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Download Tim McGraw's jangly 'Christmas All Over the World' for free
Credit: StyleSonic Records

Download Tim McGraw's jangly 'Christmas All Over the World' for free

Plus, new holiday treats from Lyle Lovett

Tim McGraw got his Christmas present early when a judge decided that he could, indeed, get released from his record contract from Curb Records, with whom he has been feuding for years now.

So now, he’s spreading his joy with his fans via this free download of “Christmas All Over the World,” a rocking, twangy little tune written by Daniel Tashian and Troy Verges. The Beatlesque backing vocals and Glen Campbell-style guitar playing are a nice touch. And McGraw sounds great. It is available for free via AOL on Dec. 8 and then, starting Dec. 9, through Hear it here.

McGraw, who embarks on a stadium tour with buddy Kenny Chesney next summer, released the song on his StyleSonic Records. He’ll have a new album out next year-- although it’s unclear if it will come out via StyleSonic or if he’s looking for another major label deal. 

Fellow soon-to-be-ex-Curb artist Lyle Lovett also just released a Christmas EP, “Songs for the Season.” Produced by Lovett and Nathaniel Kunkel, the online release features the Vince Guaraldi/ “Peanuts” classic “Christmastime is Here,” as well as “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” a duet with Kat Edmonson,” and a few other treats.  On other Lovett news, the four-time Grammy winner will release his last set for Curb on Feb. 28. Appropriately enough, the album is titled "Release Me," 

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"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

 "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"

Credit: Bravo

Will you read 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' star Taylor Armstrong's book?

Her memoir of abuse is already getting mixed reactions

When Taylor Armstrong gave a teary-eyed plug for her new book on "Watch What Happens: Live" after this Monday's episode of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," I didn't give it much thought. Reality stars pump out fluffy, catty, ghost-written tomes at the same rate Michelle Duggar pops out babies, and this seemed to be just another unimpressive addition to the genre. 

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<p>Jay Z</p>
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Jay Z

Credit: Charlies Sykes/AP

Jay-Z set to headline Carnegie Hall's first hip-hop series

The two shows will benefit education in New York

Jay Z will be headline two shows at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Feb. 6-7.  The two concerts are benefits for the United Way and Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation (Carter is Jay Z’s real name).

“It’s every artists dream to play a venue as legendary as Carnegie Hall,” said Jay Z in a statement. “The fact that I can use the arts and my talent to benefit the education of the next generation of artist, entrepreneurs and great thinkers makes for a legendary night. I’m proud to be a part of the continuing work of United Way of New York City and expanding the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation.”

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<p>Octavia Spencer is in line for an Oscar nomination for her performance in &quot;The Help.&quot;</p>

Octavia Spencer is in line for an Oscar nomination for her performance in "The Help."

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Octavia Spencer to receive Breakthrough Award at Palm Springs

'The Help' co-star's Supporting Actress campaign gets an extra boost

It's never too late to be recognized as a "breakthrough performer," apparently. 15 years after making her first big-screen appearance in "A Time to Kill," 39 year-old actress Octavia Spencer -- the chief source of comic relief in the ensemble of "The Help" -- has been honored with the Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs festival.

Like most of the awards dished out at Palm Springs and Santa Barbara next month, this honor acts chiefly as an Oscar nomination forecast: previous winners of the prize include Felicity Huffman, Jennifer Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner and Carey Mulligan. (Hard luck, Mariah Carey and Freida Pinto.) Not that one needs  any such minor bellwethers to predict Spencer's nomination, which has been set in stone since "The Help" opened in August: the question is whether she can win in a field that still has no clear frontrunner.

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<p>An Elton&nbsp;gnome from &quot;Gnomeo &amp;&nbsp;Juliet.&quot;&nbsp;Yes, an Elton&nbsp;gnome.</p>

An Elton gnome from "Gnomeo & Juliet." Yes, an Elton gnome.

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Tech Support: Chris Cornell, Elton John, Madonna and 'The Muppets' throw down for Best Original Song

Other contenders include tunes from 'Captain America' and 'Footloose'

Tech Support inadvertently took a week off as I never did get around to writing up the Best Original Song category. No worries. Nothing has happened of note in the field all year long, really, and the contenders have pretty much laid themselves bare, for the most part.

Naturally there will be some other considerations when the official list of qualifying tunes is revealed soon enough. That announcement dropped on December 15 last year, so I imagine within the week we'll know what's in the running.

For now, though, it's time to run a comb through what we're aware of and see what makes sense as formidable in the field. There are a number of tracks worth considering, so as we close up shop on Tech Support's category analysis this season, let's see what they are.

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<p>The cover of &quot;Clint&nbsp;Eastwood:&nbsp;35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros.&quot;</p>

The cover of "Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros."

Credit: Warner Home Video

Oscarweb Round-up: 35 years of Eastwood at Warner Bros.

Also: George Méliès turns 150 and Asa Butterfield talks Scorsese film school

Remember that exchange on "Entourage" a few years back? Something about Clint Eastwood being set up at Warner Bros. for decades. "We give him $90 million to make movies now," the studio head said. To which Turtle quipped, "I heard he uses 60 and pockets 30. That's why he only does one take." Like so much of the show, it was inside baseball, but it cracked me up. Anyway, the point being, Eastwood has been a fixture on that lot seemingly since the dawn of time. Every once in a while he's ventured out and done a film with another studio, but home base is Warner Bros. So it makes sense for a handsome boxed set of his work there to hit the market. Enter "Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros.," which would make a great Christmas gift for the Eastwood fanatic in your family. It has everything from "Where Eagles Dare" to "Invictus." [Amazon]

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<p>From Foster the People's &quot;Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)&quot;</p>

From Foster the People's "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)"

Watch: Foster the People go on a ride with Gabourey Sidibe in 'Don't Stop'

Video-making duo Daniels goes on another epic journey, post-Battles

Filmmaking duo Daniels made an epic journey of a man falling down an escalator, so undoubtedly they can take you on a ride when given access to an entire crash course.

