There is terrible, and there is deliberately terrible. And there is a difference. “Nightmare Christmas” (9 p.m., ID) deserves credit for trying to combine predictable holiday programming with a certain audience’s insatiable appetite for true crime docudramas. But “Nightmare” attempts lightheartedness without a light touch. The ghoulish Christmas puns (slay bells, ginger-dead, etc.) arrive with all the subtlety of a poisoned fruitcake.
The actors hired for the re-enactments appear to have been directed to ham it up. This is amusing — within limits. “Nightmare” kicks off with a reverse twist on O Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”: Newlywed Amber stabs her husband with a kitchen knife because he opened his presents five days too early. After sending him to the emergency room, she begs a doctor there to finish him off.
This is followed by a tale of hapless burglars who rob a church collection box on Christmas Day, and the story of a son who bestows a beautiful and exotic robe on his mother, forgetting that his lovely gift is covered in blood.
All of the narrative wordplay and campy acting in the world can’t redeem these vignettes of their sad and sordid nature. That’s why this “Nightmare” special, like that bloody gift, can seem so desperate and wrongheaded.
• “Live From Lincoln Center” (7 p.m., PBS) presents “The Richard Tucker Opera Gala.” Check local listings.
Tonight’s Christmas episodes
• Christmas past on “The Big Bang Theory” (7 p.m., CBS).
• Alan faces Christmas alone on “Two and a Half Men” (7:30 p.m., CBS).
• “Glee” (8 p.m., Fox) borrows its plot from the 2003 British romantic holiday comedy “Love Actually.” That was actually a pretty terrible movie.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Live results on “The X Factor” (8 p.m., Fox).
• “The man in the suit” becomes a target of the FBI on “Person of Interest” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Bailey gets cold feet on “Grey’s Anatomy” (8 p.m., ABC).
• Sherlock meets the family on “Elementary” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Betrayal on “Scandal” (9 p.m., ABC).
• Not-so-fine dining on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (9 p.m., FX).