November 25, 2012

Holiday TV Schedule

You're a good man, Charlie Brown, but with one TV critic, at least, Grinch rules.

By MARK WASHBURN / McClatchy Newspapers

People sometimes ask what my favorite Christmas special is. This always gets me in trouble.

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“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday on ABC.

Courtesy photos

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“Dreamworks Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury,” from the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise, airs on Dec. 17.

Additional Photos Below

One learns that folks look to Christmas shows with an eye for nostalgia. Like ancient tree ornaments constructed in pre-school and tugged out of the attic once a year, there is an emotional attachment that defies reason.

One year I shared that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the Rankin-Bass "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" were not my cup of eggnog. I've always found Charlie Brown's story to be vaguely depressing, and the misfit toys creeped me out as a kid (and still do). I was a sensitive child.

But I heard from readers that I was wrong, if not criminally naughty. I can tell you with authority that both classics are eagerly anticipated by the vast majority of the critical public, and it does no good to argue. If you share my taste, I would counsel you to keep it to yourself.

This season brings a deep covering of new Hallmark Channel holiday specials apparently engineered to the segment of the female audience that likes to weep a little before things get magically tied up in the end.

In the modern mill of holiday shows, cartoon characters with a national franchise tend to get drafted for specials. This year, Fox brings us a new one from the cinema stars of "How to Train Your Dragon" ("Dreamworks Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury," 8 p.m. Dec. 17), in which all the dragons mysteriously book it for the holiday, and their human pals go looking for the answer. Pooh, Shrek, SpongeBob and the "Ice Age" gang all make annual appearances this time of year in tales of Yule spirit.

My favorite? Mr. Grinch.

No, not the weird Jim Carrey theatrical version that bombed for good reason, but the old reliable "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" (8 p.m. Tuesday, ABC) released by Chuck Jones in 1965. It is sublimely narrated by the master of horror (to earlier generations, anyway; I doubt he could raise a goose pimple in the modern video-game crowd) Boris Karloff.

Dr. Seuss' tale is a delight for the ear and eye. It best describes the swelling of the spirit that the holiday is known to inspire. Grinch does his worst, then gets his comeuppance. And delightful it is when he gets to cut the roast beast.

THE ANNUAL RUN of holiday shows began last Thursday with Charlie Brown ("A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving") and will end with him celebrating a new year ("Happy New Year, Charlie Brown"). In between is a steady stream – some might say an onslaught – of shows pegged for every age and emotional outlook. Let's get started: 


"Love at the Christmas Table" (7 p.m., Lifetime): Christmas tradition brings a couple together after many years.

"Hitched for the Holidays" (8 p.m., Hallmark Channel): Boyfriend/girlfriend learn to celebrate Christmas/Hanukkah in a new Hallmark original. With Joey Lawrence, Emily Hampshire and Marilu Henner.


"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" (8 p.m., ABC): Classic animated Seuss tale narrated by Boris Karloff.

"Shrek the Halls" (8:30 p.m., ABC): The grumpy ogre's friends try to get him in the holiday mood.


"A Charlie Brown Christmas" (8 p.m., ABC): Peanuts classic about Charlie Brown and the Christmas pageant. With a seven-minute cartoon featuring elves Prep & Landing in "Operation Secret Santa," with Betty White voicing Mrs. Claus.

DEC. 1

"Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas" (7 a.m., ABC Family Channel): Kelsey Grammer narrates Christmas stories, including "The Gift of the Magi," with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

"A Dennis the Menace Christmas" (10:30 a.m., ABC Family Channel): Ghosts of Christmas help Dennis restore the spirit in Mr. Wilson.

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The Peanuts classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.

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“Scooby-Doo: Haunted Holidays” will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 on the Cartoon Network.


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