Mutual failure created a great musical-theater duo


The recent history of live TV musicals has been quite splendid, actually. There's been only one disappointment (NBC's "Peter Pan") alongside some pretty good shows (NBC's "Sound of Music" and "Wiz") and two dazzling triumphs (Fox's "Grease" and NBC's "Hairspray"), Now it's Fox's turn again; "Christmas Story" goes live on Sunday, Dec. 17, It's part of a big rush for a hot young composing duo. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

There's something to
be said for failing at a good school.

It helps you find
your true field. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul can tell you that; “we
bonded over our failure,” Paul said.

Now they're hot
songwriters. Their “Christmas Story” will be live Sunday on Fox
.... three days before their “The Greatest Showman,” with Hugh
Jackman, reaches theaters. They've won a Tony for best musical (“Dear
Evan Hansen”) and an Oscar for best song (“City of Stars,” from
“La La Land”).

These composers,
both 32, reached the University of Michigan's prestigious
musical-theater program from opposite parts of the country – Pasek
from Philadelphia, Paul from St. Louis. Then things crashed.

“We quickly
learned that we were the two worst ballet dancers in our class,”
Pasek said.

They had dreamed of
being singer-dancer-actors. Pasek was cast once, as “man with
camera”; Paul said he was cast as a backup dancer, “and I
couldn't even dance.”

Instead, they began
writing songs together. (Paul, a pianist, leans toward the music,
Pasek toward the lyrics) and scored. In 2005, their “Edges” song
cycle debuted near the campus; two years later, they won the Jonathan Larson Award for young composers.

Broadway was tough;
their “Christmas Story” had a brief run in 2012, getting
nominations for best musical and its score. TV was more promising;
they wrote for “Smash,” “Johnny and the Sprites” and the
“Flash” musical episode.

Then “La La Land”
and “Dear Evan Hansen” soared. “All of a sudden, we were a lot
smarter in meetings,” Pasek jokes.

Apparently.
Hollywood hired them to do some of the songwriting for Jackman's
Barnum movie and for Disney's upcoming, live-action versions of
“Aladdin” and “Snow White.” And now their “Christmas Story”
-- with some new songs – has its TV moment.

-- “A Christmas
Story Live,” 7-10 p.m. Sunday, Fox.

-- Benj Pasek and
Justin Paul have added new songs to their 2012 musical (based on the
1983 movie), including an opener sung by Bebe Rexha.

-- In addition to
its young actor, it stars Matthew Broderick, Maya Rudolph, Jane
Krakowski, more.

 

Her career cruise has ranged from soaps to Trump to the Queen Mary


OK, I'll admit there are too many -- well, WAY too many -- Christmas movies. Still, the people behind them are interesting. Here's the story I sent to papers about Vivica Fox, who produced and stars in "Christmas Cruise," Dec. 16, 23 and 25 on Ion.

By Mike Hughes

In her big, busy
career, Vivica Fox keeps meeting interesting people.

There was Kristoff
St. John, the pioneering soap star. He worked with her on
“Generations,” a generation ago ... and on “Christmas Cruise,”
which debuts Saturday.

And there was Donald
Trump, her “Celebrity Apprentice” boss. Her verdict? “Charming.
Strikingly handsome .... As a businessman, he was very good; as a
president, not so good.”

She thrived on the
show (which was taped in 2014) , finishing third of 16, behind only
Geraldo Rivera and winner Leeza Gibbons. It was a great experience,
she said, despite Trump being distracted. “He kept saying he was
going to run for president. He was obsessed with it.”

One thing – maybe
the only thing – Trump and St. John share is height. That's
important to Fox, who used to be rejected for parts because she's
5-foot-7. Then she saw St. John; “I was glad to see this tall
(6-1), very good-looking man.”

A college kid, fresh
from Indianapolis, she had a little acting experience. (“They had
to keep telling me not to look at myself in the monitor.”) She'd
done some “Days of Our Lives” episodes and the pilot for “Living
Dolls” ... which promptly replaced her with another promising black
actress, Halle Berry.

Now she was in
“Generations,” the first soap to have a black family as an
integral part from the beginning. St. John played a rising
businessman; he then moved to “The Young and the Restless,” where
he's been for 25 years, winning a daytime Emmy and lots of
nominations.

Fox did “Y&R”
briefly, but she went on to big movie roles, starting with
“Independence Day” and “Soul Food” in 1996-97. She's had
regular or recurring roles in TV series, from “Arsenio” in 1997
to the current “Empire,” where she'll be back in the second half
of the season as Cookie's sister Candace.

