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State of the Union: A programming guide

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NCIS: LA, Parenthood, New Girl, Raising Hope, and a number of other shows are all on the bench this week as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. ET. Luckily, what stands to go down is entertainment in its own right.

With a re-election bid in the balance, critics are ready to hear Obama answer on a number of issues that have made decidedly less progress than anticipated in the past year, and several more issues he plans to tackle in 2012. The contents of the President’s hour-long speech will no doubt dominate the headlines tomorrow. So if you want to be in the know, we have a guide for the offerings on all the major networks for one of politics’ biggest nights — one of the rare nights on TV you’re likely not to see Ryan Seacrest’s talking head. (And God bless America for that.) Read on for the lineup — and if you’re someone who, say, just reads the recaps, there’s a little in here for you, too.

8 PM HOUR

MSNBC and CNN all begin their special coverage. Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper will helm the latter, while Rachel Maddow will steer the ship on MSNBC.

Fox News will slip into coverage around 8:55 p.m. with Bret Baier, according to MediaBistro.

9 PM HOUR

Pick a channel. Any channel. Scott Pelley’s on CBS, Brian Williams is on NBC, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos are on ABC, and Shepard Smith is on Fox.

But if you’re really, really averse to watching the president speak (“Not to worry. Twitter will tell me how to feel about it all!” — horrible person) or don’t allow yourself deep thought after 8 p.m., there’s a new episode of Jane By Design on ABC Family (for tweens), Dance Moms on Lifetime (for people who want to see moms scarier than theirs), Dirty Jobs on Discovery (for people who need a little reminder that it can always get worse), and Joan and Melissa: John Knows Best on WE (for fans of puppetry).

10 PM HOUR

Post-show begins, following the Republican response, with Cooper anchoring CNN’s analysis starting at 10:30 p.m. until midnight. Greta Van Susteren will host a special half-hour On the Record, with Sean Hannity taking over at 11 p.m.

ABC, CBS, and FOX conclude their coverage at 10:30 (Fox will go into local news, while ABC and CBS will air repeats of Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory, respectively), and NBC’s coverage ends at 11.

In unrelated programming, TLC will have the one-hour 3rd season finale of Extreme Couponing: All Stars, the finale of Flashpoint is on ION, the second episode of Justified is on FX (read about the premiere here), and Southland is on TNT.

Where will you be tonight, readers?