TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE: “A Charlie Brown
Christmas,” 8 p.m. ABC.
One of TV's greatest moments sprang
from inattention. The cartoon was being being rushed on a tight
deadline, to be ready for Christmas of 1965; there was no time for
the network to nit-pick.
So producers broke all the rules: They
had primitive animation … and children doing the voices … and a
spare, jazzy score … and even some scripture. The result, funny and
moving and more, is a masterpiece. Wrapping up the hour is the
seven-minute “Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa.”
TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE II: “Community,”
8 p.m., NBC.
For the second straight week,
“Community” has a Christmas episode that's fresh, fun and
imaginative. Last week was the musical “Glee” take-off; tonight
is a rerun of last year's show.
Abed (Danny Pudi) is a fan of Christmas
and its TV specials. Now he finds himself in a stop-motion animated
special. Back in the real world, his friends fret about his mental
state. It's another clever episode, proof that “Community” –
not on next-month's mid-season schedule – deserves to survive.
TONIGHT'S ALTERNATIVE: “Burn Notice”
season finale, 10 p.m., USA.
After years of being “burned” and
ignored by the CIA, Michael is finally trusted by the agency. He's
running a task force, with key people (Dean Cain, Kristanna Loken)
working for him.
The timing, however, is tricky: This is
when he should be helping Fiona escape Anson's blackmail grip. The
episode bring nobility and big explosions. It has an action-movie
feel, which makes sense: It was directed by Renny Harlin, who was big
in '90s action films, including “Die Hard 2” and “Cliffhanger.”
Other choices include:
– “Finding Nemo” (2003), 6:30
p.m., and “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), 9 p.m., ABC Family. Two
animated classics air back-to-back. “Nemo” is from Pixar;
“Beauty” proved that in the years before Pixar, Disney could
occasionally (not too often) make a great film.
– “The X Factor,” 8 p.m., Fox. We
find which of the final four contestants will be in the finale.
– “The Year With Katie Couric,”
9-11 p.m., ABC. Katie Couric's new contract ranges from a daily talk
show (syndicated to individual stations next fall) to prime-time
specials like this one. Tonight ranges from serious topics – “Arab
Spring” uprisings, the death of Osama bin Laden – to Kardashians.
– “The Office,” 9 p.m., NBC. In a
rerun, Pam is convinced that Jim finds her replacement attractive.
– “Whitney,” 9:30 p.m., NBC. This
rerun has Whitney and Chris compete to see who's more romantic.
– “The Mentalist,” 10 p.m., CBS.
In a rerun, Patrick Jane loses his memory and reverts to his old
life, conning people into thinking he has mental magic.
– “Impractical Jokers” debut, 10
and 10:30 p.m., TruTV. Four young guys give each other challenges,
then give the loser a punishment. Some moments are clever, others are
just crude … including the punishment of having someone pick up a
dog-dropping with his bare hands.
– “It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia,” 10 p.m., FX. This sometimes-excellent show ends its
season with a bleak episode. The second half of a
high-school-reunion tale, it makes the characters so cruel and
pathetic that there's no fun in watching them.