And resisting all
the trends for actresses' careers to fade, she began creating her own
work. She produced a successful cable series (originally called
“1-800-MISSING”), a reality show (“Glam God”) and lots of
cable movies, including “The Wrong Child,” “The Wrong Student,”
“The Wrong Crush” and “The Wrong Man.” Apparently, a lot goes
wrong in Lifetime movies.

Fox also did last
year's “A Husband for Christmas” for the Ion network. “It did
really well, so they said, 'How about another one?'”

Sifting through
scripts, she found “Christmas Cruise,” which resists most holiday
cliches, including snow. “We even got to work on the Queen Mary
(now anchored in Long Beach), which was beautiful.”

And she got to cast
St. John. He plays the cruise director, who's all about fun; she
plays a passenger who keeps thinking of work.

For Fox, that's
perilously close to type-casting. “I'm a very Type-A personality,”
she admitted. That gives her at least one thing in common with her
old “Apprentice” boss.

-- “A Christmas
Cruise,” 9-11 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 16, Ion

-- Repeats on 1 a.m.
on the night of Dec. 23, then 9 p.m. Dec. 25

 

Yes, there's a whole extra layer of TV choices


(My TV columns are usually filled with the basics -- the big networks, cable, satellite, streaming networks. But there's an extra world -- via digital networks -- I rarely get into. Here's a guide I sent to papers, with some of those choices.)

By Mike Hughes

For TV viewers,
already stuffed with choices, there's another layer out there.

It's a world of Kirk
and Spock, Bert and Ernie, Archie and Edith and more. And it's sort
of free.

These are the
“digi-nets,” the ones that were designed for stations' digital
sub-channels. Some are also on cable or satellite; most – varying
by market – can be grabbed over-the-air, with a digital antenna.

The change began
when stations were required to switch to digital TV by mid-2009. They
grumbled about the expense, but received a bonus: A digital signal
only needs a fraction of the band-width; instead of sending one
signal, a station can send as many as four.

Some of the extra
spots have gone to networks that were originally designed to be
separate – Ion (formerly Pax Net), MyNet, CW. But many have gone to
new networks filled, with old TV.

That seems timely
now, as several of the networks load up on Christmas reruns; one
(GetTV) even has a new “Nashville Christmas” special. Here's an
alphabetical sampling; all times are ET:

-- Antenna TV,
www.antennatv.tv.

It has: Comedies.
The daytime ones are ultra-old – Burns & Allen, “Hazel,”
even “Father Knows Best.” By late afternoon, modern humor --
“Newhart,” “Barney Miller,” “Family Ties,” etc . -- takes
over. The Norman Lear classics -- “Sanford and Son,” “Good
Times,” “Jeffersons,” “All in the Family” -- take up
primetime (8-10 p.m.) and sometimes beyond, but Johnny Carson is at
alway at 10.

-- Bounce,
www.bouncetv.com.

It has: Black stars,
in movies and series. That includes “Cosby Show,” 5-6 p.m.;
Bernie Mac, 6-7 p.m.; and “Living Single,” 7-9 p.m.

Bonus: Unlike most
digi-networks, it has launched several original shows. A drama series
-- “Saints and Sinners,” set in a Baptist church – has already
had two eight-episode seasons, with a third on the way. There's an Ed
Gordon news show and occasional sports; Bounce tried some college
football and basketball, then switched to boxing.

-- GetTV,
www.get.tv.

It has: Lots of
dramas, including cowboys in the morning; “Ghost Whisperer,” 1-3
p.m., “7th Heaven,” 3-6 p.m.; and “In the Heat of
the Night,” 6-8 p.m.

Bonus: The network
is now in a month-long immersion of old Christmas specials and
movies. Those run from 8-11 p.m. and sometimes beyond. Dec. 7, for
instance, has Johnny Cash at 9 p.m. and Mac Davis at 10; Dec. 8 has
“Father Knows Best” and “Yes Virginia” movies at 8 and 10.

Bonus II: Moving
beyond reruns, there's the new “A Nashville Christmas,” with
Wynonna Judd, Emmylou Harris, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, gospel's
Ashley Cleveland and bluegrass' Dailey & Vincent. It debuts at 8
and 11 p.m. Dec. 7 and reruns often, including 10 p.m., Dec. 10; 10
p.m., Dec. 12; 9 p.m., Dec. 14; 10 p.m., Dec. 18; 8 p.m., Dec. 20; 8
p.m., Dec. 23; and 8 p.m., Dec. 25.

-- Heroes&Icons,
www.heroesandicons.com

It has: Dramas. The
daytime line-up of cowboys and cops steps aside for the Steven Bochco
giants -- “Hill Street Blues” at 3, “NYPD Blue” at 4 – and
then for impressive torsos: “Hulk” at 5, “Hercules” at 6,
“Xena” at 7. But the highlight is from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., with
back-to-back episodes of each o the five “Star Trek” series.

