It’s funny what endures — and what doesn’t. I’m often struck by the fact that several generations who have never seen Fred Astaire dance or even watched his movies know him from his voice-over in the 1970 holiday special “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (7 p.m., ABC). The same might be said of Boris Karloff (”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) or Jimmy Durante (”Frosty the Snowman”).
Each of these talents, Hollywood icons in their own right, probably spent scant hours in a recording booth at the tail end of their careers. Well past middle age, they contributed to a kids’ holiday cartoon, a genre not known for its extended shelf life. They had no idea that 40 years on, long after their departure, they would still be finding an audience. It makes you wonder about what gets remembered. And what gets forgotten.
Other holiday specials include “A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa” (8 p.m., CW), from 2008. It includes cameos from Whoopi Goldberg, as well as “Sopranos” regulars Steve Schirripa and Tony Sirico. I have a feeling that this special will probably not ensure their television immortality.
Tonight’s holiday highlights:
• When “The Santa Clause” (6 p.m., ABC Family) was No. 1 at the box office in 1994, star Tim Allen’s TV show “Home Improvement” was a ratings smash and he had a comedy memoir (”Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man”) on the best-seller list.
• A little girl’s (Natalie Wood) skepticism is put to rest in the 1947 fantasy “Miracle on 34th Street” (7 p.m., AMC).
• A couple of girls scheme to bring snow to Los Angeles in the 2000 fantasy “The Ultimate Christmas Present” (7:30 p.m., Disney).
Tonight’s other highlights:
• The semi-finalists face the music on “The Voice” (7 p.m., NBC).
• Howie Mandel hosts “Take It All” (8 p.m., NBC).
• The investigation into a microbrewer’s murder leads the team to a virtual world on “Rizzoli & Isles” (8 p.m., TNT).
• Katherine knows more than she lets on about a showgirl’s murder on “Vegas” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Medical woes for Kristina and Adam on “Parenthood” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Sheldon experiences bliss on “Private Practice” (9 p.m., ABC).
• A rare bottle of wine proves difficult to uncork on “Leverage” (9 p.m., TNT)