’Tis the night before the night before Christmas, so the cornucopia of holiday movies, specials, episodes and documentaries has almost been emptied. Among the dwindling number of holiday favorites are the cartoon fantasy “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (7 p.m., ABC), heart-warming Whoville evergreen featuring narration by Boris Karloff. It’s sobering to ponder that we are now much further removed in time from the 1966 debut of this holiday favorite than it was from Karloff’s signature 1931 movie “Frankenstein.”
Not content to leave a classic untouched, director Ron Howard teamed up with star Jim Carrey in 2000 to create a live-action “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (7:30 p.m., ABC). Critics feasted on the spectacle as if on roast beast.
While a few Carrey stalwarts admired his performance and predicted (correctly) that it would enter the pantheons of oft-repeated seasonal movies, I prefer those critics who relished in playing the Grinch to the hilt, savaging performances and the film’s production and scope. The Miami Herald called it “The dullest, clunkiest, big-budget fantasy since Steven Spielberg flattened Peter Pan in ’Hook.”’ The New York Times described it as “So clogged with kooky gadgetry and special effects and glitter and goo that watching it feels like being gridlocked at Toys ’R’ Us during the Christmas rush.” And a wag at Salon.com channeled her own inner Seuss and wrote my favorite: “You will not like it on the screen, you will not like it — not one scene!”
Other holiday offerings include “The Santa Clause” (5:30 p.m., Family) from 1994, starring Tim Allen. He returned to the franchise in 2006 with “The Santa Clause 3” (7 p.m., Disney). “Christmas Unwrapped” (7 p.m. Discovery) offers a history of Christmas traditions and how they have evolved over the centuries.
A repeat from 2009 “Jeff Dunham’s Very Special Christmas Special” (7 p.m., and 9 p.m., Comedy Central) features holiday gags from his favorite “dummies” Walter, Achmed, Bubba J and Peanut, as well as a glance back at some favorite bits from his series.
SyFy continues on marathon mode with big-budget fantasy films including “The Golden Compass” (4:30 p.m., and 10 p.m.) and “The Chronicles of Narnia” (7 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.).
• Bravo leaps right past the holiday buildup and jumps right into year-end retrospective mode with “Shep & Tiffany Watch TV: The Best of 2010” (10 p.m., Bravo).
Tonight’s other highlights
• Kevin Pollak hosts two hours of “Million Dollar Money Drop” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Jack runs afoul of a congresswoman (Queen Latifah) on “30 Rock” (7:30 p.m., NBC).
• Death leaves divots on the green on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Dating games on “Outsourced” (8:30 p.m., NBC).
• Michael anticipates Holly over the holidays on the hour-long Christmas party episode of “The Office” (9 p.m., NBC).