The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty

A&E, Dec. 13, 9 p.m. ET |

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Viewers curious about how the Jackson family is coping won't get answers in this stilted series. Filmed before Michael's death in June (tellingly, neither he nor sister Janet participated), the show follows the other Jackson Five brothers—Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito—as they attempt to record an anniversary album. Seasoned reality-TV watchers—aren't we all by now?—will smell the set-ups immediately. (Mom Katherine "suggests" that the brothers visit their old hometown of Gary, Ind.) And Jackson fans will be left wanting more in the way of honest intimacy. The Jacksons are a fascinating family, but this series is as guarded as their inner lives.

Find My Family

ABC, Mondays, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT |

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If you're a crier (guilty), make sure to have plenty of tissues nearby before watching this series, which helps adopted children find their birth parents, and vice versa. Cohosted by Tim Green and Lisa Joyner—themselves both adopted—the show sensitively handles its delicate material, though the presence of cameras in such emotionally raw moments feels slightly exploitative. Uplifting in the tear-jerking vein of Extreme Home Makeover, the show leaves a lot of questions unanswered but offers a warm view on the gravitational pull of family.

BBQ Pitmasters

TLC, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |

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Set me up with a plate of sauce-slathered ribs and a glass of sweet tea and I'm happier than Paula Deen in a butter factory. For those with similar hankerings, this new eight-part series offers a tantalizing look into competitive barbecue, a slice of Americana in which "pitmasters" at various cook-offs attempt to outdo each other for cash and bragging rights. There's not quite enough meat on the bone to fill the hour-long episodes, but they're sure to leave your mouth watering.

>1 DEXTER

SUN. 12/13 9 P.M. SHOWTIME

In the finale, Michael C. Hall closes in on that alien from 3rd Rock from the Sun.

2 JENNIFER HUDSON

MON. 12/14 8 P.M. ABC

The goosebumps-guaranteed singer headlines a one-hour Christmas special.

3 THE SING-OFF

MON. 12/14 8 P.M. NBC

With Glee in reruns (sniff), a nation turns to you, Nick Lachey, who hosts this a cappella competition series.

4 GORDON RAMSAY: COOK-ALONG LIVE

TUES. 12/15 9 P.M. FOX

The chef offers a live tutorial—minus his signature swearing.

5 THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE

WED. 12/16 8 P.M. CBS

Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) hits a holiday party.

>• The Invictus actor, 39, produced this History Channel documentary, airing Dec. 13, in which celebs "perform" historical letters and speeches.

WHAT MOMENT IN MODERN HISTORY HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU?

9/11. I lived about a mile from Ground Zero then. I stepped outside my apartment, looked up and actually saw it happening. I felt like the sky was falling.

WERE YOU SCARED?

Insecure. A guy came up and started pitching a movie. I said, "Do you know what just happened?"

OUR GENERATION ALSO EXPERIENCED MAN'S FIRST MOON WALK.

It's interesting how blasé we are today about sending people into space. All of the success of that program required successful and, sadly, unsuccessful missions.

LIKE THE SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER DISASTER.

Christa McAuliffe was a teacher from New England, so we watched the launch in school. Footage of the explosion was shown over and over for days. I found it incredibly shocking. I remember waking up to the fact that something like that could happen. It changes you.

>• Longtime favorites Diego, Elmo and SpongeBob are still going strong, but the latest crop of shows aiming to grab your kids' eyeballs introduces some new faces—along with a few familiar ones.

DINOSAUR TRAIN (PBS)

Like most of PBS's kids' lineup, this series sneaks in a little learning—like how to tell a Pteranodon from a Troodon—amid the fun. Plus, there's a subtle-but-sweet adoption message.

JUNGLE JUNCTION (DISNEY)

Strictly for the preschool set, this series combines kids' love of animals and vehicles with critters on wheels—many of whom speak in British accents. Harmless, if a wee bit odd.

THE GARFIELD SHOW (CARTOON NETWORK)

The lasagna-obsessed comic-strip cat that many parents grew up reading over their cereal gets to woo a new generation. (No newspaper necessary, sadly.)

THE SUPERHERO SQUAD SHOW (CARTOON NETWORK)

The best of the bunch (especially if you've got hero-crazed boys), this playful take on Wolverine and pals thankfully tones down the violence.

THE FRESH BEAT BAND (NICKELODEON)

This is one of those kids' shows in which everyone talks REALLY LOUDLY and no one blinks. Parents, be warned: The songs stick in your brain like half-chewed gummy worms to carpet.

