"Breaking Bad" marathon (AMC, Friday through Monday). For those whose year has been marred by not being able to discuss "Breaking Bad" at cocktail parties, AMC brings you the parting gift of a series marathon, airing from noon each day, Friday through Monday. The story of a mild-mannered chemistry teacher turned meth-making drug dealer, and of all his little friends, frenemies and enemies, it is most likely the series most named this year right after the words, "You know, television has gotten really great. It's better than the movies now." It wore me out, in certain respects, long before it made its exit -- indeed, to watch it all in so short a time seems a kind of insanity, or willful masochism, though I suspect it will also reveal things a more leisurely viewing would not. But there's no doubt that it was one of the best-crafted, best-looking, best-acted series in the history of the medium, and personable creator Vince Gilligan seems always to have known what he was about, even when he didn't know exactly where he was going. If you haven't seen it, here's an opportunity that does not require you to reach into your pocketbook; and by New Year's Eve, you'll be able to join in authoritatively when the talk turns to TV. Not for kids.
Turner Classic Movies "New Year's Eve Dance Party" (TCM, Tuesday through Wednesday). In two parts. Part one begins at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, with a flurry of teen-pop films from the olden, sometimes golden days of rock & roll. "Go, Johnny, Go!'" (1959, with Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran) kicks it off, followed by "Let's Rock" (1958, with balladeer Julius La Rosa, but not much rock); "It's Trad, Dad!" a story of young people in pre-Beatles Britain, making do with the hot sounds of traditional jazz (Gene Vincent and Chubby Checker do also appear), directed by Richard Lester a few years shy of "A Hard Day's Night"; "Rock Around the Clock" (1956), a phony rock origin story, with Bill Haley and the Comets and the Platters; "Twist Around the Clock" (1961), with Chubby Checker, naturally, but also Dion; and then a couple of the better Elvis films, "Jailhouse Rock," from 1957, and "Viva Las Vegas," with Ann-Margret, from 1964 -- in wide screen, the way you want them.
Then, from 8 p.m. until you stagger out into the dawn, it's an MGM self-celebration, with "That's Entertainment!" (1974); "That's Entertainment II" (1976), wherein Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly dance together onscreen, after 30 years, for the second and last time; getting down to the bottom of that barrel, "That's Entertainment III" (1994); "That's Dancing!" (1985), with Mikhail Baryshnikov among the presenters (I wrote "presents," at first, which also works); and finally, at 5 a.m., New Year's Day, "Musicals Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM" (1996), concerning the producer of "The Wizard of Oz," "Singing in the Rain" (built around old songs Freed had written with Nacio Herb Brown) and other trifles of American film. The fact that MGM musicals, notwithstanding their success, continuing iconic status and great production numbers, were at the same time often underwhelming pictures -- not the two I just mentioned, obviously -- makes these clip compilations an ideal way to regard them. And they will not require close, constant attention if you have friends over or are getting into the Champagne. (And if you're getting into the Champagne, I do hope you have a friend over.)
Make your own marathons: "Moone Boy" (Hulu); "The Wrong Mans" (Hulu). In the new boundless TV universe, in which the streaming networks have staked their claim alongside the less new cable and satellite systems and the old over-the-air networks, you no longer have to rely on a faceless corporation to program a thematically coherent TV New Year's. (Though you will still rely on them for the content, of course.) Not to get all up in your playlist, but may I suggest these two fine, funny, Hulu-exclusive series from the year almost passed, series whose (so far) single seasons you can get through in an evening -- indeed, you can get through both of them in an evening, though "get through" is not the apt phrase for things so delightful.
Set in 1989 in an Irish small town, "Moone Boy" stars its co-creator Chris O'Dowd ("The IT Crowd," "Bridesmaids," "Family Tree") as the supportive imaginary friend of his dreamy and put-upon -- when not ignored -- yet self-contained and clever 12-year-old self (David Rawle, marvelously funny). It's charming and fanciful, unsentimental and family-friendly -- though when I say "family-friendly," I do not mean G-rated. (With a memorable appearance by Steve Coogan, whose Baby Cow Productions has a hand in this.)
In the Hitchcock-in-the-burbs comedy "The Wrong Mans," James Corden and Mathew Baynton, both from "Gavin & Stacey," play acquainted quasi-co-workers whom fate makes allies and friends after Baynton finds a cellphone whose unidentified caller says, "If you're not here by 5 o'clock, we'll kill your wife." Nervous skinny guy plus overconfident round guy add up to the adventure both desperately need. The tangled plot, which involves intrigues both local and global, is sometimes hard to track, but it carries you along notwithstanding; along the way you may spot Jennifer Saunders, Rebecca Front and David Harewood, among familiar others.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun