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Archive for Friday, December 5, 2008

Not all holiday specials equal

December 5, 2008

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’Tis the season for nostalgia. And budget programming. “Greatest Holiday Moments: TV & Film Countdown” (7 p.m., NBC) offers a clip-rich survey of heart-tugging Christmas specials and movies, from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

There was a time when networks were in the business of creating Christmas memories, not recycling seasonal snippets. That’s what cable does. But while we’re revisiting the ghosts of specials past, I sure hope the list includes the infamous 1978 “Star Wars” Christmas extravaganza. It’s unique in all the worst ways.

• Predicting the future nostalgia market is a tricky game, but I can safely predict that nobody will ever be nostalgic for “Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh” (7 p.m., Nickelodeon).

Good Christmas movies rarely take place in locales where everybody has to wear sunblock. And characters in holiday movies usually learn a little humility along the way. At one point, the brash Drake (Drake Bell), dressed as Santa, humiliates a girl simply because she’s fat.

There is a subplot about the boys helping a young girl enjoy a great holiday, but they do this only under duress.

Christmas specials should not be smug, and this movie is nothing but. Henry Winkler cameos as a judge.

Winkler’s “Happy Days” co-star Ron Howard directed the 2000 adaptation of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (7 p.m., ABC), starring Jim Carrey in the title role. Holiday films can evoke delight or indifference, but few generate genuine loathing. This desecration falls into that last category.

Many found the production and Carrey’s performance overbearing and the tone an abominable departure from the spirit of its whimsical author. “Variety” described it as “shrill, strenuous and entirely without charm.”

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon.com panned it in rhyme: “You will not like it on the screen, you will not like it — not one scene!”

• Cesar Millan travels to Las Vegas and visits with three Cirque du Soleil performers whose dogs present unique behavior problems on “The Dog Whisperer” (7 p.m., National Geographic).

• Don’t go looking for “Crusoe.” NBC has moved the shipwreck drama to Saturday nights. “Lipstick Jungle” (8 p.m., NBC) airs one hour earlier. Tonight: Responsibility changes Nico.

Tonight’s holiday highlights

• A 1984 novelty song animates the 2000 holiday special “Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer” (7 p.m., CW).

• While not a holiday film, the 1944 melodrama “Meet Me in St. Louis” (7 p.m., TCM) introduced the bittersweet song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

• Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis star in the 2004 comedy “Christmas with the Kranks” (8 p.m., FX).

• Ed Asner narrates the 1996 special “The Story of Santa Claus” (8 p.m., CW).

• “Decked for the Holidays” (8 p.m., HGTV) offers decorating advice.

• To swindle an inheritance, a crook poses as a wholesome dad in the 2007 made-for-TV offering “The Family Holiday” (8 p.m., Lifetime).

• Albert Finney plays Ebenezer in the 1970 “Christmas Carol” adaptation “Scrooge” (11 p.m., TCM).

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