-- Justice Network,
www.justicenetwork.com.

It has: Lots of
true-life crime reruns, some from broadcast (“Rescue 911”) and
most from cable (“The First 48,” “Cold Case Files,” etc.).

-- Me TV,
www.metv.com.

It has: A mix. The
daytime has cowboys and “Matlock”-type mysteries, but they give
way to “Hawaii Five-0” at 6 p.m. and then a mismatched string of
comedies -- “MASH,” “Andy Griffith,” “Mama's Family,”
“Alf,” even “Hogan's Heroes.”

-- PBS Create,
www.pbs.org.

It has: Lots of
cooking, plus sewing, painting and crafts. Also, exercises from
8:30-9:30 a.m.

-- PBS Kids,
www.pbs.org.

It has:
Commercial-free kid shows all dat. Where else can you find hours of
“Sesame Street” and “Dinosaur Train” at 10:30 and 11:30 p.m.
and then “Daniel Tiger” after midnight?

Bonus: “Family
Movie Night” -- 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays – currently has
Christmas specials. This week (Dec. 8-10) has “The Cat in the Hat
Knows a Lot About Christmas” at 7 and 8:30 p.m., sandwiching a
“Dinosaur Train” at 8; coming are “Splash and Bubbles” and
“Peg and Cat,” Dec. 15-17; and “Ready, Jet, Go” and “Wild
Kratts,” Dec. 22-24.

-- PBS World,
www.pbs.org

It has: Some regular
elements, including Tavis Smiley at noon and 12:30 p.m., “NHK News”
from Japan at 5 p.m. and a “PBS Newshour” rerun at 10 p.m.. Also,
lots of specials and series – some of them also on the regular PBS
channel and some not.

Anne brings red-haired chaos to a quiet, distant world


The new "Anne of Green Gables" movie arrives on Thanksgiving night, bringing low-key family fun. Here's the story I sent to papers.

 

By Mike Hughes

Today's young
readers and viewers know all about adventure.

They know demons and
dragons, specters and sorcerers and vampires and such. Many of them,
however, haven't yet met the crises of Anne Shirley.

“My life's a
never-ending tragedy of grievous accidents, one after another,”
Anne says in the movie that debuts Thursday on PBS.

Such as? Well, she
burns toffee ... and burns one pie, then puts medicine in another.
Also, she inadvertently dyes her hair green.

Such disasters may
not impress the Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games crowd, but they're
still big in some places. “Everyone growing up in Canada knows
'Anne of Green Gables,'” said Ella Ballentine, 16, who stars in the
new film.

She's Canadian, as
are most of the people involved. The interloper (playing her foster
father) is Martin Sheen, 77, who's a fan of the country. “I know
no one is carrying a gun,” he said. “I have nothing they want or
need .... It is very much a culture that I grew up with in Dayton,
Ohio, in the '50s. (People have) a sense of compassion and humor.”

But this story goes
way beyond the relative serenity of modern Canada. “Anne” was
written in 1908 and set on Prince Edward Island. For a city kid from
Toronto, this might seem distant ... or not.

“I could really
relate to this from my great-great-grandmother” who lived to 102,
Ballentine said. “She grew up on a farm and went to a school very
much like Anne's.”

In the books, this
is a quiet world ... entered by an 11-year-old orphan with red hair
and wild notions. She complicates the lives of the elderly siblings
(Sheen and Sara Botsford) who took her in.

“Anne and I are
very similar,” Ballentine said. “I tend to be very talkative,
very energetic .... I definitely overthink things, the way she does.”

But her world is far
from Anne's. She grew up in Toronto, where her father works as a key
grip in the film industry. “My dad didn't want me to (act),” she
said. “He saw so many kids it was hard on.”

Except the kids who
have starred in Anne. One then kept the name “Anne Shirley” as
her own and acted for another decade, getting an Oscar nomination;
another (Megan Follows) has drawn raves on stage and on TV.
Ballentine has already drawn praise and nominations in the stage “Les
Miserables” and the R-rated movie “Monster.”

Making it easier to
become Anne was filming this in a historic village ... and getting a
dye job. “Having red hair helped me get into the character,” she
said.

Botsford understands
that. Born with red hair, she recently read a book on some of the
expectations redheads face. People guess they'll “be devilish,
feisty, hot-tempered, difficult, stubborn, mischief-makers .... If
you're told that enough when you're 3, 4 years old, it gives you an
awful lot of room.”

And Anne Shirley
needs that room. As this second movie begins, she's turning 13 and
desperate to be like other people. “From this moment, I'll be
completely and utterly sensible,” she vows.

Don't count on it.
She still disrupts the pies, the toffee and the lives in this
peaceful place.

