The documentary "Fall from Grace" (9 p.m., Showtime) looks at the peculiar ministry of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. The Kansas-based congregation, consisting almost entirely of Phelps' extended family, has made a habit of picketing public events, most notoriously the funerals of dead servicemen where they brandish signs with angry slogans attacking homosexuals and declaring that America deserves destruction because of its lax attitudes toward gays.
The film goes out of its way to paint Phelps as a particularly bizarre case and brings on several clergymen who condemn him as a hater and a bad example of Christianity. But it also reminds viewers of comments from famous televangelists linking homosexuality to the 9/11 attacks.
The filmmaker interviews Phelps and many of his children and followers, as well as two estranged offspring who reveal the patriarch as a violent rage-aholic who has turned his family into a dangerous cult. The most damning and compelling footage captures cute grade-school children mindlessly parroting the most odious and hateful remarks while slipping in and out of Phelps' backyard pool. As the Bible says, "Out of the mouths of babes."
¢ Tonight's CBS schedule offers a sad encapsulation of the medium's descent from its golden age. With just an "NCIS" repeat to separate them, the network proceeds from beloved kiddy-fare to a stupid, sleazy skin show that is an hour-long product placement for insufficient underwear.
Only in his darkest dreams would Lenny Bruce have imagined a major corporation presenting three hours of entertainment that included both the 1964 animated favorite "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (7 p.m., CBS) and the D-cup decathlon "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2007" (9 p.m., CBS). No wonder so many confused viewers think our pop culture has become the island of misfit toys.
¢ "Costas Now" (9 p.m., HBO) looks back at the year in sports with assistance from Charles Barkley and John McEnroe. You have to figure that the Barry Bonds indictment will top the list, as well as the remarkable year for Boston baseball, football and maybe basketball fans.
The Rick Ankiel saga sums up a bittersweet year in sports. A washed-up pitcher, he battled back to become a capable outfielder for the Cardinal organization and went on a hitting tear this past summer. His performance and injury-defying comeback inspired syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer to take time out from his busy schedule of fomenting war with Iran to write a thoughtful and upbeat essay calling Ankiel's return "the stuff of legend."
Sadly, it was not all the right stuff. In September, Ankiel was accused of buying and presumably consuming a human growth hormone, leaving baseball fans of every stripe disappointed and crestfallen yet again.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A murder hits close to home on "Bones" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ The wedding-planning series "I Propose" (7 p.m., Style) enters its second season.
¢ An epidemic at 30,000 feet on "House" (8 p.m., Fox).
¢ Sam seems bedeviled by his date on "Reaper" (8 p.m., CW).
¢ George Wallace hosts "Christmas at the Cathedral" (8 p.m., MyNetwork), featuring holiday gospel music from the Los Angeles Cathedral.
¢ "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" (9:30 p.m., Oxygen) enters a third tiresome season.
Arguably, the most miserable Thanksgiving dinner ever put on film takes place in the 1991 biopic "The Doors" (8 p.m., VH1 Classic), when a sozzled Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer) angers his girlfriend (Meg Ryan) over a chaotic turkey dinner.