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Christmas TV: What to watch this holiday season

Anna Kendrick plays the daughter of Santa, who

Anna Kendrick plays the daughter of Santa, who steps in when her brother, played by Bill Hader, can't handle the job.  Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Ready for some Christmas joy? And maybe a few yule jerks?

Because Scrooge is back. And so is the Grinch. Plus the usual seasonal suspects — Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Macaulay Culkin, James Stewart, Homer and Bart, Chevy Chase and Will Ferrell.

TV's annual month of merriment heats up this week, with so many holiday happenings, we can't possibly highlight them all. But we'll cover enough biggies to help you start scheduling your seasonal viewing.

More than ever, big network perennials like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "It's a Wonderful Life" will get multiple encores on their channels' corporate cousins via cable/satellite or streaming. As the TV landscape continues to shift by the day, check on-screen menus to figure out what's where.

Also check the channels that always go Christmas crazy — Hallmark, Lifetime, Freeform, ion, UP. With their 24/7 holiday lineups, channel-specific websites are the best way to keep track. Don't overlook their on-demand options, either.

And don't forget the streaming scene. Ever more competitive services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are offering original Christmas productions, along with their libraries of familiar festive film and TV shows. You can watch or rewatch any of these titles whenever you want. It's holiday merriment on-demand —yule love it!


Noelle (film now on Disney+)  Anna Kendrick plays the daughter of Santa, who steps in when her brother (Bill Hader) can't handle the job.

Merry Happy Whatever (Nov. 28, eight-episode Netflix miniseries)  Festivity goes sideways when boyfriend and girlfriend (Bridgit Mendler, Brent Morin) visit her family (including dad Dennis Quaid).

Holiday Rush (Nov. 28, Netflix film)  Single dad Romany Malco loses his job at holidaytime, gets help from Sonequa Martin-Green and Darlene Love.

The Moodys (Dec. 4, 9, 10 at 9 p.m., six-episode Fox miniseries)  Denis Leary and Elizabeth Perkins welcome their three grown kids home for Christmas.

Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas (Dec. 4, 9 p.m., Freeform TV movie) The title term gets a whole new meaning when Aisha Dee ("The Bold Type") has a great first date, but then dies, and contacts her living best friend for assistance.

Same Time, Next Christmas (Dec. 5, 9 p.m., ABC TV movie)  "Glee" girl Lea Michele reunites in Hawaii with her childhood sweetheart (Charles Michael Davis, "The Originals").

Good Trouble (Dec. 16, 9 p.m., Freeform)  Spinoff series plays host to a yule reunion of "The Fosters."


How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dec. 3, 8 p.m., NBC) The green villain's heart grows three sizes thanks to the people of Whoville in '60s half-hour by animation icon Chuck Jones. (NBC repeat Christmas night at 8. Other airings on TBS.)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Dec. 2, 8 p.m., CBS) Folk music titan Burl Ives headlines the '60s musical adventure from stop-motion studio giant Rankin-Bass. (Repeats on Freeform Dec. 6, 7, other dates.)

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec. 5, 8 p.m., ABC)  The meaning of the season highlights comic creator Charles Schulz' unlikely '60s favorite, of which little was expected and much has been loved, for a half-century now. Jazz master Vince Guaraldi's gold-record score doesn't hurt.

Other favorites   "Frosty the Snowman" (Nov. 29, 8 p.m., CBS); Rankin-Bass weekend marathon (Nov. 30-Dec. 1, AMC), including "The Year Without a Santa Claus" (5:45 and 11 p.m.; 12:15 and 4:45 p.m.); "Robbie the Reindeer" double-feature (Nov. 30, 8 p.m., CBS); "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" (Dec. 1, 8 p.m., ABC); "Olaf's Frozen Adventure" (Dec. 12, 8 p.m., ABC); "Shrek the Halls" (Dec. 17, 9:30 p.m., ABC). 


(Many titles play repeatedly through the month. Check listings for additional runs.)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Nov. 25, 7 and 9:15 p.m., AMC)  Chevy Chase's '80s family holiday goes from bad to worse, with non-help from Randy Quaid.

Elf (Nov. 26 at 7 and 9 p.m., AMC)  Will Ferrell leaves the North Pole for New York in director Jon Favreau's 2003 favorite, with Bob Newhart, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel.

It's a Wonderful Life (Nov. 30, 8 p.m., NBC) Suicidal small-towner James Stewart helps an angel get his wings in director Frank Capra's dark yet inspiring post-World War II drama. The '40s film just made its debut on 4K UHD disc. (NBC repeat Christmas Eve at 8. Other airings on USA.)

A Christmas Carol (Dec. 1, 8 p.m., TCM) Alastair Sim's beloved black-and-white Dickens delight has stood the test of time. The 1951 favorite has been re-released on DVD/Blu-ray. (Also repeats multiple times Dec. 24-25 on FXM.)

Saturday Night Live Christmas (Dec. 5, 9 p.m., NBC) This annually refreshed collection of seasonal sketches spans the '70s to now. (NBC repeat Dec. 23 at 9.)

The Simpsons (Dec. 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, FXX) Christmases from the show's 30 seasons are stacked through many evening hours, leading up to full-series marathon starting Dec. 17. (Yule episodes also seen on Freeform.)

A Christmas Story (Dec. 24, continuous from 8 p.m., TBS) Midwest kid Peter Billingsley wants a toy rifle in storyteller Jean Shepherd's '80s remembrance of his snowy '40s childhood. Don't shoot your eye out!

More holiday essentials  "Jim Henson's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas" (special now on Amazon Prime); "The Polar Express" (Nov. 29, 7 and 9 p.m., AMC); "The Santa Clause" (triple-feature Dec. 1, Freeform); "Home Alone" (double-feature Dec. 3, Freeform); vintage studio-era yule films (Dec. 1, 8, 15, 22-25, TCM).


Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show (Nov. 29, Amazon Prime)  Fred Armisen, Leon Bridges, Camila Cabello, James Corden, Zooey Deschanel, Lana Del Rey, Troye Sivan. And the Radio City Rockettes.

Bing Crosby nostalgia (Nov. 29 from 6 a.m., again Dec. 24, getTV)  Daylong marathon of '70s specials from TV's "White Christmas" king. With Jackie Gleason, Fred Astaire, Bernadette Peters, Crosby family members, legendary 1977 duet with David Bowie (noon Nov. 29).

CMA Country Christmas (Dec. 3, 9 p.m., ABC)  Trisha Yearwood, Kristin Chenoweth, Chris Janson, Tori Kelly, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Runaway June, CeCe Winans, Brett Young and Chris Young.

Also tuneful Classic Christmas clips with Perry Como, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Beach Boys, more (Nov. 30 at 4 p.m., Dec. 1 at 11 p.m., WNET/13); "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" (Dec. 4, 8 p.m., NBC); "Holidays With the Houghs" (Dec. 16, 10 p.m., NBC).

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