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Big ideas about the 'Little House'

Big ideas about the 'Little House'

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“American Masters” (7 p.m., PBS, TV-PG) profiles Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of “Little House on the Prairie” and the ensuing series of novels for children and young adults. Coinciding with the 85th anniversary of the publication of “Little House,” this documentary examines the enduring appeal of Wilder’s stories while providing historical context and autobiographical details that illuminate her uplifting tales.

The film also acknowledges the appeal of the TV series that Wilder’s books inspired and includes conversations with actors Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls Wilder), Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) and Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder).

Back in the 1930s, Wilder’s publishers showed immediate interest in her manuscript. They saw her stories as the perfect way to teach young readers about a period of pioneer life that was receding from living memory. This “American Masters” explores Wilder’s secret collaborator, her own daughter, who helped dramatize her history and make it compelling to young readers.

We also learn that Wilder’s beloved Pa, forever associated with Michael Landon from the TV series, was not the always-resilient figure as imagined by his adoring daughter. He frequently faced ruin and bankruptcy as crop failures, bad loans and plagues of locusts drove the Wilders from one home to another throughout the author’s childhood.

The film also departs the realm of children’s stories to examine the very different perspectives of pioneer families and the Native Americans they displaced.

— A different take on a business series, “Streets of Dreams With Marcus Lemonis” (9 p.m., CNBC, TV-PG) travels to specific streets and neighborhoods associated with enduring enterprises. Produced by the team behind “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” and starring the host of “The Profit” (8 p.m., CNBC), this peripatetic series will kick off with a visit to New York’s 47th Street, known the world over as the “Diamond District.” Over the course of five episodes it will also explore Nashville’s Music Row, Miami’s Calle Ocho, San Diego’s Harbor Drive and Denver’s Green Mile, associated with Colorado’s booming legal marijuana industry.

— As the Christmas spirit gives way to New Year’s toasts, Discovery debuts its latest spin-off, “Moonshiners: Master Distiller” (8 p.m., TV-14).

— “The Year 2020” (8 p.m., ABC) glances back at a year dominated by a pandemic, more than 300,000 COVID-related deaths, a contentious election and a nation largely reduced to shut-in status. In a similar vein, Elizabeth Stanton hosts the countdown of notable events and trends on “Popstars Best of 2020” (7 p.m., CW, TV-PG).

Other highlights

— From now until the wee hours of Jan. 2, BBC America will show nothing but repeats of “Doctor Who.”

— “7 Little Johnstons” (7 p.m., TLC, TV-14) returns for an eighth season.

— Derek’s condition takes a bad turn on “The Resident” (7 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).

— Dumped by her would-be groom and ditched by a skittish publisher, a forlorn writer (Gillian Jacobs) accepts a speaking engagement at her old school in the 2020 comedy “I Used to Go Here” (7 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

— A desperate father lashes out on “FBI” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

— A van attack fills the wards on “Nurses” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

— Dermot Mulroney returns to “Prodigal Son” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).

— Conspiracy theories on “FBI: Most Wanted” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

— A fetching town official must cajole a reluctant, handsome farmer to part with a giant evergreen in the 2020 romance “A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado” (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

Cult choice

An alienated young man (Dustin Hoffman) embarks on an affair with a neighbor’s wife (Anne Bancroft) and then falls for her daughter (Katharine Ross) in the 1967 satire “The Graduate” (7 p.m., TCM, TV-MA). When box office figures are adjusted for inflation, this remains one of the highest-grossing comedies of all time. Hoffman can also be seen in “Tootsie” (8 p.m., StarzEncore).

Series notes

Tying up Ziva’s loose ends on “NCIS” (7 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “The Wall” (7 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... “To Tell the Truth” (7 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... Leaving Olivia’s clutches on the season finale of “Tell Me a Story” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).

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