TV Notes

I Love the ’80s (DECEMBER 16 through 20; 9 to 11 P.M.; VH1) presumes that somebody must have, and so devotes an hour of pop-cultural detritus to each year of the greedhead decade. What’s fun here are the juxtapositions. For 1984, for instance: Madonna, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, and The Terminator, plus Macintosh computers, Miami Vice, and This Is Spinal Tap.

The Main Stream (DECEMBER 17; 9 to 11 P.M.; Channel 13) sends humorist Roy Blount Jr. and documentarian Roger Weisberg down the Mississippi River, where they find redeeming eccentricity, radical environmentalism, and giant catfish, not to mention Garrison Keillor, Winona LaDuke, a voodoo priestess, an Elvis impersonator.

Second String (DECEMBER 18; 8 to 10 P.M.; TNT), in which Jon Voight as the stressed coach of the Buffalo Bills is forced to start Gil Bellows at quarterback in the pro-football playoffs because his entire starting team has food poisoning, surprises in one small way: Bellows is a better quarterback than he was a lawyer in i>Ally McBeal or a covert intelligence operative in The Agency. Voight, like all football coaches, is a surrogate father and surrogate God. Rest assured that in this TV movie there will be no abuse of either substances or spouses.

Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (DECEMBER 18; 9 to 11 P.M.; Channel 13) moves at such a stately pace, from what happened 1,400 years ago in Mecca to how Muslims feel in America today, that we seem at times to be traveling by camel. But academics Karen Armstrong and M. Cherif Bassiouni are on hand to chat up the history, Andre Braugher tells us what we’re looking at, and the architecture enthralls.

The Merry Widow (DECEMBER 25; 9 to 11:30 P.M.; Channel 13), with Wendy Wasserstein adapting and Yvonne Kenny starring in a San Francisco Opera production of the Franz Lehár war horse for Great Performances, suggests (pleasantly enough) that there’s nothing new under the musical sun, certainly not Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Times Square: America’s Town Square (DECEMBER 26; 10 to 11 P.M.; Travel Channel) talks to people like Ann Douglas and Bernadette Peters about this intersection of “art, sex, information, and commerce.” A once-over-very-lightly with just a hint of mourning for the bygone seediness and an almost prurient ogle of what Disney wrought.

TV Notes