Workers have installed nearly 200 glittering Waterford crystal triangles on Times Square’s New Year’s Eve ball in preparation for a pandemic-limited celebration. (Dec. 28)

AP Domestic

If ever there were a year to “be forgot and never brought to mind,” this one might be it. Celebrations ushering in 2021 will look different – Times Square will be closed to the public, for example – but there are still plenty of star-studded specials and TV programming to bring in the New Year.

Ryan Seacrest, who returns to host “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” (ABC, 8 p.m. EST/PST) for his 16th time, predicts Thursday’s bash will stand out as one of the most unforgettable of his tenure, along with the first year Clark invited Seacrest to co-host.

“Never have we all wanted to age so fast or get through a year and speed up time than 2020,” Seacrest says. “Just the notion that we have the possibility of something so much better in this new year, I think, will not soon be forgotten in my memories.” 

Machine Gun Kelly and Cyndi Lauper will be among the musical guests for ABC’s bash, along with headliner Jennifer Lopez. Seacrest says the “Hustlers” star really wanted to be present to honor the families of first responders, frontline and essential workers, who will gather in Times Square for the night’s events. 

“There will be, clearly, a lot of respect in terms of the reflection of what has happened this year,” Seacrest says of the program’s tone. “However, our priority is to bring a fun party into people’s living rooms. So many of us have been at home, will be at home more than ever on New Year’s Eve, and we want to create fun.”

Still, the “Rockin’ Eve” will have moments of sincerity. 

“I know we’re always standing there and talking on the air about things getting better and peace and unity and happiness and hopefulness, but I don’t think those words have carried as much weight ever before,” Seacrest says.

Read on to find your New Year’s plans, reservations not required.

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New Year’s Eve celebrations

Ryan Seacrest believes this New Year’s Eve will be one of his most memorable. (Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/ABC)

“Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2021” will rage until 2 a.m. and feature performances by Miley Cyrus, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Maluma and more. Lucy Hale, Billy Porter and Ciara join Seacrest as co-hosts for the festivities, but those aren’t the only notable faces participating. The next residents of the White House, President-elect Joe Biden and future first lady Jill Biden, will drop by for their last interview of the year.

Former “Community” co-stars Ken Jeong and Joel McHale will partner to host “Fox’s New Year’s Eve Toast & Roast 2021,” airing in two parts (Part 1: 8-10 p.m. EST/PST; Part 2: 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EST/PST). Gloria Estefan will perform, as will LeAnn Rimes, the recently announced winner of “The Masked Singer,” along with her fellow competitor, Dr. Elvis.

NBC kicks off its celebrations with “New Year’s Eve: Escape From 2020” (8 p.m. EST/PST), hosted by Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager. The special examines the year’s “most entertaining and talked-about videos and trends, as well as the year’s most extraordinary and inspirational moments” and will include interviews with Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Al Roker and others. It’ll be followed by “NBC’s New Year’s Eve 2021” (10-11 p.m. EST/PST, continuing 11:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EST/PST). Host Carson Daly will be joined by comedian Amber Ruffin and Stephen “tWitch” Boss of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Musical guests include Chloe x Halle, Jason Derulo, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani.

Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen will be back with their on-air antics as co-hosts of “CNN’s New Year’s Eve Celebration” (8 p.m. EST/ 5 p.m. PST). The real-life besties will turn their hosting duties over to the news network’s Brooke Baldwin and Don Lemon shortly after the ball drops (12:30 a.m. EST/9:30 p.m. PST). Celebrities appearing include John Mayer, Josh Groban and one of the year’s most talked-about women, “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin.

Andy Cohen, left, and Anderson Cooper return to host CNN’s New Year’s Eve festivities. (Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

PBS is ringing in the New Year with “United in Song: Celebrating the Resilience of America” (8 p.m. EST/PST), featuring Patti LaBelle, Juanes, Audra McDonald and more.

