Top Gear
Britain’s irreverent infotainment series about all things automotive returns for a new season of stunts and car critiques. In the opener, the hosts assemble police cars out of old clunkers, then try them out in a chase; rave about the aero-dynamic Ferrari Scuderia; and demonstrate how driving style can affect fuel economy by comparing a Prius to a BMW M3. Monday, Dec. 8, at 8 p.m., BBC America

In Prison My Whole Life
Journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in prison since being convicted of the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia policeman who had made a traffic stop of Abu-Jamal’s younger brother. Filmmaker William Francome (whose birth on the day Abu-Jamal was arrested gives this film its title) speaks to Noam Chomsky, Mos Def, and other artists and intellectuals as he makes a case for Abu-Jamal’s retrial. Monday, Dec. 8, at 9 p.m., Sundance Channel

Independent Lens: Doc
Harold L. “Doc” Humes co-founded The Paris Review, wrote two widely lauded novels, and became a counterculture icon before mental illness marginalized him. In this documentary, his daughter tries to separate the truth about her colorful father from the fiction, plumbing the recollections of such contemporaries as George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, and Timothy Leary—as well as FBI files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 10 p.m., PBS; check local listings

The Whale That Exploded
In January 2004, a 60-foot sperm whale died after becoming stranded on a Taiwanese beach. As the 50-ton creature was being moved to a lab for study, it exploded with the force of several pounds of TNT, showering onlookers with its remains. Using both eyewitness accounts and forensic inves­tigations, National Geographic explains the bizarre incident. Saturday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m., National Geographic Channel

Chicano Rock! The Sounds of East Lost Angeles
From seminal Chicano musician Lalo Guerrero to “La Bamba” legend Ritchie Valens to the still-rocking Los Lobos, the Mexican-American community has supplied a vital (if underappreciated) component of American music. Edward James Olmos conducts a lively look at the 60-year history of the East Los Angeles music scene, replete with rare footage and first-person accounts. Sunday, Dec. 14, at 9 p.m., PBS; check local listings

Other highlights

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Laurence Fishburne joins the cast of the long-running forensic procedural. Thursday, Dec. 11, at 9 p.m., CBS

A Renaissance Christmas
Chicago’s Music of the Baroque Chorus and Brass performs baroque and Renaissance carols and chants. Thursday, Dec. 11, at 10 p.m., PBS; check local listings