From reindeer to Marco Polo, Hitler and the Bermuda Triangle, here's what we'll be watching this month:
For nature lovers
• Animal Planet gets ready for the holidays with its Live Reindeer Cam, which is streaming live from the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota. Santa will make special appearances on Dec. 19, 22 and 23. As part of its holiday-themed programming, the channel will run special episodes of many of its series, including "Pit Bulls & Parolees" on Dec. 20, "Too Cute!" on Dec. 24 and 27, and "My Cat From Hell" on Dec. 27.
• Life at the top of the food chain isn't always easy. Even apex predators don't always succeed in the quest for prey, as the three-hour Nat Geo Wild special event "Predator Fail" depicts. It premieres Dec. 7. In the clip from the special below, get a taste of how the Nile crocodile stalks its prey from the water.
• On Dec. 7, Discovery will run the controversial "Eaten Alive," in which reptile researcher and author Paul Rosolie dons a protective suit and allows a giant anaconda to swallow him. The stunt has animal activists up in arms, but Rosolie says he's doing it to draw attention to the plight of the Amazon rain forest. You decide.
• Nat Geo Wild has a different take on the anaconda, exploring its behavior and dispelling myths in the special "Anaconda: Silent Killer," premiering Dec. 14.
• Some of the world's prettiest places have deadly creatures hidden amidst the palm trees and azure waters, and they're revealed in the "Predator Paradise" episode of "World's Deadliest," premiering Dec. 12 on Nat Geo Wild.
• Nat Geo Wild's wildlife programming gets the RiffTrax treatment from the creators of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" in a three-hour Dec. 16 event that supplies comedic commentary for mating and preying behaviors and animal-human encounters.
• Nat Geo Wild heads to the Colorado Plateau, the unspoiled wilderness terrain that is home to coyotes, rattlers and mountain lions in the special "Cougar Country," premiering Dec. 21.
• At the risk of 49th state overload, Nat Geo Wild presents another nature special extolling the natural wonders of the frigid paradise, this time focusing on the bears, bald eagles, humpback whales and other creatures that populate "Alaska's Glacier Bay," premiering Dec. 21.
Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park. (Photo: National Geographic Channels)
For history buffs
• The boy who built a wind tunnel in his basement to fly his model planes grew up to be a Korean War hero, test pilot, astronaut and "The First Man on the Moon." The life and career of the legendary Neil Armstrong is the subject of PBS's "Nova" special, premiering Dec. 3.
• "Marco Polo" marks Netflix's entry into the historical epic biz with a sweeping saga about the Italian explorer's adventures in the Far East. Available starting Dec. 12, the 10-episode series stars Joan Chen, Rick Yune and Lorenzo Richelmy in the title role.
• Feeding the endless curiosity about Adolf Hitler, National Geographic presents two specials on Dec. 14: "Hitler the Junkie," about the drugs he took and how they affected his actions, and "In Love With Hitler," focusing on his romantic relationship with Eva Braun and incorporating her home movies. This clip from "Hitler the Junkie" examines how Hitler's physician used an early form of crystal meth to treat the dictator.
For armchair archaeologists
• If you missed it in theaters last summer, you can catch the fascinating documentary "Dinosaur 13" in its CNN premiere on Dec. 11. It chronicles the fight over the ownership of the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton known as Sue, a battle as compelling as a courtroom drama.
• The effects of climate change on the environment are apparent, but what isn't so obvious is the impact it has on national security, foreign policy and global stability. PBS's "Journey to Planet Earth" series connects the dots between extreme weather and the international economic, political and social climate in "Extreme Realities: Severe Weather, Climate Change and Our National Security." Narrated by Matt Damon, it premieres Dec. 15.
In 2010, a rare weather occurrence brought heat waves, smog and wildfires to Russia. "Extreme Realities: Severe Weather, Climate Change and Our National Security" chronicles this and other weather-related events. (Photo: RT News)
• Marking the 26th anniversary of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Smithsonian Channel's "Rise of the Killer Virus" chronicles the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has claimed millions of lives since the 1980s. On Showtime, "The Last One" focuses on the AIDS Memorial Quilt and its role as a symbol of the ongoing crisis.
A scene from "The Last One," a Showtime special about the AIDS Memorial Quilt. (Photo: Showtime)
• Rare gem miners and highway rescuers battle the elements and treacherous terrain in the return of two Weather Channel series, "Prospectors" and "Highway to Hell," which launch their third seasons on Dec. 7.
• Discovery Channel kicks off its Mega Week of specials and expanded episodes of series on Dec. 7 with a celeb edition of "Naked and Afraid," in which best friends and frequent co-stars James Franco and Seth Rogen attempt to survive sans clothes, food and water for 21 days in the wilderness. An uncensored version of the episode will air later the same night.
• Four families not only go off the grid, but go 200 years back in time, trading modern clothes and conveniences in a three-month experiment, replicating the experience of their settler ancestors in the National Geographic series "The Pioneers: Hitting the Trail," premiering Dec. 9.
• In many aircraft accidents, weather is to blame. The Weather Channel explores the reasons in season two of the series "Why Planes Crash," premiering Dec. 15.
History meets mystery
• Not to be confused with the feature film opening Dec. 12,"Exodus" is an Animal Planet special that reenacts events from the Bible, including a plague of locusts and the parting of the Red Sea and draws parallels to modern catastrophes. It premieres Dec. 4.
• The 500,000-square-mile expanse of the Atlantic Ocean called the Bermuda Triangle is known for mysterious disappearances and strange phenomena, but no one knows why. Using computer simulation and sonar data, "Drain the Bermuda Triangle" looks below the surface for clues. It premieres Dec. 7 on National Geographic Channel.
• Long-rumored to be the site of such covert operations as alien autopsies and storing UFOs, the heavily guarded Nevada desert site known as Area 51 is the subject of a National Geographic special that presents declassified CIA documents and interviews to tell the truth about what went on there. "Area 51: The CIA's Secret" premieres Dec. 7.
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