>• James's younger brother, 24, joins the ABC comedy as hunky troublemaker Cole.

COLE IS QUITE ARROGANT!

It's fun to play the bad guy. It's my chance to do and say things I would never dream of in real life.

HE'S ALSO A WOMANIZER. HOW ARE YOU AROUND GIRLS?

I've always been a nice guy. If I'm with someone, I like to surprise them and keep them on their toes.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SILLY QUIRKS?

I'm a goofy dancer. The only way my moves attract the ladies is because they sympathize with me.

WHAT ADVICE HAS JAMES GIVEN YOU ABOUT SHOWBIZ?

He's been great about letting me find my own path. When I do have a question, he's always there to answer it. The best advice he's given me is to never take a job because of the money.

>1 DEXTER

SUN. 12/13 9 P.M. SHOWTIME

In the finale, Michael C. Hall closes in on that alien from 3rd Rock from the Sun.

2 JENNIFER HUDSON

MON. 12/14 8 P.M. ABC

The goosebumps-guaranteed singer headlines a one-hour Christmas special.

3 THE SING-OFF

MON. 12/14 8 P.M. NBC

With Glee in reruns (sniff), a nation turns to you, Nick Lachey, who hosts this a cappella competition series.

4 GORDON RAMSAY: COOK-ALONG LIVE

TUES. 12/15 9 P.M. FOX

The chef offers a live tutorial—minus his signature swearing.

5 THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE

WED. 12/16 8 P.M. CBS

Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) hits a holiday party.

>• The Invictus actor, 39, produced this History Channel documentary, airing Dec. 13, in which celebs "perform" historical letters and speeches.

WHAT MOMENT IN MODERN HISTORY HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU?

9/11. I lived about a mile from Ground Zero then. I stepped outside my apartment, looked up and actually saw it happening. I felt like the sky was falling.

WERE YOU SCARED?

Insecure. A guy came up and started pitching a movie. I said, "Do you know what just happened?"

OUR GENERATION ALSO EXPERIENCED MAN'S FIRST MOON WALK.

It's interesting how blasé we are today about sending people into space. All of the success of that program required successful and, sadly, unsuccessful missions.

LIKE THE SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER DISASTER.

Christa McAuliffe was a teacher from New England, so we watched the launch in school. Footage of the explosion was shown over and over for days. I found it incredibly shocking. I remember waking up to the fact that something like that could happen. It changes you.

>• Longtime favorites Diego, Elmo and SpongeBob are still going strong, but the latest crop of shows aiming to grab your kids' eyeballs introduces some new faces—along with a few familiar ones.

DINOSAUR TRAIN (PBS)

Like most of PBS's kids' lineup, this series sneaks in a little learning—like how to tell a Pteranodon from a Troodon—amid the fun. Plus, there's a subtle-but-sweet adoption message.

JUNGLE JUNCTION (DISNEY)

Strictly for the preschool set, this series combines kids' love of animals and vehicles with critters on wheels—many of whom speak in British accents. Harmless, if a wee bit odd.

THE GARFIELD SHOW (CARTOON NETWORK)

The lasagna-obsessed comic-strip cat that many parents grew up reading over their cereal gets to woo a new generation. (No newspaper necessary, sadly.)

THE SUPERHERO SQUAD SHOW (CARTOON NETWORK)

The best of the bunch (especially if you've got hero-crazed boys), this playful take on Wolverine and pals thankfully tones down the violence.

THE FRESH BEAT BAND (NICKELODEON)

This is one of those kids' shows in which everyone talks REALLY LOUDLY and no one blinks. Parents, be warned: The songs stick in your brain like half-chewed gummy worms to carpet.

>• James's younger brother, 24, joins the ABC comedy as hunky troublemaker Cole.

COLE IS QUITE ARROGANT!

It's fun to play the bad guy. It's my chance to do and say things I would never dream of in real life.

HE'S ALSO A WOMANIZER. HOW ARE YOU AROUND GIRLS?

I've always been a nice guy. If I'm with someone, I like to surprise them and keep them on their toes.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SILLY QUIRKS?

I'm a goofy dancer. The only way my moves attract the ladies is because they sympathize with me.

WHAT ADVICE HAS JAMES GIVEN YOU ABOUT SHOWBIZ?

He's been great about letting me find my own path. When I do have a question, he's always there to answer it. The best advice he's given me is to never take a job because of the money.