If it’s a virtual celebration you’re after, head over to YouTube Originals for “Hello 2021: Americas” (10:30 p.m. EST/7:30 p.m. PST) hosted by actress Storm Reid and vlogger Juanpa Zurita. Matthew McConaughey, Demi Lovato and RuPaul are among the famous faces who will drop by. Dua Lipa, J Balvin and Kane Brown will perform.

This year, it turns out you can go big and stay home, by watching “Go-Big Show” Presents Snoop’s Virtual New Year’s Eve Special (11 p.m. EST/8 PST). The rapper and judge of TBS’ upcoming “Go-Big Show” (debuts Jan. 7) will be joined by his fellow judges Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Nettles and Cody Rhodes and the competition show’s host Bert Kreischer. Viewers will be treated to a tour of Snoop’s digs, which include a look at his basketball court, recording studio and casino. In order to party with the D-O-double G, attendees must be at least 21 and RSVP for the event at 

If you’d like to continue merrily on your NYE stream, check out Times Square New Year’s Eve, hosted by Jonathan Bennett. Gloria Gaynor is among the performers. Tune in for the ascension of the ball at 6 p.m. EST/ 3 PST on 

Tired of 2020? Consider ringing in the new year before midnight with ‘Noon Year’s Eve.’

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New Year’s marathons and more

If countdowns leave you cold, there are other options to occupy you during your sheltering-in-place soirée. “Death to 2020,” a mockumentary reflecting on the past year from the creators of “Black Mirror,” is available for streaming (Netflix). Phoebe Robinson hosts “Yearly Departed” (Amazon Prime), in which comedians bid the year adieu. 

If you’d like to back away from year-end viewing entirely, you can binge the final season of the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” which arrives on Netflix Thursday.

The final season of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” arrives on Netflix Thursday. (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)

There are also several marathons to keep you entertained (all times EST/PST unless noted otherwise): 

“Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” (Food Network, begins 8 a.m. on New Year’s Eve and continues New Year’s Day)

“Doctor Who” (BBC America, the ongoing marathon continues New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) 

“Las Vegas” (E!, begins 1 p.m. Thursday and goes until Monday)

“Love It or List It” HGTV (begins at 1 p.m.)

Natural history programs (Discovery Channel, begins at 9 a.m.), including “North America,” “Serengeti” and “Expedition Unknown.”

“The Real Housewives of Dallas” (Bravo, begins at 6 a.m.): Concludes with the Season 5 premiere at 8 p.m.

“The Simpsons” (FXX, begins Thursday at 1 p.m. and continues New Year’s Day): Includes an airing of “The Simpsons Movie.”

“South Park” (Comedy Central, begins at 9 a.m.): Includes the movie “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.” 

“The Twilight Zone” (SyFy, begins at 6 a.m. and continues New Year’s Day)

The “Twilight” Saga films (VH1, begins at 11 a.m.)

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New Year’s Day viewing

This year’s Rose Parade has been canceled in light of the pandemic and replaced with the “The Rose Parade’s New Year Celebration presented by Honda” (11 a.m. EST/8 a.m. PST on ABC, Hallmark and NBC), which will feature musical performances and star appearances.

In addition, all episodes of “Karate Kid” spinoff “Cobra Kai” will be available on Netflix, and Season 13 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” premieres (VH1, 8 p.m.). Other marathons to help you put off those resolutions include:

‘Cobra Kai’ new release date is New Year’s gift: Check out our Season 3 clip

Season 3 of “Cobra Kai,” starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, debuts Friday. (Photo: CURTIS BONDS BAKER/NETFLIX)

“Gold Rush” (Discovery Channel, begins at 9 a.m.) The marathon will feature a new episode of “Gold Rush” and the debut of a new series, “Mystery at Blind Frog Ranch.” 

“The Office” (Comedy Central, begins at 9 a.m. and continues through Sunday)

Marvel movie marathon (TNT, begins at noon)

“Rocky” movies (AMC, begins at 9:30 a.m.)


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