-- “Anne of Green
Gables: The Good Stars,” 8 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 23), PBS.

-- Second film in a
trilogy. Last year's “Anne of Green Gables” reruns at 9:30.

Christmas TV shows? They're all the time, everywhere


OK, it's time for a mega-list: Here's a round-up I sent to papers, with the holiday shows between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a large line-up, but I've  broken it into categories; here's the story and list:

By Mike Hughes

If some people have
their way, our schedule for the next month is packed.

There's no time for
sledding or sleighing or roasting chestnuts at an open fire; we'll be
watching TV.

It will be Christmas
movies, Christmas cartoons, Christmas music. It will start
Thanksgiving morning with a parade and end Dec. 25 with a “Christmas
Story” marathon. We may need extra TV sets.

Yes, this trend
started long ago. The classic specials for the Grinch, Charlie Brown
and Rudolph are 51, 52 and 53 years old.

But it hit overdrive
when The Family Channel created “25 Days of Christmas” in 1996.
That channel kept changing identities – Fox Family, then ABC
Family, now Freeform – but the idea stayed and was widely copied
and expanded upon.

This year, Freeform
– stuffed with old Christmas movies and cartoons – has only one
new film, “Angry Angel.” By comparison, there are five new ones
on Ion, six on Lifetime, a deluge on Hallmark.

The main Hallmark
Channel has a dozen new ones, including (this Saturday, Nov. 25) the
latest under the prestigious “Hallmark Hall of Fame” banner. Its
sister channel (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries) has six more.

Then there are all
the reruns, which is where this list had to draw the line.

We've included
everything new that's been scheduled so far – there will be more,
plus changes – and the perennials that people might consider
can't-miss. But that's just the start, with lots of other reruns,
plus Christmas episodes of series. You'd better cancel those
sledding/sleighing/roasting plans.

Parades

-- “Thanksgiving
Day Parade,” 9 a.m. to noon, NBC and CBS. Both networks have bands
and balloons and more, concluding with Santa. The difference is
early, with special performances: NBC has the Broadway casts of
“Anastasia,” “Once on This Island,” “SpongeBob SquarePants”
and “Dear Evan Hansen”; CBS has the casts of “Waitress” and
“Come From Away,” plus country star Kelsea Ballerini.

-- “Hollywood
Christmas Parade,” 8-10 p.m. Dec. 15, CW.

“A Christmas
Story”

-- The Broadway
musical will be done live, from 7-11 p.m. Dec. 17 on Fox.

-- A week later, TBS
has its annual marathon of the delightful 1983 movie. That starts at
8 p.m. Dec. 24 and repeats every two hours, until 8 p.m. Dec. 25.

New cartoon

-- “Trolls
Holiday,” 8:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), NBC; also, 7 p.m. Dec. 24.
It's a musical with Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and Zooey
Deschanel.

The cartoon classics

-- “How the Grinch
Stole Christmas,” 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), NBC; also, 8 p.m. Dec.
25. It's a 30-minute masterpiece.

-- “Frosty the
Snowman,” 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), CBS. Its non-classic sequel is
at 8:30; they;re also 9 and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 9.

-- “A Charlie
Brown Christmas,” one of TV's greatest moments, 8 p.m. next
Thursday (Nov. 30) on ABC. The hour is rounded out with briefs in
“Charlie Brown Christmas Tales.”

-- “Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer,” 8-9 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 28), CBS; also, 8 p.m.
Dec. 9.

-- “Mickey's
Christmas Carol” is a half-hour gem; shown in theaters in 1983, it
has few laughs, but exquisite craftsmanship. It's on Freeform at 9
a.m. Dec. 2; 11 a.m. Dec. 14; 9:35 a.m. Dec. 16; 7 a.m. Dec. 20. On
the first two days, it's followed by the 90-minute “Mickey's Once
Upon a Christmas.”

More key cartoon
reruns

-- “Santa Claus is
Comin' to Town,” 8-9 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), ABC; then often on
Freeform.

-- “Robbie the
Reindeer: Hooves of Fire” and its sequel, 8 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday
(Nov. 25), CBS.

-- “The Story of
Santa Claus,” 9-10 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 25), CBS.

-- “Grandma Got
Run Over by a Reindeer,” 8-9 p.m. Dec. 1, CW; reruns at 8 p.m. Dec.
20 on CW, also, 7 a.m. Dec. 21 and 22 on Freeform.

-- “Shrek the
Halls” and “Toy Story That Time Forgot,” 8 and 8:30 p.m. Dec.
7, ABC.

-- “Disney's Prep
& Landing” is a slick, fast-paced look at Santa's advance team.
ABC has it at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 14, with its sequel at 8:30 p.m. Dec.
19; Freeform has them together, 2:30-3:30 p.m. Dec. 17 and 7:30-8:30
a.m. Dec. 25.

