The challenge of looking away from the NFL has two parts.
The NFL dependably handles the first part: for most of every week of the season, the league spits out embarrassing and/or horrifying news, making you feel bad about the sport and yourself for ever having invested money and care in such a thing. This week was no different: dreadful officiating with significant consequences; head coaches who somehow fail at the responsibilities from which they loathe any distractions; hidebound-seeming personal conduct rules that shouldn’t exist in the first place; deeply embedded shitheels at every level; and frightening levels of violence and bodily destruction.
Thus empowered with motivation to look away—or at least a diminished interest in continuing to pay attention—the other part is the actual looking away. This takes practice, and help. The help usually comes in the form of other, diverting forms of Sunday entertainment: good sports, good shows, good movies, good weather, an abundance of liquor, possibly having your eyeballs pecked out by an angry seagull, and so on. Thankfully, most Sundays, it turns out this is pretty easy.
This Sunday is an exception. Today’s slate of afternoon soccer is terrible. There’s virtually no interesting college basketball, which is a desperately-needed fallback this time of year. The NBA’s got a few games lined up, but they’re all later in the evening, and only a couple of them look worthwhile. And at least three dependable networks have completely mailed it in with movie choices, to say nothing of the fact that the lineup of primetime movies is a total bust, leaving you with very little to cover you for a primetime NFL game featuring the 4-7 Carolina Panthers. And the weather sucks! It’s cold and grey and dark. Dammit.
But, it’s Oscar season, right? Arrival was pretty bitchin’, Allied looks good, and the kids are sure to dig Moana or Fantastic Beasts. Doctor Strange was a blast and Hacksaw Ridge was gripping as hell. Might be a day for a trip to the theater. What good stuff there is on the tube today is listed below. There are a couple new-ish rerun marathons, including a non-stop sequential marathon of The Simpsons that is now well into its second week, and a number of Sunday counterprogramming regulars. Behold:
12:30 p.m. — beIN Sports Español — La Liga Soccer: Alaves vs. Las Palmas
Las Palmas have a positive goal differential on the season and a surprisingly frisky attack. Alaves ... exist? Somewhere in the middle of the table? If you’re watching this, you are a diehard La Liga aficionado.
12:30 p.m. — beIN Sports — La Liga Soccer: Sporting vs. Osasuna
What is this horrible match doing on beIN’s flagship sports channel? These are two of the worst sides in La Liga. I guess what’s at stake is relegation positioning? Who gives a shit. Honestly. Break in case of emergency.
1 p.m. — NBC — PGA Tour Golf: Hero World Challenge, Final Round
From the sunny Bahamas, where nerd-ass golfers will be enjoying goddamn gorgeous Caribbean breeze while you stare out your window at dreary pre-winter hell.
2:45 p.m. — beIN Sports Español — La Liga Soccer: Valencia vs. Malaga
Rough slate of afternoon matches for beIN Sports. This one is superficially more interesting than Sporting vs. Osasuna, but it’s still a dog. Malaga will probably handle Valencia pretty easily. Yesterday had the first El Clasico of the season, today has this junk. BOOOO.
2:45 p.m. — beIN Sports — Serie A Soccer: Fiorentina vs. Palermo
Fiorentina are not great shakes, but they should beat the hell out of Palermo, who are trash, with the worst defense and second weakest attack in Serie A.
4 p.m. — ESPN — NCAA Women’s Basketball: Texas vs. Connecticut
This is the final of the Jimmy V Classic, played in Uncasville, Conn. This is technically a neutral-site game, which sucks for Texas.
6 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Magic @ Pistons
The Pistons are good. They’ve done a hell of a job staying tough and playing fantastic defense with Reggie Jackson out and the illustrious Ish Smith taking all of his minutes. And they’re saying Reggie Jackson might play tonight? The Pistons could very will shoot up the Eastern Conference rankings once he’s back in the mix. They haven’t been great television without him, but his pick-and-roll chemistry with Andre Drummond is fantastic, and he’s a fun, downhill player. Whatever enjoyment you get out of this game will come entirely from the Pistons, because the Magic are fucking awful. Forget about the talent of the individual players on this team—this roster as busted, almost no two players on the team make sense together, and Frank Vogel is drawing names out of a hat to determine who plays and how much. Woof.
7 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Pelicans @ Thunder
The Thunder have been off for a few days since their overtime win against the Wizards Wednesday night. They’ve won four straight and six of their last 10, and it still doesn’t seem like they’re all totally on the same page on offense. The Pelicans are a new team since Jrue Holiday rejoined the lineup, and they’ve got one of the tiny handful of guys in the NBA who might be the best player on the floor in a game that also features Russell Westbrook. This should be a fun game!
7:30 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Kings @ Knicks
The best teams are fun because they play really smooth and cohesive basketball every night, but those aren’t the only kinds of fun teams. Some teams are fun because their games are fucking chaos, with tantalizing flashes of brilliance and hysterical lapses and brutal stretches of grueling incompetence. Both the Kings and Knicks belong to the latter group. This is one of those matchups where both teams might play well and it could be really intense and fun, or one team could completely implode and lose by 35, or both teams could play like they spent Saturday night boogying down around the Big Apple until 4 a.m. There’s a very good chance whatever happens will be pretty goddamn interesting.
