It’s that time of year again, when people on TV giggle over the phrase “balls dropping.” As the countdown to 2014 begins, you might choose to binge-watch your way through zombie carnage or Happy Endings reruns. But if you prefer to watch something live – and by “live,” we mean “while guzzling cheap champagne at a safe distance from Times Square’s Port-O-Potties” – we’ve got you covered. Below, check out our rundown of which special might be right for you.
DICK CLARK’S PRIMETIME NEW YEAR’S ROCKIN’ EVE WITH RYAN SEACREST 2014(ABC)
Hosts: Seacrest will get some help from Fergie and The View’s Jenny McCarthy – the same trio that took over for the late Rockin’ Eve host Dick Clark last year.
Special guests: Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Icona Pop, and Blondie. Also, Billy Joel will ring in the New Year live from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. But the whole thing kicks off at 8 p.m., with a tribute to the year’s best women in music.
What to expect: Obviously, the hosts aren’t the real draw here. Seacrest is always professional, but he’s not the most exciting pick. Last year, the only time he really strayed from the classic Rockin’ Eve banter – topics included: a) it’s cold, b) wow, is it cold!, and c) this could be the coldest New Year’s Eve since “before space age thermal underwear” – came when he cut to Oprah Winfrey making an accidental double-entendre about Dick Clark. (“You turn Dick on to help you through the night,” she insisted. “You really do! You turn Dick on.”) Still, Rockin’ Eve has the best musical lineup by far, and the best reason to tune in: Cyrus will probably do something crazy. By the time she has dropped ayahuasca and given birth to a Smurf hologram, you might be glad you watched.
Watch this one if…: You like your New Year’s Eve specials to stay traditional, but still want the freedom to make Miley Cyrus twerking GIFs in the privacy of your own home.
NEW YEAR’S EVE LIVE WITH ANDERSON COOPER AND KATHY GRIFFIN (CNN)
Hosts: CNN’s favorite censor-testing redhead and her silver-fox bestie, for the seventh year in a row.
Special guests: None have been announced yet, unless you count the CNN correspondents who will be broadcasting from across the country. Hey, Gary Tuchman is covering the watermelon drop in Vincennes, Indiana. Isn’t that special enough?
What to expect: Well, previous years have found Griffin stripping down to her bra and kissing Cooper’s crotch for good luck. In preparation for this year’s show, Griffin popped up on CNN to read a note from her mother, who she admits is “embarrassed by my behavior” every year. “Please know I will never forgive myself if my daughter Kathleen shames the Griffin name yet again,” Maggie Griffin wrote to Cooper. So, Kathy’s definitely not going to get naked or anything. Right?
Watch this one if…: You want something totally unexpected to happen – or at least something that was pre-planned to look unexpected. No doubt Cooper is already practicing his “surprised face” for the moment that Griffin inevitably insults some politician’s teenage daughter or plucks a chicken cutlet from her bra and chucks it at somebody famous. Still, it’s bound to be the funniest special, especially if you’re fond of Cooper’s giggle fits.
NEW YEAR’S EVE WITH CARSON DALY (NBC)
Hosts: The Voice’s emcee will co-host with Glee’s Jane Lynch. Actor-comedians Natasha Leggero and Anthony Anderson will also drop by.
Special guests: Mariah Carey, Blake Shelton, and various winners from The Voice.
What to expect: A safe backup choice for the moments when Rockin’ Eve cuts to a commercial. Lynch has promised a “friendly war” with rivals Anderson and Griffin. And Carey has already proven that she can handle the classic “Auld Lange Syne” with fireworks thing. So that leaves any real surprises to Daly and Shelton, the latter of whom knows how America likes to party. He has joked that he’ll one day celebrate his own divorce with “crack and hookers… oh, and Taco Bell!”
Watch this one if…: You have real, unconditional love for the current and former stars of TV singing competitions, including the guy who recently told Christina Aguilera, “We appreciate you kept your boobs!”
NEW YEAR’S EVE LIVE (Fox)
Hosts: Mario Lopez of Extra and X Factor fame will count down from the Las Vegas strip.
Special guests: Krewella, J. Cole, New Politics, Panic! at the Disco.
What to expect: From its decision to trade Times Square for Sin City, to its roster of artists you might have to Google if you’ve never painted your fingernails black, this special wants to be viewed as the alternative New Year’s Eve. But unless Lopez gets a teardrop tattoo for each minute he counts down, this looks like a pretty standard lineup. Panic! at the Disco probably won’t incite a Revolution! on Your Couch back home.
Watch this one if…: You’ve never had to bribe a high school kid into telling you what “dubstep” is.
ALL-AMERICAN NEW YEAR (Fox News)
Hosts: Bill Hemmer, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, other Fox correspondents.
Special guests: Rodney Atkins, Blues Traveler, and Susan Boyle. Also, Duck Dynasty’s Willie and Korie Robertson will join the show live from Colorado in their first interview since a certain scandal broke. Gulp.
What to expect: Boasting plenty of country music, a democratically elected pop star, and A&E’s favorite clan of self-proclaimed rednecks, it’s billed as the only truly all-American celebration. You know, unlike those pinko commie specials that other networks broadcast from Burkina Faso.
Watch this one if…: You don’t believe that Times Square qualifies as part of “America.”