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Christmas TV: What to watch this holiday season

Country music superstar Dolly Parton in CBS' "A

Country music superstar Dolly Parton in CBS' "A Holly Dolly Christmas."   Credit: CBS

What would 2020 be without controversy for Christmas, too? Streaming service Apple TV+ provided the TV kerfuffle by grabbing the rights to Peanuts specials like "A Charlie Brown Christmas." That classic had always aired annually on a broadcast network since its 1965 debut.

Which indeed it will this year. PBS won a compromise that gives it two airings (the second comes Dec. 13), while Apple TV+ starts streaming "the real meaning of Christmas" from blanket-dragging Linus next weekend.

As Christmas programs further gush forth, who knows what other issues might arise? We're partial to the provocation of Syfy's new Hallmark-schmaltz parody "Letters to Satan Claus (Dec. 19 at 9 p.m.).

More holiday viewing highlights follow, with the usual advice to check listings for additional airings and schedule changes.


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Dec. 1, CBS, 8 p.m.) It's the (gulp) 56th consecutive year for this '60s animation trendsetter. Midcentury folk singer Burl Ives has earned immortality as narrator Sam the Snowman. (Also runs on Freeform,t Dec. 5 at 7:40 p.m., Dec. 6 at 5:40 p.m., Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m., Dec. 20 at 4 p.m., Christmas Eve at 8:50 p.m., Christmas Day at 5 p.m.)

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec. 13, PBS and PBS Kids, 7:30 p.m.) Just one run over-the-air in December. Enjoy Vince Guaraldi's jazz score, now gaining new fans via vinyl picture discs. (Launches on Apple TV+ Dec. 4; streaming free there Dec. 11-13)

Rankin-Bass vintage animated specials fill all-day stacks with "Nestor," "Year Without a Santa," many more (AMC: Sat Dec. 5 at 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Dec. 6 at 6 a.m.-8 p.m.; also Dec. 17-18 blocks). Plus their big-three showcase of "Rudolph," "Frosty," "Santa Claus Is Comin'" (Freeform: Sat Dec. 5, 6:35-9:20 p.m.; Dec. 6, 4-6:45 p.m.; Dec. 20, 2:20-5:05 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 8:15-11 p.m.; Christmas Day, 4:30-6 p.m.)

More broadcast screenings"Minions Holiday Special" (Nov. 27, NBC, 8:30 p.m.) "Prep & Landing" ( Nov. 29, ABCm 7-8 p.m.); "Rugrats Chanukah" ( Dec. 10, 17, Nickelodeon, 10 p.m.); "Shrek the Halls" (Dec. 18, ABC, 8:30 p.m.); "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" ( Dec. 21, CW, 8 p.m.); "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Christmas Day, NBC, 8 p.m.).

Streaming picks "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" (Peacock); "Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas" (Amazon Prime); "The Snowman" (Amazon Prime); new "Lego Star Wars Holiday Special" (Disney+)


CMA Country Christmas (Nov. 30, ABC, 9-11 p.m.) Thomas Rhett, Kelsey Ballerini, Florida Georgia Line, Lady A, Darius Rucker, others.

'The Voice' Holiday Celebration (Dec. 3, NBC:, 8 p.m., Dec. 16 at 8, Dec. 22 at 8) Coaches, contestants, superstars do their thing.

A Holly Dolly Christmas (Dec. 6, CBS, 8:30 p.m.) Dolly Parton songs and stories.

Dr. Seuss' 'The Grinch Musical' (Dec. 9, Dec. 21, NBC, 8-10 p.m.) Matthew Morrison ("Glee") in new staging.

Silent Night: A Song for the World (Dec. 10, 23, CW, 8 p.m.) Hugh Bonneville narrates, singing by Kelly Clarkson, Joss Stone, Katherine McPhee, Vienna Choir Boys, more.

Christmas With the Tabernacle Choir (Dec. 14, Christmas Eve, PBS, 9 p.m.) This year's concert features Kelli O'Hara and Richard Thomas.

Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (Dec. 15, 18, Christmas Day, PBS, 8 p.m.) Vanessa Williams hosts artists recreating Fitzgerald's classic holiday album.

Garth & Trisha Live: A Holiday Concert Event (Dec. 20, CBS, 8:30 p.m.) Country couple performs from their home studio.

