Always fun, occasionally annoying and even educational, the Kennedy Center Honors (9 p.m., CBS) return for the 35th time. As they do every year, they pay tribute to artists whose works have enriched America's popular culture and fine arts. The list always contains a name unfamiliar to many, as well as folks so famous that you have to wonder if this
national honor is simply the icing on their celebrity cake.
To be honest, I don't know anything about prima ballerina Natalia Makarova. So I'm glad I'll get to learn about her fabled career with the Kirov Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and other companies.
I've heard of Buddy Guy and know he's a blues guitarist, but again, I'm willing to learn more.
This leaves us with the final three choices, all so famous they have lived out their
careers earning superlatives -- or at least hearing them. Dustin Hoffman has been considered one of the greatest actors of his generation ever since his alienated character was seduced by Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson in "The Grad uate" in 1967.
Led Zeppelin has been the subject of bombastic tributes since "Led Zeppelin II" blew out a million stereo speakers way back in 1969.
And then there's David Letterman. Comics of a certain generation never tire of expressing their debt and allegiance to him. Letterman fans don't only like "Dave," they are heavily invested in their fandom. They don't laugh at his jokes; they whoop. There's a difference. Almost cult-like in their devotion, such fans get a bit testy when you suggest that Letterman hasn't been all that funny or innovative since he moved to CBS 20 years ago.
Do Letterman, Hoffman and Led Zeppelin deserve this award? Probably. But will we really learn anything new about them, or hear the same chorus of adulation we've been hearing for a generation? It's almost pointless to gild their lilies at this point. In the band's prime, Led Zeppelin probably sold more albums in an afternoon than Buddy Guy did in his entire career. So tonight, at least, I hope the Ken nedy Center Honors spend a little more time with him than with the already super-famous.
The surviving members of Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones) also appear on a repeat of "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS), along with John Krasinski and Paloma Faith.
---While it might seem like a travesty to go to a Burger King while you're in Paris or Rome, some people just can't help themselves.
"Fast Foods Gone Global" (10 p.m., Travel, TV-PG) doesn't exactly encourage vacationers to rely on familiar franchises while abroad. Instead, it shows how the restaurants themselves bend to local tastes. We visit a Pizza Hut in Istanbul, where there's Turkish sausage on the menu, a Moscow McDonald's serving Beef a la Russe, a Paris KFC that offers fried fish and a Subway in Stockholm specializing in fish eggs and shrimp. What would Jared think?
---China White appears on "Arrow" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).
---A new rape case reopens a cold one on "Law & Order: Spe cial Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
---Luke pulls rejection out of his hat on "Modern Family" (9 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
---A "NOVA" (9 p.m., PBS, r) from 2010 ponders the men who built the great cathedrals of Europe.
---A source's murder intimidates Bel but leaves Freddie more determined than ever on "The Hour" (9 p.m., BBC America, TV-14).
---Rayna discovers the extent of her family's debt on "Nashville" (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
Young talents (Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell and Kiefer Sutherland) shine as boys unsettled by a remarkable discovery in the 1986 drama "Stand By Me" (8 p.m., VH1 Classic), adapted from a
Stephen King short story.
---A familiar face on "Criminal Minds" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
---Creative accounting on "Whitney" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
---On four episodes of "Ben and Kate" (Fox, r, TV-14): rattled by a reunion (8 p.m.), scavenging (8:30 p.m.), an overdue celebration (9 p.m.), a Halloween makeover (9:30 p.m.).
---Giving thanks on "The Middle" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
---New means of persuasion on "Guys With Kids" (8:30 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
---Strangers to the mall on "The Neighbors" (8:30 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
---Sam and Dean meet after a year apart on "Supernatural" (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).
---Lisa feels guilty on "Suburga tory" (9:30 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
---One darn thing after another on "Chicago Fire" (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
---Lisa Kudrow, Vince Gilligan and Grouplove appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r).
---Dita Von Teese, Michael Yo, Jen Kirkman and Josh Wolf are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!).
---Leslie Mann and Sarah Jaffe appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (midnight, ABC, r).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Jim Parsons and Dispatch on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.