-- “I Want a Dog
For Christmas, Charlie Brown,” 8-9 p.m. Dec. 16, ABC.

-- “How Murray
Saved Christmas,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 24,, NBC. The 60-minute original
rippled with clever songs; this is a 30-minute version.

-- Also: PBS Kids
plans Christmas specials for its “family movie night” on Fridays
through Sundays (check local listings). That starts this weekend with
“Once Upon a Sesame Street Christmas.” Coming are “The
Gruffalo,” Dec. 1-3; “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About
Christmas,” Dec. 8-10; “Splash and Bubbles” and “Peg and
Cat,” Dec. 15-17; and “Ready, Jet, Go” and “Wild Kratts,”
Dec. 22-24.

-- And much more:
There are plenty of Christmas cartoon reruns, as evidenced on
Freeform. We counted 73 hours of animation, between 7 a.m. and
midnight on Dec. 1-25. On 16 of those days, there's 7 a.m.
animation.

 

Comedy

-- “Greatest
Holiday Commercials,” 8 p.m. Dec. 12, CW.

-- “I Love Lucy
Christmas Special,” 8-9 p.m. Dec. 22, CBS. This again has colorized
versions of two episodes. One (a Christmas episode) is repeated
annually; the other has Lucy in a fashion show with movie stars'
wives. It's followed at 9 by colorized “Dick Van Dyke Show”
episodes.

Mostly music

-- “CMA Country
Christmas,” 8-10 p.m. Monday (Nov. 27), ABC. Reba McEntire hosted
at theGrand Old Opry. Performers included Luke Bryan, Kelsea
Ballerini, Alan Jackson, Brett Eldredge, Trisha Yearwood, Chris
Young, Dustin Lynch and gospel's CeCe Winans, plus Lady Antebellum,
Little Big Town, CB30 and Dan and Shay.

-- “A Very
Pentatonix Christmas,” 10 p.m. Monday (Nov. 27), NBC, rerunning
Dec. 6. Jennifer Hudson links with the group; others range from
“Voice” winner Darci Lynne Farmer, 13, to Jay Leno, 67.

-- “Christmas in
Rockefeller Center,” 8 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 29), NBC. There's music
by Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Nettles, Brett Eldredge, Leslie Odom J.,
Pentatonix and The Tenors.

-- “Magical
Holiday Celebration ,” 9-11 p.m. Nov. 30, ABC. Nick Lachey hosts in
the Disney parks with Julianne Hough and Jesse Palmer. Performers
include Ciara, Darius Rucker, Jason Derulo and Lea Michele, plus
Hanson, Fitz and the Tantrums and In Real Life, which was assembled
from ABC's failed “Boy Band” show.

-- “Disney Channel
Holiday Celebation,” 8:30 p.m. Dec. 1 on (duh) the Disney Channel.
It has music by Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Asher Angel, Milo Manheim
and Meg Donnelly, plus a look at Disney World's “Toy Story Land”
opening next summer and at three philanthropic families.

-- “A Nashville
Christmas” is 8 p.m. ET Dec. 7 on GetTV, with Wynonna, Pam Tillis,
Emmylou Harris and Vincent & Dailey. It's also on the
Sony Digital Network and reruns on GetTV at 10 p.m. ET Dec. 10; 10
p.m. Dec. 12; 9 p.m. Dec. 14; 10 p.m. Dec. 18; 8 p.m. Dec. 20; 8 p.m.
Dec. 23; 8 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- “Gwen Stefani's
You Make It Feel Like Christmas,” 9 p.m. Dec. 12, NBC. It mixes
music (Blake Shelton, Ne-Yo) and comedy, with Chelsea Handler, Ken
Jeong and Seth MacFarlane.

-- “iHeart Radio
Jingle Ball,” 8-9:30 p.m. Dec. 14, rerunning 8-9:30 p.m. Dec. 25.
It includes Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Camila
Cabello, Fifth Harmony and the Chainsmokers.

-- “Taraji's White
Hot Holidays,” 8 p.m. Dec. 14, Fox. Taraji Henson has her “Empire”
co-star Jussie Smollett, plus Ciara, Chaka Khan, Fergie, Leslie Odom
Jr., Salt-N-Pepa and the Ying Yang Twins. There's also humor, with
Jay Pharoah, Titus Burgess and Niecy Nash.

-- “Showtime at
the Apollo: Christmas,” 9 p.m. Dec. 14, Fox. Steve Harvey hosts, in
an hour that has newcomers plus Snoop Dogg, Boyz II Men, Fifth
Harmony and DMS.

