TV Picks: Thanksgiving TV, 'Hello Ladies,' 'MasterChef Jr.,' more

TV Picks: Thanksgiving TV, 'Hello Ladies,' 'MasterChef Jr.,' more
Stephen Merchant is an Englishman in Los Angeles, looking for love or a hot model, in "Hello Ladies: The Movie," premiering Saturday on HBO. (Jaimie Trueblood / HBO)

"Hello Ladies: The Movie" (HBO, Saturday). Those mourning Stephen Merchant's one-season-and-canceled HBO series about an Englishman in Hollywood looking for love in (some of) all the wrong places, or those just seeking closure, will be cheered by this brief return. Or not so brief: At 80 minutes, it is nearly half as long as the whole first season. But it's a real movie, with a dominating through-line and an actual conclusion, not just a series of episodic exertions and humiliations strung together. Directing and starring and writing again with Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (veterans of the American version of "The Office," whose British original Merchant co-created with Ricky Gervais), Merchant concentrates on the relationship between his character, Stuart, and his friend and tenant Jessica (Christine Woods), a long-aspiring actress who has decided that her aspiring days are through. Some of the shots at Hollywood feel a little easy and familiar -- it's a target as broad as a barn's side -- and the story runs down some well-worn paths: There is a showing-off-for-an-old-girlfriend subplot and more than a little of Harry and Sally in Stuart and Jessica. But "The Movie," though the term "cringeworthy" still applies, is also less exaggerated than the series; it wants to keep things relatively real. (There is good support again from Nate Torrence, Kevin Weisman and Kyle Mooney as Stuart's posse.) Merchant is not an actor of enormous range; but he has the awkward-but-forward thing down and does some subtle, effective work as Stuart, whose memories of lifelong failures have kept him in a state of protective self-importance, begins to step outside his own head. Woods, lately seen in a recurring role on "The Walking Dead," is marvelous once again, completely present and whole even when instructed to lie on her back and kick her legs like a dying cockroach. Nicole Kidman plays herself in a party scene; Stephen Tobolowsky is a rich guy with a yacht; and Allison Tolman, of TV's "Fargo," and everywhere you look nowadays, shows up here, too, in a bar. ("Hello Ladies: The Movie" will replay through November and December on HBO and HBO2; check whatever it is you check for dates, for dates.)

"MasterChef Junior" (Fox, Tuesdays). It seems likely to me, if we're to go by the judges' onscreen reactions, that Oona, 9, was saved from elimination last week by virtue of her being a breakout character with a good track record and not because her "elevated shepherd's pie" -- the assignment -- was necessarily better than Mitchell's or Sam's, her fellows in the bottom three. (That is just the reality of reality TV; possibly they're trying to keep the girl-to-boy ratio balanced as well.) Nevertheless! Despite what feels like a greater emphasis on kid-themed stunts (three-legged cooking challenge, a pancake race), a not unusual over-reliance on musical cues, and the usual rearranged reaction shots, there is plenty of real in this reality. Much drama currently is laid upon the 12-year-old shoulders of Samuel. He early on looked to be the cook to beat -- to be more precise, the cook we were being directed to regard as the one to beat -- but has regularly seen his confidence battered; judge Joe Bastianich, especially, seems dismayed by Samuel's precocious culinary modernism/faddism and self-professed edge-pushing, as one does not wholly credit a painter who goes straight to abstraction without ever learning to draw, or a student filmmaker whose interest runs back no further than Quentin Tarantino. Still, there's no question he's a contender, or that the least of these contestants, who run as young as 8, have spooky skills and advanced ideas. (I am keeping an eye on Adaiah, this year's Dara: clever, consistent, culturally informed.) Nothing else on television feels as intense or works on me as reliably as this contest among mutual supporters, powered by amazement and love from every side.

The Bots on "Pancake Mountain" (PBS Digital Studios). Somehow I missed this clip, originally posted in September of my new-to-me favorite band of 2014, here performing in the context of "Pancake Mountain," the public-access-cable-turned-public-TV Web series/space rock puppet show and dance party. (That's Captain Perfect in the hat and cape.) As a bonus, follow this link to Reggie Watts and "PM" goat-host Rufus Leaking singing "Close to Ewe."

