1) “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (shown here), 7:30 p.m., PBS. One of the best moments in TV history came because there wasn’t time to meddle. Coca-Cola ordered a holiday special on a tight deadline and there was no time for CBS to second-guess Charles Schulz. He promptly broke all the TV traditions; there was primitive animation, kids’ voices, a jazzy score and even a tad of Scripture. Officials considered junking it … then found that viewers loved this blend of wit and emotion. It’s also on Apple TV+.
2) “The Sound of Music” (1965), 7-11 p.m., ABC. Here’s another classic. The plot is weak, but the songs reflect Rodgers and Hammerstein at their best, from playful (“Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Maria”) to potent (“Climb Every Mountain,” “Sound of Music”). And while others were still casting movie stars and dubbing the songs, this went with Julie Andrews. She was nominated for best actress (a year after winning in “Mary Poppins”) and the film won five Oscars, including best picture.
3) “Christmas Takes Flight,” 8-10 p.m., CBS. After going nine years without a made-for-TV movie, CBS has its second straight Sunday one. This has Katie Lowes (“Scandal”) as a sweet-spirited pilot in her family’s airline, which gives kids an annual flight to see Santa. Then it’s sold to a company whose CEO is handsome and single and bottom-line-oriented and … well, you know the rest. The leads are a bit stiff, but the movie has a good heart and strong visuals.
4) More Christmas. “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” are back, at 6:10 and 6:45 p.m. on Freeform. They’ll also be Monday (4:40 and 5:15), then return on Dec. 24-25. Freeform follows them today with “Home Alone” films at 8 and 10:20. FX has all four “Toy Story” films at 4, 6, 8 and 10:07 p.m. There are new Christmas films at 8 p.m. on Hallmark and Lifetime and old ones on Turner Classic Movies – “Ben Hur” (1959) at 4 p.m. ET, “Going My Way” (1944) at 8.
5) “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” (2018), 8 p.m., Disney. Can “The Nutcracker” really be turned into an action-adventure film? The Disney people tried. They hired a great director (Lasse Hallstrom) and a cast that included the stars (Keira Knightly and Matthew MacFadyen) of the best “Pride and Prejudice”). It even has the luminous Misty Copeland dancing. Alas, it also has a poor story. Two directors did re-shoots and the film looks great, but feels flat.