Long gone is the overwrought glitz of Christmas specials past. We have to find our guilty pleasures where we can. “Celebrity Holiday Homes” (7 p.m., HGTV) doesn’t have the cringe-worthy pizzazz of a Kathy Lee Gifford extravaganza, but it packs plenty of odd moments with stars and semi-stars doing their best to be festive.
“Celebrity” offers three overlapping tales of professional designers inflicting Christmas-themed makeovers on the Malibu manse of Brooke Burke (“Dancing with the Stars”), Sherri Shepherd’s (“The View”) recently purchased Harlem brownstone and singer Trisha Yearwood’s Nashville second home.
You know you’ve entered Never Never Land when Burke’s professionally unshaven fiance, David Charvet, describes Malibu as a place that’s all about family. He’s personally established the look for their home, a place roughly the size of my old junior high school, strenuously affected in all things “Tuscan,” not unlike an Olive Garden restaurant. Into their Italian fantasy steps (and nearly stumbles) a curvaceous decorator in 5-inch heels. She quickly banishes all those terra-cotta hues with a blizzard of white decor to accent the snowy winters Malibu never endures. The sight of a plastic Santa gliding listlessly across the huge backyard pool filled me with the kind of dread you can only experience in specials like these.
I always loved those Martha Stewart Christmas specials that ended with a pull-away crane shot revealing Martha standing at the door desperately alone with only her crafts to keep her warm. “Celebrity” concludes on a similar bittersweet note. Charvet says he admires the ersatz arctic atmosphere of their rented decor, but his eyes never quite meet the camera. Shepherd throws a nice intimate gathering in her new digs but spends a tad too much time begging her new boyfriend to pop the question. And Yearwood holds a little cocktail party with her mother, sister and decorator, but you can’t help feeling that she’d rather be somewhere else.
“Celebrity” may not leave us with the warm glow of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” but there’s something reassuring in knowing that when it comes to the holidays, stars can be as insecure as the rest of us.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Steve Carell stars in the sequel “Evan Almighty” (7 p.m., CBS).
• Big 12 College Football Championship (7 p.m., ABC).
• Snoop Dogg joins Miranda Cosgrove on the “Big Time Rush” (8 p.m., Nickelodeon) special “Big Time Christmas.”
• Christine Taylor stars in the holiday fantasy “Farewell Mr. Kringle” (7 p.m., Hallmark).
• Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (9 p.m., CBS): First dates can be murder.
• Bette Midler and Stephen Fry appear on “The Graham Norton Show” (9 p.m., BBC America).
• Robert De Niro hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Diddy-Dirty Money.