Streaming debuts "My Gift: Carrie Underwood" (HBO Max: Thu Dec. 3, with John Legend); "Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special" (Apple TV+: Fri Dec. 4, with Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Eichner, Misty Copeland).


Christmas in Rockefeller Center (Dec. 2, NBC, 7-10 p.m.) - Tree lighting event.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Dec. 2, NBC, 10 p.m.) - The Rockettes and more.

Disney Holiday Magic Quest (Dec. 4, Disney, 8 p.m.) - Magic Kingdom adventure game.

Disney Channel Holiday House Party (Dec. 11, Disney, 8 p.m.) - Sketch comedy.

More new specials Chiodos Brothers' animated "Alien Xmas" (Netflix); "High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special" (Dec. 11, Disney+); "Joe Bob Saves Christmas" (Dec. 11, Shudder); "Penn & Teller: Merry Fool Us" (Dec. 16, CW); "SNL Christmas Special" (Dec. 16, 22, NBC); "A Creepshow Holiday Special" (Dec. 18, Shudder); "Masters of Illusion: Christmas Magic" (Dec. 20, CW).


(Check your TV provider for other on-demand options.)

Home Alone (Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m.; Dec. 3, 6 p.m., Dec. 6, 6:45 p.m.; also streaming onDisney+)

The Polar Express (Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m., Dec 2, 6 p.m. on AMC)

The Santa Clause (Dec. 2, 6:25 p.m., Dec. 4, 2:30 p.m., Dec. 5, 9:20 p.m., Freeform)

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Dec. 2, 8 p.m., Dec. 5 , 8 p.m., AMC)

Elf (Dec. 3, 8 p.m., AMC)

White Christmas (Dec. 3, 1:30 a.m., AMC; also Netflix)

Scrooge (Dec. 4, 10:10 a.m. on Movies! Christmas Eve at 12:30 a.m. on; MeTV)

Scrooged (Dec. 4, 8 p.m., AMC; also AMC Everywhere)

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) (Dec. 6, 6 p.m., TCM)

A Christmas Carol (1938) (Dec. 8, 8 p.m., Dec. 12, noon, TCM)

The Bishop's Wife (Dec. 19, 6 p.m., TCM; also Amazon Prime)

A Christmas Carol (Christmas Eve 2:30 p.m.-Christmas night 3:30 a.m.; 1951 Alastair Sim classic alternates with BBC Guy Pearce version on FXM)

It's a Wonderful Life Christmas Eve, 8 p.m., NBC; also Amazon Prime)

A Christmas Story (Christmas Eve for 24 hours ON TBS and TNT; also streaming on TBS/TNT Everywhere)

Streaming: "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947) (Disney+); "Die Hard" (HBO Max).


(Check listings for more on Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Lifetime, UP, ion.)

A Royal Christmas Engagement, Paige Bach, James Nitti (Noc. 29, 7 p.m, ion)

If I Only Had Christmas, Candace Cameron Bure, Warren Christie (Nov. 29, 8 p.m., Hallmark)

Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas, Lacey Chabert (Dec. 5, 10 p.m., HMM)

Christmas Together, Vivica A. Fox, Anna Marie Dobbins (Dec. 6, 7 p.m, ion)

Christmas on the Range, Erin Cahill, Nicholas Gonzalez (Dec. 6, 7 p.m, UP.)

Christmas She Wrote, Danica McKellar, Dylan Neal (Dec. 6, 8 p.m.,Hallmark)

A Christmas for Mary, Vivica A. Fox, Jackee Harry (Dec. 8, 9 p.m.,OWN)

Cooking Up Christmas, Lamann Rucker, Meagan Holder (Dec. 15, OWN)

Love, Lights, Hanukkah!, Mia Kirshner, Ben Savage (Dec. 20, Hallmark)

First Christmas, Idara Victor, Tonea Stewart (Dec. 22, OWN)

Streaming premieres

"Jingle Jangle," Forest Whitaker musical (Netflix); "Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square, "14 original songs (Netflix); "The Christmas Chronicles 2," Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn (Netflix); "Happiest Season," Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis (Hulu); "Godmothered," Isla Fisher and Jillian Bell (Disney+, Dec. 4).

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