On a night when much programming is background noise for family gatherings or gift-wrapping, one quiet offering stands out. The British film "Mr. Harvey Lights A Candle" (7 p.m. today, BBC America) stars Timothy Spall, best known for his role as Peter Pettigrew in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." In "Mr. Harvey" he plays the title character, a curmudgeonly high school teacher taking a busload of unruly students on a class trip to England's Salisbury Cathedral. The trip also is a personal pilgrimage, a chance for him to return to the place where he proposed to his now-deceased wife and where he will light a candle in her memory.
By the end of the bus trip, a bumpy ride that includes random acts of theft and thoughtless cruelty, both Harvey and some of his undisciplined charges find themselves undergoing an unanticipated spiritual awakening resulting from their visit to the sacred site and from a surprising revelation that should be as shocking to viewers as Harvey's students.
¢ The documentary series "Off to War" (9 p.m. today, Discovery Times), following a National Guard unit in Iraq, ends its second acclaimed season.
¢ For millions, Christmas has always been a season of Hope. Bob Hope. For more than five decades the late funnyman spent holidays entertaining American troops stationed in far-flung outposts from Germany to Vietnam. The Military Channel invites viewers to spend Christmas afternoon with a six-hour marathon of Hope specials, beginning at 11 a.m.
¢ Jimmy Stewart stars in the 1946 evergreen "It's a Wonderful Life" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ Tom Bergeron plays host to a Christmas-themed episode of "America's Funniest Home Videos" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ The annual 24-hour marathon airing of "A Christmas Story" (7 p.m., TBS) begins. A dozen chances to shoot your eye out, kid.
¢ A six-episode "South Park" (9 p.m., Comedy Central) marathon begins.
¢ Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): Pacific islanders who anticipated last year's tsunami; Tina Turner; Lebanon.
¢ The 2004 special "Star Wars: Empire of Dreams" (7 p.m., A&E) examines the impact of George Lucas' films on pop culture, movie-making and merchandising.
¢ Whitney Houston and Brandy star in the 1997 adaptation of "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" (7 p.m., Disney).