9:30 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Pacers @ Clippers
Throw the Pacers in the garbage, with their semi-respectable record. They’ve got the net rating of the sadsack Wizards (fuck my life), they’re 1-6 on the road, and their net rating in road contests is minus-13.9. Throw these sorry turkeys in the trash where they belong. The Clippers are finally home after an unexpectedly brutal six-game road trip that saw them lose handily to the Pacers in Indiana in the middle of their first run of consecutive losses all season. Reinvigorated by a little home-cooking, they will probably beat the absolute hell out of the Pacers in this rematch.
1 p.m. — USA — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
All day, every Sunday.
1 p.m. — FXX — The Simpsons
Unbelievably, FXX’s ongoing The Simpsons marathon is still, um, ongoing. They’ll be well into season 22 by the time football starts, which means the episodes will be desperately unfunny and depressingly unfaithful to the show’s brilliant heyday. Maybe this is your thing? Screw you!
1 p.m. — Logo — Married ... With Children
Weirdly, this early afternoon mini-marathon is sandwiched between morning and evening marathons of Roseanne. Logo is just all over the place, still reeling from their defeat in the Golden Girls War of 2016.
1 p.m. — TV Land — The Golden Girls
Hail the conquering hero.
1:15 p.m. — Sundance — Rectify
People seem to have good things to say about this show. At any rate, Sundance is running it all day long.
2:15 p.m. — AMC — The Walking Dead
A marathon of reruns heading into the 9 p.m. new episode premiere.
3:30 p.m. — Esquire — Parks and Recreation
An afternoon mini-marathon of this show that I have never watched. Check it out!
4 p.m. — Comedy Central — South Park
Comedy Central’s non-South Park programming is total junk today.
5 p.m. — Logo — Roseanne
They’ve got a mini-marathon of Three’s Company lined up for primetime, if you’re still hanging around.
7 p.m. — ABC — America’s Funniest Home Videos
A wise piece of pre-Sunday Night Football guilty pleasure programming, before ABC’s inexplicable primetime show Once Upon A Time.
8 p.m. — Comet — Mystery Science Theater 3000
A weekly standby. And a good one.
Noon — FX — The Amazing Spider-Man
FX is running this and its sequel to start the afternoon before shifting into Christmas mode after sundown. That beats the absolute hell out of what Spike, TNT, and TBS have going today: Spike has a Fast & Furious marathon queued up; TNT is running throwaway thriller junk like Disturbia; and TBS has The Bounty Hunter and Life as We Know It and shit. Yuck.
12:15 p.m. — IFC — The Matrix
It’s becoming a Sunday regular. Thankfully, IFC knows better than to fuck around with a marathon.
12:30 p.m. — CMT — Almost Famous
CMT’s got a counterprogramming monster lined up today. Stay tuned...
2:15 p.m. — TCM — Cape Fear
This is the original, where Max Cady is played (very well) by Robert Mitchum, and Sam Bowden is played (also very well) by Gregory Peck. If you liked Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake, you’ll dig this. And if you thought Scorsese’s 1991 remake was gratuitous and overwrought, there’s a good chance you’ll dig this. It’s good.
3 p.m. — BBC America — The Bourne Identity
BBC America can be counted upon for at least one Bourne marathon per season. They’ve got another one queued up this afternoon.
3:30 p.m. — CMT — The Fugitive
Oh yeah. Keep it coming, CMT...
4:40 p.m. — HD Net Movies — Backdraft
For all I know, no one gets this channel. But they’ve got a pretty decent lineup today, and they’ve been in the ballpark all season.
5:00 p.m. — FXM — X-Men: First Class
FXM’s Sunday lineup is otherwise jarringly weak. But this is a good, fun movie that won’t lose anything on network television.
5:05 p.m. — Syfy — Jurassic Park
They’re following this with The Lost World, for the two of you who liked that movie.
5:30 p.m. — BBC America — The Bourne Supremacy
Weirdly, BBC America is not following this with The Bourne Ultimatum, but is instead going right back to The Bourne Identity for a second run. No matter—Identity is at least a hundred times better than Ultimatum, which is grinding and self-serious and miserable.
5:45 p.m. — IFC — Inception
IFC has this lined up back-to-back, in case a 9 p.m. start works better for you.
6 p.m. — E! — Bridesmaids
It’s good to see E! drop Keeping Up with the Kardashians for a day and do some movies. And they could certainly do a lot worse than this, which leans a little heavily on awkward humor but definitely has its moments.
6:30 p.m. — CMT — Fight Club
They make it look so simple. Here are some diverting movies that will capture your attention if you flip our way. Country Music Television!
7 p.m. — REELZ — Speed
Jan de Bont’s filmography as a director is so terrible. After Speed, he made Twister, Speed 2, the breathtakingly awful remake of The Haunting, and a goddamn sequel to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. He’s 73 years old now, and I assume he’s been banned from going anywhere near a screenplay for the remainder of his natural life. REELZ is running Speed back-to-back after this, if you’re interested.
7:05 p.m. — HD Net Movies — True Grit
This is the 2010 Coen Brothers remake, which is a fine movie, but not at all as good as the John Wayne version, from 1969. I realize that makes me sound like an old man, and perhaps I am an old man, but you should know I saw the Coen Brothers version first, and I am not generally a fan of John Wayne. Also, screw you.
Hang tough today. It’ll get easier next week, I swear.