Tory Miller portrait (copy)

James Beard Award-winning chef Tory Miller will appear on the new Food Network show "Iron Chef Showdown" Wednesday. He'll be hosting a watch party at his Spanish, tapas-style restaurant, Estrellón.


What is it about Christmas that makes everyone want to sing?

It might have something to do with all those carols that follow us around from store to store, lobby to lobby, elevator to elevator, radio station to radio station, waiting room to waiting room … no matter where we end up, the Christmas carols haunt us from about the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve.

Maybe that’s why celebs line up for their turn at the televised mic this time of year.

Already this season, we’ve had “A Very Pentatonix Christmas,” “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” and “Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo,” all of which aired promptly the week after Thanksgiving.

Not to worry, though; as sure as Andy Williams donned a Christmas sweater, there are holiday musical specials galore.

Gwen Stefani, a regular in the judge rotation of “The Voice,” enters the scene this year with her modern take on the holiday tradition. “Gwen Stefani’s You Make It Feel Like Christmas,” airing Tuesday on NBC, will feature holiday-themed sketches and — naturally — musical performances, much of which are included on Stefani’s recently released (and appropriately titled) holiday album, “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.”

The special includes her “Voice” co-star, Blake Shelton, who joins her on a duet from her album, along with guests Ken Jeong, Chelsea Handler, NE-YO and Seth McFarlane. No word on whether they will all sing with Stefani, but the show will include new songs as well as Christmas classics, such as “Silent Night” and “Santa Baby.” “Gwen Stefani’s You Make It Feel Like Christmas” airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Ch. 15.

Next up is “Showtime at the Apollo,” carrying a decidedly holiday theme. Hosted by Steve Harvey, with Adrienne Houghton as his co-host, the special, airing Thursday on Fox, features artists including Snoop Dogg and Boyz II Men, Fifth Harmony and DMX performing renditions of their favorite Christmas classics. And it wouldn’t be “Showtime at the Apollo” without the live talent competition, which puts as-yet-unknown artists in front of a crowd known for its toughness. Maybe they’ll be in the forgiving holiday spirit? “Showtime at the Apollo: Christmas” airs at 7 p.m. Thursday on Ch. 47.

And repeat performer Taraji P. Henson returns with “Taraji’s White Hot Holidays,” following “Showtime” on Thursday. The “Empire” star’s guest list this year includes Ciara, Fergie, DJ Khaled, Salt-N-Pepa, Chaka Khan, Leslie Odom Jr., fellow “Empire” star Jussie Smollet, Faith Evans, and the Ying Yang Twins. As if they weren’t enough, Taraji also welcomes Taye Diggs (also an “Empire” co-star), Method Man, Jay Pharoah, Tituss Burgess, Niecy Nash and more. The celebrity-packed musical celebration airs at 8 p.m. Thursday on Ch. 47.

Supreme cuisine, indeed: Madison’s own top chef, Tory Miller, faces Chicago’s Jenner Tomaska in a battle of the Midwestern masters on Food Network’s “Iron Chef Showdown,” airing Wednesday. Miller, chef/owner of L’Etoile, won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest in 2012, and he and his restaurant have garnered a handful of nominations over the years. Tomaska, the executive chef at Next in Chicago, was nominated this year for Rising Star Chef of the Year; he didn’t win. The victor of the showdown — which, in the style of “Iron Chef,” has two chefs battle for supremacy racing the clock and each other to highlight the featured ingredient, revealed just before the battle begins (we can tell you it’s a vegetable) — gets the honor of going up against one of the Iron Chefs. In this case, Miller or Tomaska will face Bobby Flay in a meat battle. Miller knows how it all turns out; we’ll have to tune in at 8 p.m. Wednesday to find out. Miller will be hosting a viewing party at Estrellón, 313 W. Johnson St., at 7 p.m.

Movie mania: Settle in for these family favorites – and don’t be afraid to sing along, where appropriate, of course. It’s toys galore in Friday’s “Toy Story” marathon on Freeform, starting at 3:50 p.m. with “Toy Story,” followed by “Toy Story 2” at 5:50 p.m., and “Toy Story 3” at 8 p.m. The evening wraps up with “Toy Story That Time Forgot” at 10:30 p.m. “Mary Poppins,” starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and a whole lot of magic and mischief, airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on Ch. 27. And Elsa and Anna must work together to save their kingdom in “Frozen,” featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff, airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on Ch. 27.

What else is new?: Acclaimed Netflix drama “The Crown,” which tells the story of the early days of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, launches its second season Friday. In post-war Britain, public attention turns to scrutiny of its monarch, her every move watched and deconstructed. It’s the beginnings of celebrity culture, and the queen (Claire Foy) is eminently conscious of it. She also finds herself struggling with a husband (Matt Smith) who can’t reconcile not having the power in the marriage. Season two of “The Crown” dives into the tension of a changing country and a royal family living every step in the public eye.

And it’s another continent and endless adventures for the foursome of “Better Late Than Never,” the NBC series that follows sports and TV personalities Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman as they seek what life holds when you just let things happen. Accompanied by young (by comparison) comedian Jeff Dye, the group — who tackled Asia in the show’s first go-round — sets its sights on Europe, visiting, among other places, Munich, Berlin, Barcelona and Madrid. While the show doesn’t premiere until after the new year, a preview episode is scheduled for 9 p.m. Monday on Ch. 15.