-- “Magical
Christmas Celebration,” 10 a.m. to noon, Dec. 25, ABC. Here are the
same people who perform in the Nov. 30 special, this time adding 98
degrees (Lachey's group) and Telly Leung and Arielle Jacobs from
Broadway's “Aladdin.”

Music memories

-- “Christmas With
the King Family” has its 50th-anniversary rerun, 10 p.m.
ET Nov. 29, getTV.

-- Each night, Dec.
17-24, AXS reruns a special at 8 p.m. ET, introduced by Nancy Wilson
of Heart. They're led by Rod Stewart, Dec. 17 (followed by the
Trans-Siberian Orchestra at 9 p.m.); Faith Hill, Dec. 18; Jessica
Simpson, Dec. 19; Michael McDonald, Dec. 20; Jennifer Nettles, Dec.
21; Chris Isaak, Dec. 22.; the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Dec. 23; and
Twisted Sister (really), Dec. 24. Then they'll all rerun, starting at
11 a.m. Dec. 25.

-- Also, GetTV loads
up on past Christmas specials. They're led by Johnny Cash (10 p.m. ET
today, Nov. 23, 9 p.m. Dec. 7, 10 p.m. Dec. 17, 9 and 10 p.m. Dec.
23); Sonny & Cher (10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m. Dec. 21);
Vanessa Williams (8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m. Dec. 21); Andy
Williams (8 p.m. Nov. 30); Cher (10 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 p.m. Dec. 21);
Perry Como (8 p.m. Dec. 5); Mac Davis (10 p.m. Dec. 7, 10 p.m. Dec.
24).

Some variety

-- “Masters of
Illusion: Christmas Magic,” 8 p.m. Dec . 1, CW.

-- “Great
Christmas Lights Fight,” 8 and 9 p.m., Dec. 4, 11 and 18, ABC. We
meet families that have awesome holiday displays; each hour, the
hosts (Carter Oosterhouse and Taniya Nayak) pick a winner.

-- Each weekday
morning, Dec. 11-15, Ovation will have a different international
“Nutcracker” ballet. That's at 7 a.m. ET; viewers will pick a
favorite, to rerun at 7 a.m. Dec. 18.

-- “The Great
American Baking Show” -- 9-11 p.m. Dec. 7, 14 and 21 on ABC –
returns, putting some of its focus on holiday goodies.

-- “Decorating
Disney,” 8 p.m. Dec. 18, Freeform, views work at the parks and
resorts. Also: 12:20 p.m. Dec. 19; 9:30 a.m. Dec. 20; 10:05 a.m. Dec.
22.

-- “Greatest
Christmas Movies of All Time,” 9 p.m. Dec. 20, CW; Turner Classic
Movies covers similar ground with “A Night at the Movies: Merry
Christmas” (2011), 6:45 p.m. ET Dec. 11 and 8:45 a.m. Dec. 17.

-- “Christmas
Cribs,” 10 p.m. Dec. 20, ABC, is a “20/20” special, visiting
celebrities' homes.

The movie classics

-- “It's a
Wonderful Life,” 8-11 p.m. Dec. 24, NBC.

-- “Mary Poppins”
(1964), 8-11 p.m. Dec. 9, ABC.

-- “Frozen”
(2013), 8-10 p.m. Dec. 19, ABC; then on Freeform, at 8:15 p.m. Dec.
17 and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 18.

-- “The Sound of
Music” (1965), 7-11 p.m. Dec. 17, ABC.

-- Judy Garland's
“Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944), 6 p.m. ET Dec. 24, Turner Classic
Movies; surrounded by “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945) at 4 p.m.
and “The Bishop's Wife” (1947) at 8.

“Miracle on 34th
Street”

-- This film (with a
9-year-old Natalie Wood) turned 70 this year. It has a marathon Dec.
10 on Sundance (3, 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m.) and Dec. 16 on AMC (8
and 10:15 p.m.

-- Also, AMC has it
at 8 a.m. Dec. 23 and 12:30 p.m. Dec. 24; Sundance has it at 8:30
a.m. and 4 p.m. Dec. 25. Those three days are part of Christmas movie
marathons.

-- The 1994 remake –
brighter and briefer, with Richard Attenborough – is 1 p.m. Dec. 23
and 5 a.m. Dec. 24 on AMC.

“A Christmas
Carol”

-- The Jim Carrey
version (2008) ia 11:25 p.m. Dec. 1 on Freeform. Also: 1:05 p.m. Dec.
2; 4:45 p.m. Dec. 7; 2:45 p.m. Dec. 8; 2:15 p.m. Dec. 10; 11:30 a.m.
Dec. 11; 12:10 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- A blistering
Patrick Stewart version (1999) is 8 p.m. ET Dec. 3 on GetTV. Also, 8
p.m. Dec. 12; 8 p.m. Dec. 22.

