p.m. — Spike — The Shawshank Redemption
Ah yes. The classic counterprogramming move.
5 p.m. — TNT — Man of Steel
Ugh. It’s a run of lesser superhero movies today for TNT, including Hellboy II, Hulk, and, um, The Librarians.
5 p.m. — FX — The Avengers
You can hardly do better than back-to-back Marvel superhero movies. Strong move by FX today.
5:05 p.m. — HD Net Movies — The ‘Burbs
Very solid programming on a day when Sundance all but posted a “Closed For Business” sign with their movie lineup.
5:45 p.m. — TBS — The Wizard of Oz
TBS’s lineup today is otherwise awful: Surviving Christmas, Home Alone 4, and a primetime mini-marathon of The Big Bang Theory.
6 p.m. — VH1 — Friday
The second run of this today for VH1. I’m very skeptical that this will hold up when carved up with content edits.
7 p.m. — CMT — G.I. Jane
A really silly title for a pretty solid movie.
8 p.m. — Pop — Dirty Dancing
Oh, shut up.
8 p.m. — FX — Guardians of the Galaxy
And you really can’t do better than back-to-back-to-back Marvel superhero movies! Kick ass, FX!
Chilly out there today, friends. Bundle up and go visit some museums or something. Plenty of daylight hours to soak up some hard-earned vitamin D.