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TV: Five shows worth watching tonight: December 31

A select viewing guide for Monday, December 31

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COMEDY Air Farce New Year’s Eve 2012 (CBC, 8 p.m.) Count on the CBC to ring in the new year with some old familiar faces. The venerable Air Farce players–Don Ferguson, Luba Goy, Craig Lauzon, Alan Park, Penelope Corrin and newcomer Arnold Pinnock–reflect back on the past 12 months with the usual breakneck assortment of sketches and skits. Guest stars include Canadian Olympic gold medalist Rosie MacLennan, pop star Victoria Duffield and Canadian hockey legend Paul Henderson. The highlight: Watching Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper (actually, it’s Farce mainstay Lauzon) in sunglasses and tux to perform his own snappy version of Gangnam Style. Followed, fittingly enough, by The Ron James Show: New Year’s Eve Edition.

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DRAMA The Walking Dead (AMC, 9 p.m.) The most acclaimed show on American television these days involves zombies–lots of zombies. Since launching in late 2010, this series based on the bestselling graphic novel stars the British actor Andrew Lincoln as the rural sheriff Rick Grimes, who awakens from a coma to discover the world overrun by the newly-deceased with a decided taste for human flesh. The recent third season of the apocalyptic story has shattered U.S. ratings records and drawn glowing reviews from most critics. For those viewers who couldn’t stay up Sunday nights to follow the story, AMC runs the entire third campaign tonight, starting with the season opener with Rick on the road again with his ragtag survivalist group, including his very pregnant wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). The good news is they finally locate a safe haven. The bad news is that it’s a state penitentiary.

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MUSIC Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest (ABC, 10 p.m.) Dick Clark may be gone, but his New Year’s Eve legacy lives on. American Idol fixture Ryan Seacrest assumes the late host’s parka and earmuffs to count down the year in New York in this live broadcast. Most of the show will focus on the live Times Square performances by Taylor Swift, Neon Trees and Canada’s own Carly Rae Jepsen, with occasional throws to Los Angeles where Black Eyed Peas’ vocalist Fergie will host a live broadcast featuring stage turns by Flo Rida, Pitbull and Brandy. The perfect background noise for your own New Year’s soiree.

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COMEDY George Carlin: Jammin’ in New York (Comedy Network, 11 p.m.) According to several accounts, the late George Carlin claimed this 1992 standup special was his favourite TV special and the subsequent album earned a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Comedy Album. Carlin is loaded for bear in the hourlong performance as he expounds briskly on a broad range of topics including the war in the Persian Gulf, the then-strange new obsession with bottled water, the ongoing burden of the black man in America and presidency of George H.W. Bush. George Carlin was one of a kind.

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MOVIE The Manchurian Candidate (AMC, 6 p.m.) Make no mistake: This 2004 thriller is not a remake of the 1962 film starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey. This version adheres more to the original novel by Richard Condon and stars Denzel Washington as former soldier Ben Marco, who is haunted by his tour of duty in the Gulf War. Ben’s former platoon mate Raymond (Liev Schreiber) is no less troubled, but received the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery and has been elected to Congress. In fact Raymond’s ambitious senator mother Eleanor (Meryl Streep) is steering her son toward the vice-presidential candidacy, but there’s still a dark secret in Raymond’s past that only Ben can help him unravel.

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