-- Older versions
are on Turner Classic Movies. They're from 1951 (Alistair Cook) at 8
p.m. ET Dec. 8; 1935 (Seymour Hicks) at 9:45 p.m. Dec. 8; and 1938
(Reginald Owen), at 12:15 p.m. Dec. 16.

-- A lush 1984
version with George C. Scott airs at 10 p.m. Dec. 23 and 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 24 on AMC, then at 10:45 a.m. and 8:15 p.m. Dec. 25 on Sundance.

-- Then there's
“Scrooged,” the 1988 Bill Murray take-off. AMC has it at 8 p.m.
and 12:30 a.m. Dec. 23 and at 10 p.m. Dec. 24; Sundance has it at
6:15 and 10:45 p.m. Dec. 25.

More key movies

There are plenty of
ones that started out in movie theaters: some of the highlights:

-- “Love Actually”
(2003), noon Friday (Nov. 24), CMT.

-- Tim Burton's
animated “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” 2 p.m. Dec. 1,
Freeform. Also: 3:10 p.m. Dec. 2; 2:15 p.m. Dec . 3; 1 p.m. Dec. 7;
11 a.m. Dec. 8; 2:20 p.m. Dec. 12; 12:10 p.m. Dec. 13; 1:05 p.m. Dec.
16; 10:40 a.m. Dec. 17; 11:15 a.m. Dec. 23; 11 a.m. Dec. 25.

-- Chevy Chase's
“Christmas Vacation” (1989), 11:30 a.m. and 8:50 p.m. today (Nov.
23) on Freeform. Also, 4:15 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26); 7:05 p.m. Dec. 1;
4:50 p.m. Dec. 2' 8:50 p.m. Dec. 4; 6:45 p.m. Dec. 5; 2:35 pm. Dec.
7' 10:45 p.m. Dec. 9; 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10; 12:10 p.m. Dec. 12; 7:30
a.m. Dec. 13; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 14; 7:10 p.m. Dec. 15; 10:45 p.m. Dec.
17; 10:40 a.m. Dec. 18; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 19; 6:40 p.m. Dec. 20; 11:05
a.m. Dec. 22; 7 a.m. and 7:10 p.m. Dec. 23; 4:25 p.m. Dec. 24; 2:35
and 8:50 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- Will Ferrell's
“Elf” (2003), 6:40 p.m. today (Nov. 23), Freeform. Also, 9:15
p.m. Dec. 1; 7 p.m. Dec. 2; 6::40 p.m. Dec. 4; 4:35 p.m. Dec. 5; 8:50
p.m. Dec. 6; 6:50 p.m. Dec. 7; 8:40 p.m. Dec. 10; 5:50 p.m. Dec. 11;
4:30 p.m. Dec. 13; 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14; 9:20 p.m. Dec. 15; 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 16; 9 p.m. Dec. 18; 4:30 p.m. Dec. 19; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 20; 6:40
p.m. Dec. 21; 11:50 p.m. Dec. 22; 12:50 p.m. Dec. 23; 9:15 p.m. Dec.
24; 6:45 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- Jim Carrey's “How
the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000), 9:10 p.m. Dec. 2, Freeform.
Also: 6:05 p.m. Dec. 3; 9:15 p.m. Dec. 16; 5:35 p.m. Dec. 17; 9:20
p.m. Dec. 23; 6:5 p.m. Dec. 24.

-- Tom Hanks' “Polar
Express” has a so-so story, but splendid visuals. Freeform has it
at 11:50 p.m. Dec. 2; 3:55 p.m. Dec. 3; 8:55 p.m. Dec. 5; 6:45 p.m.
Dec. 6; 9 p.m. Dec. 11; 6:40 p.m. Dec. 12; 2:45 p.m. Dec. 16; 12:20
p.m. Dec. 17; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 21; 5:25 p.m. Dec. 22; 2:15 p.m. Dec.
24; 12:35 p.m. Dec. 25.

-- Tim Allen's “The
Santa Clause” (1994) is 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4 on Freeform. Also: 6:25
p.m. Dec. 9; 4:20 p.m. Dec. 10; 8:50 p.m. Dec. 12; 6:40 p.m. Dec. 13;
4:55 p.m. Dec. 16; 3:30 p.m. Dec. 17; 3 p.m. Dec. 23; 11:25 p.m. Dec.
24; 4:45 p.m. Dec. 25. In several cases, the lesser “Santa Clause
3” follows.

-- Bing Crosby's
“White Christmas” (1954) is on AMC at 10:15 a.m. Dec. 23 and 2:45
p.m. Dec. 24, then it's on Sundance Dec. 25, at 1:15 p.m. and 12:45
a.m.