Thanksgiving (everywhere). No other holiday says television like Thanksgiving, which is already three-quarters devoted to sitting on a couch in an insurmountable stupor. Whether it's from the tryptophan, the pie or the beer, from unquestioned custom or, indeed, the psychosomatic effects of television itself, America will be collapsed in front of the tube from coast to coast this weekend. From the vicarious chill of the early morning East Coast parade sites, to a game called football I am told is popular, to the official beginning of the Christmas-special season (a gun that Hallmark has already jumped this year; but it is always Christmas with those people anyway), it's all totally allowed.

Thanksgiving-themed episodes of Your Favorite Shows (in which Your Favorite Characters eat or attempt to and drive each other crazy before sharing a moment of gratitude) are a seasonal staple already being passed around. This week they're on offer from "Bob's Burgers" (Fox, Sunday), "The Millers" (CBS, Monday), "NCIS" (CBS, Tuesday), "New Girl" (Fox, Tuesday), "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful" (both CBS, both Wednesday), "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS, Thursday, a repeat) and "The McCarthys" (CBS, Thursday). And there are specials. "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (Wednesday, ABC) is 41 chestnut-years old, yet somehow I have trouble regarding any "Peanuts" cartoon later than "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" as canon. NBC will shill for its upcoming "Peter Pan" live broadcast with "The Making of Peter Pan Live!" and for its ongoing "Saturday Night Live" with a Thanksgiving-themed readied-for-prime-time compilation (both Wednesday).

Thanksgiving Day itself begins, as any child knows and no adult can possibly have forgotten, with the Macy's parade (CBS), with the bands on the street, the balloons above it, turned-up collars in the crowd, and bare trees in the park. Taylor Swift is in it this year, which seems right.

Marathons, which is how the pioneers binge-watched, are another custom of the day, as much as marshmallows melted into sweet potatoes or an old aunt's sloppy kiss on the cheek. This year's include "Adventure Time" (Cartoon Network, from 9 a.m.), "Modern Family" (USA, from 10 a.m.), "Duck Dynasty" (A&E, 1 p.m.), "River Monsters" (Animal Planet, 2 p.m.), "Cops" (Spike, 5 p.m.), TBS will have a Thanksgiving marathon of Thanksgiving episodes of "Friends" (Thursday, from 10 a.m.), followed by three hours of "Seinfeld" leading up to "The Strike," where you first heard the word Festivus. A "Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon" begins at noon, live-streamed from, providing a vicarious social experience for those wishing to avoid or unable to enjoy a real one.

There will be dogs: NBC has the "13th Annual National Dog Show" Thanksgiving Day at noon; at 8 p.m. Fox airs "Cause for Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular," at once a celebration of rescue dogs and an opportunity to rescue one. Hilary Swank and Jane Lynch co-host; Betty White, Kesha, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Duhamel, Kristen Bell, LeAnn Rimes, Kristin Chenoweth, Whitney Cummings, Max Greenfield, Kathy Griffin, Jerry O'Connell, Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, Rebecca Romijn and Emmy Rossum are among famous humans who have promised to come.

Last and possibly most is "Comedy Central's All-Star Non-Denominational Christmas Special" (premiering Thursday at 10 p.m. and repeating every night through the weekend), an oleo of holiday-themed japes and bad examples built around the stars of a network that has every cause to be proud of them. I have not seen any of this undoubtedly magical hour, but we have been promised appearances by Abbi and Ilana from "Broad City"; Key and Peele, from "Key & Peele"; Nick Kroll and Jon Daly; Stephen Colbert; Stephen Colbert's time-slot successor Larry Wilmore, who will recall "his fondest holiday memory when his dad, dressed as Santa, was shot and arrested by the police"; a "Drunk History" take on "It's a Wonderful Life"; a "RENO 911!" PSA; those crazy "Workaholics" as the Three Wise Men; and a Holiday Hashtag Wars edition of "@midnight," with Steve Agee, Brian Posehn and Aisha Tyler. Chris Hardwick, too, naturally. And more.

Robert Lloyd will be full of pie and tweeting @LATimesTVLloyd