Watch television long enough, and every popular format goes out of style just long enough to return again. Television movies have been neglected almost to the point of extinction. The annual Emmy Award judges are often hard-pressed to find enough movies to nominate, and they are generally drawn from British-made PBS fare and a handful of films from HBO.
Just as mystery and romance novels rarely make the pages of literary book reviews, the guilty pleasure movies on Lifetime and the throwaway romantic comedies from Hallmark hardly ever make it to the awards season.
But just when they look all but forgotten, TV movies return to TNT in a serious way. The network that has attracted large audiences with “The Closer” and other police procedurals will present a series of movies based on best-selling crime fiction. It begins tonight with “Scott Turow’s Innocent” (8 p.m), starring Bill Pullman, Marcia Gay Harden, Alfred Molina, Richard Schiff and Callard Harris.
Future installments in the six-film series include “Hide,” starring Carla Gugino and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, based on a book by Lisa Gardner. An adaptation of Richard North Patterson’s “Silent Witness” will star Dermot Mulroney, Michael Cudlitz, Anne Heche and Judd Hirsch.
There’s no telling if any of these movies will be showing up come Emmy time. But it’s heartening to see a revival of one of television’s most durable genres. Now, if the return of the TV movie could coincide with the disappearance of the reality docu-soap, my life would be complete.
• CBS continues its peculiar holiday tradition of airing the beloved 1964 holiday favorite “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (7 p.m.) and “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” (9 p.m.) on the very same night.
Viewers can watch the kids escape from the Island of Misfit Toys and then catch models in their underwear without ever having to change the channel. What would Mrs. Claus think?
Tonight’s other highlights
• Corruption taints a race for student council president on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Winston fits in too easily on “New Girl” (8 p.m.).
• A repeat of “Frontline: Flying Cheap” (8 p.m., PBS) examines the costs of inexpensive and unregulated air travel.
• Deborah Tillman becomes “America’s Supernanny” (8 p.m., Lifetime).
• Fans extol the virtues of their favorite Canadian rockers in the 2010 documentary “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” (8 p.m., VH1 Classic).
• A passion for invention on “Raising Hope” (8:30 p.m., Fox).
• Kristina and Adam discover the bitter truths of working too hard on “Parenthood” (9 p.m., NBC).
• A murder victim’s body fills in for a laboratory cadaver on “Body of Proof” (9 p.m., ABC).
• A challenge to Jax threatens the club on “Sons of Anarchy” (9 p.m., FX).
Tori Spelling plays a self-absorbed talk show host in line for a holiday makeover in the 2003 fantasy “A Carol Christmas” (9 p.m., Hallmark), co-starring William Shatner and Gary Coleman.