New movies

-- “The Mistletoe
Inn,” 8 p.m. today (Nov. 23), Hallmark; Alicia Witt stars.

-- “Finding
Santa,” 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24), Hallmark; Jodie Sweetin.

-- “The Christmas
Train,” 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 25), Hallmark. This is under the
“Hallmark Hall of Fame” banner, a tradition that spans 66 years
and 81 Emmys. Desperate to be home for Christmas, Dermot Mulroney is
aboard with Danny Glover, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Joan Cusack.

-- “Wrapped Up in
Christmas,” 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 25), Lifetime; Tatyana Ali. (Each
of the Lifetime films is followed by a Chistmas “mini-movie” at
10.)

-- “A Very Merry
Toy Store,” 8 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), Lifetime; Mario Lopez and
Melissa Joan Hart.

-- “Switched for
Christmas,” 8 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), Hallmark; Candace Cameron
Bure.

-- “A Joyous
Christmas,” 9 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries.

-- “Snowmance,”
9 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), Ion. Also, 11 a.m. Dec. 9, 5 p.m. Dec. 23.

-- “Angry Angel,”
9 p.m. Monday (Nov. 27), Freeform. Also: 4:40 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 28);
2:30 p.m. Dec. 5; noon Dec. 6; 3 p.m. Dec. 15; 10:30 a.m. Dec. 20.
Brenda Song plays a young woman who has suddenly become an angel; she
can't get it right, especially when a romantic triangle intervenes.

-- “Four
Christmases and a Wedding,” 8 p.m. Dec. 2, Lifetime.

-- “Christmas in
Angel Falls,” 9 p.m. Dec. 2, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries;
Rachel Boston stars.

-- “My Christmas
Prince,” 8 p.m. Dec. 3, Lifetime.

-- “Miss Me This
Christmas (Dec. 3) and “You Can't Fight Christmas” (Dec. 10),
both 7 p.m., TV One. They're romances set in a small-town hotel. The
first stars Erica Ash, the second has Brely Evans, with supporting
roles for Persia White and Marla Gibbs. They rerun in a Dec. 24-25
movie marathon.

-- “The Magical
Christmas Ornaments,” 9 p.m. Dec. 3, Hallmark Movies &
Mysteries.

-- “The Spruce &
The Pines,” 9 p.m. Dec. 3, Ion. Also, 11 a.m. Dec. 24.

-- “Christmas in
Mississippi,” 8 p.m. Dec. 9, Lifetime; Jana Kramer and Wes Brown.

-- “The Christmas
Cottage,” 9 p.m. Dec. 9, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

-- “Runawaty
Christmas Bride,” 9 p.m. Dec. 9, Ion. Also, 1 p.m. Dec. 17.

-- “A Royal
Christmas,” 9 p.m. Dec. 10, Ion. Also, 3 p.m. Dec. 23.

-- “Snowed-in
Christmas,” 8 p.m. Dec. 16, Lifetime.

-- “A Christmas
Cruise,” 9 p.m. Dec. 16, Ion.

-- Also: In
December, Hallmark has a new movie at 8 p.m. each Saturday and
Sunday, most with a female star who's fairly familiar: Dec. 2,
“Christmas in Evergreen,” Ashley Williams; Dec. 3, “Christmas
at Holly Lodge.” Alison Sweeney; Dec. 9, “Christmas Encore,”
Maggie Lawson; Dec. 10, “The Christmas Shop,” Ellen Hollman; Dec.
16, “Father Christmas” (with a male lead, Jesse Metcalfe); Dec.
17, “Christmas Connection,” Brooke Burns; Dec. 23, “Christmas
Getaway,” Bridget Regan. Skipping Dec. 24, there's a movie-length
“When Calls the Heart” on Christmas Day.

-- And more:
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries also has tentatively scheduled new
films for 9 p.m. Dec. 10 and 16.

-- And still more:
On Christmas Day, Ion will rerun its five new films from 3 p.m. to 1
a.m.

TV-movie reruns

There are plenty of
them on cable, but we would single out a few:

-- “Once Upon a
Christmas” (2000) and “Twice Upon a Christmas” (2001), 4 and 6
p.m. Sunday (Nov. 26), GetTV.

-- “Snow”
(2004), midnight next Thursday night (Nov. 30), Freeform.

-- “Eloise at
Christmastime” (2003), 7:30 a.m. Dec. 1, Freeform. Also, 2:05 p.m.
Dec. 6; 12:40 p.m. Dec. 8; 9:05 a.m. Dec. 9; 7:30 a.m. Dec. 12; 11
a.m. Dec. 15; 12:30 p.m. Dec. 20; 10:35 a.m. Dec. 21.

-- “Snowglobe”
(2007), 7:30 a.m. Dec. 6, Freeform.