Season for TV Christmas specials

Hal Boedeker
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

Christmastime and the new year send television into overdrive with specials and holiday-themed episodes. What stands out? Here's a look at noteworthy programs and a countdown to the most special of all specials:

12. "House," 8 p.m. Dec. 9 on Fox: Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) is a modern Scrooge. But in this episode, Fox says, "House gives a clinic patient an unbelievable holiday gift and keeps the team guessing about who may have sent him a particularly thoughtful Christmas gift." Executive producer Katie Jacobs promises, "The Christmas episode really has a very satisfying surprise for Cuddy and House in a personal kind of way." The episode is titled "Joy to the World."

11. "Greatest Holiday Moments: Songs of the Season Countdown," 8 p.m. Dec. 12 on NBC: This special looks at beloved renditions. The selections range from Gene Autry's "Frosty the Snowman" and Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" to John Lennon's "Happy Christmas" and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

10. "Little Spirit: Christmas in New York," 8 p.m. Dec. 10 on NBC: Duncan Sheik, composer of Spring Awakening, supplies the original songs in this new special. NBC says the special's look mixes 3-D technology and traditional painting. The voices include Danny DeVito, Lucy Liu, Freddy Rodriguez, Brenda Song and NBC anchor Brian Williams.

9. "Christmas in Washington," 8 p.m. Dec. 17 on TNT: Kristin Chenoweth of Pushing Daisies supplies Broadway pizazz. Julianne Hough of Dancing With the Stars brings the down-home country feel. Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw host this special, which will feature Darius Rucker, Casting Crowns and Straight No Chaser. The president and first lady usually attend the concert, which benefits the National Children's Medical Center.

8. "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa," 8 p.m. Dec. 17 on NBC: In this new special, Kermit and his buddies race to get three letters to Mr. Claus. This new special features songs by Paul Williams. The many guest stars include Uma Thurman, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Krakowski, Jesse L. Martin, Steve Schirripa and Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico.

7. "Christmas in Rockefeller Center," 8 p.m. Wednesday on NBC: Al Roker hosts. The performers will include Tony Bennett, Faith Hill, Beyonce, Jonas Brothers, Harry Connick Jr., "American Idol" victor David Cook, Rosie O'Donnell and Rascal Flatts. The high point is usually the Christmas tree lighting.

6. "Shrek the Halls," 8 p.m. Monday on ABC: Have you seen a gingerbread man throw up? A cooked turkey dance in a parade? Clever sight gags abound in this tart special. The story: Shrek is uptight. Villagers fret over preparations. A party falls apart. The best-laid holiday plans can go horribly wrong. ABC will repeat the program at 8 p.m. Dec. 22.

5. "Kennedy Center Honors," 9 p.m. Dec. 30 on CBS: TV's classiest awards show will tape Dec. 7. Caroline Kennedy serves as host. The deserving honorees are Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who, country great George Jones, actor Morgan Freeman, choreographer Twyla Tharp and singer-actress-director Barbra Streisand. You're going to hear "People" and "The Way We Were."

4. "A Christmas Story," Dec. 24 on TBS: A 24-hour marathon begins at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Jean Shepherd narrates this 1983 movie based on his memoir. It's the story of a boy (Peter Billingsley), a Red Ryder BB gun and some priceless comedy. Let us all give thanks for Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon, who play the parents.

3. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," 8 p.m. Wednesday on CBS: Best reason to watch? The glorious voice of Burl Ives. The "Animagic" special, a favorite since 1964, has been digitally remastered. But the story hasn't changed. Rudolph and his pals still scurry to save Christmas.

2. "It's a Wonderful Life," 8 p.m. Dec. 13 on NBC: George Bailey (James Stewart) learns what life in Bedford Falls would have been like if he had never lived. Frank Capra directed this 1946 fantasy, which features vital contributions from Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers. NBC will repeat the movie at 8 p.m. Dec. 24.

1. "A Charlie Brown Christmas," 8 p.m. Dec. 8 on ABC: This beloved special, which first aired in 1965, has been digitally remastered. The program remains a classic for its beguiling simplicity and the message imparted by Linus. ABC will repeat the special at 8 p.m. Dec. 16.





'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.