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert were behind Foster the People's newest video "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)," featuring members of the band and Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe. A driver's exam goes terribly awry, then awesomely awry, then romantically awry, as police try to nab a thief who has a little help getting away.

The song that has launched a thousand car commercials now is successful in wrecking a couple vehicles in its wake. Pretty entertaining.

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<p>Damon Wayans Jr. and Eliza Coupe on last night's &quot;Happy Endings.&quot;</p>

Damon Wayans Jr. and Eliza Coupe on last night's "Happy Endings."

Credit: ABC

Wednesday night TV open thread

What's everybody watching/enjoying on Wednesdays?

I had some DVR issues last night, and am having some other time and technological issues this morning, so rather than make you wait forever for the usual Wednesday round-up of shows I half-saw before the DVR went rogue on me, I thought this would be as good a time as any to check in and get your take on the Wednesday night landscape.

I've been consistently watching and writing about "Up All Night" plus the 8:30 through 9:30 ABC Wednesday comedies as a bloc, but there's plenty of other interesting stuff on. Every other TV critic I know swears by "Revenge," and I can see how it could have turned out to be a good soap (though that's generally not to my taste). I'm done with "American Horror Story," but I'm sure some of you have things to say about it. "Law & Order: SVU" boss Warren Leight (and former "Lights Out" and "In Treatment" showrunner) was banging the drums for last night's episode with Treat Williams, and of course he's overseen a significant overhaul of the cast (including the great Andre Braugher in a recurring role as a defense lawyer). Fienberg's been exhaustively covering "Survivor" and "The X Factor" on his blog, and there are many dozens of other notable shows I haven't even mentioned yet.

So it's your turn this morning. What are you watching and/or liking on Wednesday nights? And if you just want to weigh in on the specific episodes that aired last night, go for it.

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<p>Alan Rickman's final turn as Prof. Servus Snape in &quot;Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2.&quot;</p>

Alan Rickman's final turn as Prof. Servus Snape in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Alan Rickman clarifies just how much J.K. Rowling told him about Snape's fate in the 'Harry Potter' series

Could the audience and critic's favorite crash the supporting actor party?

More than any awards season in recent memory, the past few months has shined the spotlight on the great actors and actresses who still haven't been honored with the Oscar spotlight.  Whether it's the embarrassing fact that Gary Oldman still hasn't been nominated once or that legendary actors such as Nick Nolte, Christopher Plummer, Glen Close, Julianne Moore, Ian McKellen or Sigourney Weaver are statue-less, the unrecognized club has found more vocal support than usual.  One member of that illustrious group who should be getting a bit more consideration for his work this year is none other than Alan Rickman.

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<p>Gary Oldman gives good 'little grey man' in the new film version of the famous John Le Carre novel 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'</p>

Gary Oldman gives good 'little grey man' in the new film version of the famous John Le Carre novel 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

Credit: Focus Features

Review: Gary Oldman stars in smart and subtle 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

Director of 'Let The Right One In' makes a stunning English-language debut

If you're a fan of spy fiction, you're pretty much covered this Christmas no matter which flavor you like.  For people who like the big and improbable and outrageous, with action to spare, there's Brad Bird's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," and if you prefer the more thoughtful, quiet, real-world approach, prepare to bask in the glory of Tomas Alfredson's new film version of the John le Carre classic, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

I've been addicted to spy stories, both fiction and non-fiction, since I was very young, and one of the things I remember as a formative event for that interest of mine was the broadcast of the TV version of "Tinker Tailor" that starred Alec Guinness.  I tuned in because of Alec Guinness, who I already knew and adored from "Star Wars" and "Bridge Over The River Kwai," and at first, I was disappointed because I thought all spy movies were supposed to be just like James Bond films.  As the series progressed, though, I got drawn into this world of quiet power plays, a world where the most dangerous men weren't the ones who looked dangerous, but the ones you barely noticed.  I read the le Carre novel, and then read the rest of the books featuring the same character, George Smiley, and that led me to read non-fiction about the history of MI6, and then that led me to reading about the American intelligence community, and a lifelong obsession took hold.

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<p>Thanks for the tears, Sprint!</p>
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Thanks for the tears, Sprint!

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: South Pacific' - 'Ticking Time Bomb'

Ozzy and Cochran Duel, while Brandon ponders messianic 'Survivor'
Pre-credit sequence. Cochran arrives on Redemption Island and a groggy Ozzy musters an unenthusiastic, "I'm sorry, buddy." Cochran is introspective. "The big move I made at the Merge in jumping over to Upolu, in retrospect may not have been the best move," Cochran says, feeling used and insulted. Ozzy tells Cochran that the way he can stick it to Upolu is by voting for him if he makes it to the end. "What if I demolish you at the Duel?" Cochran asks. Ozzy promises to vote for Cochran if, indeed, Cochran makes it to the end and reassures him that he has a chance of taking the Duel. "He really doesn't stand a chance," Ozzy dead-pans to us.
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<p>The &quot;America's Next Top Model: All-Stars&quot; Top 3</p>
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The "America's Next Top Model: All-Stars" Top 3

Credit: The CW

Recap: 'America's Next Top Model' All-Stars Finale - The winner is...

Which model would Tyra Banks crown as most fierce?
We’ve come to the finale of the very first "Top Model" All-Star edition. It’s down to Allison, she of the big googly-moogly Muppet eyes; Angelea, the bus-depot-sleeping, socially challenged Buffalo girl; and Lisa, who is, well, Lisa.
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