Best TV shows to watch on Christmas Eve and Day

Ralphie meets Santa in the 1983 holiday classic

Ralphie meets Santa in the 1983 holiday classic "A Christmas Story," starring Peter Billingsley. (Credit: TBS)

Christmas is so pervasive on TV, it's hard to spot the celebrations you seek. We hope this guide makes your viewing selection easier for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


TOP PICKS Two of Christmas' most beloved movies unreel tonight -- James Stewart's what-if odyssey, "It's a Wonderful Life" (8-11 p.m., NBC/4), and the delirious retro family tale "A Christmas Story" (8 p.m. Tuesday-8 p.m. Wednesday, restarts every 2 hours, TBS). Turner Classic Movies honors the reason for the season all day Wednesday with "The Big Fisherman" (7:30 a.m.), "Ben-Hur" (10:30 a.m.), "The Robe" (2:30 p.m.), "King of Kings" (5 p.m.).

It's a Grinch doubleheader on ABC/7, where the animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Tuesday night at 8) leads into the Jim Carrey movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Tuesday night at 8:30). This year's Christmas special on "Doctor Who" (Wednesday night at 9, BBC America) is "The Time of the Doctor," in which star Matt Smith's time is up. There's also an encore of Smith's cosmic "A Christmas Carol" (Tuesday night at 7 and 11, BBC America).


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More holiday episodes: Festivus on "Seinfeld" (Tuesday night at 7, TBS), "The Six Million Dollar Man" (Tuesday night at 8, Wednesday noon, Cozi), "South Park" (late Tuesday night 2:30-4:30 a.m., Wednesday 2:22-4:55 p.m., Comedy Central), "The Twilight Zone" (Wednesday at 8 a.m., Syfy).


YULE LOG The fireplace roars Tuesday night on WLNY/10/55 (6-9, 10-midnight) and Hallmark Movie Chanel (9 p.m.-9 a.m.). On Christmas morning, try Antenna TV/11.2 (5-9 a.m.), WLNY/55 (6-9 a.m.), and WPIX/11 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.). Also check Video on Demand options.


MERRY MARATHONS Antenna TV (Tuesday 9 a.m.-Thursday morning 4 a.m.) has vintage gems like "Green Acres" (2:30 p.m.), "Bewitched" (3-5 p.m.), "WKRP in Cincinnati" (10-11 p.m.), "Barney Miller" (11 p.m.-midnight). Cozi TV (Tuesday 7 a.m.-midnight Wednesday night) includes "The Beverly Hillbillies" (8-9 a.m.), "Ozzie & Harriet" (11 a.m.-1 p.m., Wednesday 11 a.m.-noon), "Magnum, P.I." (Tuesday night at 9, Wednesday 3-5 p.m.).

Nick at Nite (Tuesday night at 8-Wednesday 6 a.m., same times tomorrow night) has current shows "Instant Mom" and "See Dad Run," plus "Full House," "Friends," "George Lopez." TV Land (Tuesday night at 8:30-Wednesday night 2 a.m.) spans from "The Andy Griffith Show" (8:30 p.m.) to "Everybody Loves Raymond" (9-11 p.m.), with "The King of Queens," "That '70s Show," "The Brady Bunch," "The Golden Girls," "The Cosby Show."

Cartoon Network (Tuesday 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Wednesday 6 a.m.- noon) has family cartoons, while Adult Swim (Tuesday night 10 p.m.-4 a.m. on Cartoon) goes for mature animation. TBS (today 6 a.m.-8 p.m.) mixes sitcoms (Tyler Perry) and animation ("American Dad"). FXX (Tuesday 3-6 p.m., Wednesday 7 a.m.-5 p.m.) has "Parks and Recreation," "How I Met Your Mother," "The Hughleys," "Arrested Development." TV One (Wednesday 2 p.m.-1 a.m.) has "The Jeffersons," "Martin" and "Eve."

Festive flicks airing noon Tuesday-noon Wednesday -- "Elf" (Starz), "Bad Santa" (Starz Comedy) and "Arthur Christmas" (Starz Kids).


FRESHER HOLIDAY EPISODES Current episodes are lined up on Fox/5 (Tuesday night 8-10): "Dads," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "New Girl," "The Mindy Project" and ABC/7 (Wednesday 8-10 p.m.): "The Middle," "Trophy Wife," "Modern Family," "Super Fun Night."


HOLIDAY VARIETY Wednesday night has the triple feature "Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Music Tale," "Michael Bublé's 3rd Annual Christmas Special" and "Blake Shelton's Not So Family Christmas" (8-11 p.m., NBC/4). Also: "Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir" (Tuesday night at 9 and 3 a.m., WNET/13), "Rod Stewart: Merry Christmas, Baby" (Tuesday night at 7, WLIW/21, midnight, WNET/13), "Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special" (Wednesday at 8 and 10 p.m., Comedy Central).


CHRISTMAS SERVICES Regis Philbin reads Bible stories in "A New York Christmas to Remember" (Tuesday night at 11:35, CBS/2) as Henson puppets enact the nativity from the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. Also: "Christmas Eve at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome" (Tuesday night at 11:35, NBC/4), "Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral" (Tuesday night at midnight, WPIX/11), "Christmas Eve Midnight Mass" (Tuesday night at midnight, WLNY/10/55), "Christmas Mass" (Wednesday at 8 a.m., WWOR/9; 9 a.m., WLNY/10/55).

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