Gosh, it’s a good thing Beatrix Potter is dead! The holiday special “Peter Rabbit’s Christmas Tale” (6 p.m., Nickelodeon) is cloying and annoying in new, yet familiar, ways. It’s wrong from the start. It’s a cute desecration at best.
Let’s just start with the “bunnies at Christmas” angle. Please, can’t we keep our holiday fables straight? You don’t want Santa showing up with Easter eggs, do you? And if you do, I don’t want to know you.
As if the Christmas bunny thing wasn’t wrong enough, “Peter” kicks off with a lame, adrenalized theme song straight out of “Top Gun” or some other montage-driven movie. We see Peter hopping, running and using a flat stone to snowboard (!) over the hill and dale. Yeah, kids: He’s a tween bunny dude!
Arguably, the most odious thing about “Peter” is its wrong-headed approach to nature. That’s particularly galling, given that Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) was a naturalist who studied science before creating her wee anthropomorphized creatures.
We see a mother duck awaiting Christmas surrounded by baby ducklings. Even city folk know that chicks aren’t hatched during winter; they wouldn’t survive. They are a part of nature’s rebirth in springtime. That’s a valuable lesson that should be learned by the very sort of young viewers who might be drawn in by this pastel atrocity.
And I was just getting over my disgust at the baby duckling bit when along came a cute little frog, adjusting his topcoat — while standing on top of a frozen pond. Good grief! Every kid with a brain — and there are lots of them — should scream at their televisions when they watch this scene. Frogs are COLD-BLOODED creatures. But then again, perhaps so is a TV critic who would eviscerate a Peter Rabbit Christmas special. Like the cat chasing a terrified rabbit, I just can’t help myself.
• “Great Performances” presents “Magical Mystery Tour Revisited” (8 p.m., PBS), a glance back at the Beatles TV special that was panned by British critics when it aired in 1967, but went on to become a cult hit.
It’s easy to see the special’s influence on folks like the Monty Python troupe and how its improvised and loosely scripted approach to a fake “documentary” was decades ahead of its time. The original “Magical Mystery Tour” (9 p.m., PBS) follows.
Tonight’s holiday specials and episodes
• Misfits become heroes in the 1964 stop-motion classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (7 p.m., CBS).
• The Muppets join various music stars on “Blake Shelton’s Not-So-Family Christmas” (7 p.m., NBC).
• Vanessa wants a stress-free holiday on “Last Man Standing” (7 p.m., ABC).
• A boy thinks he’s discovered a stray from the North Pole in the 2001 fantasy “Prancer Returns” (7 p.m., CW).
• Even the church choir snubs Reba on “Malibu Country” (7:30 p.m., ABC).
• The voices of Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Alfred Molina star in the 2009 cartoon “Yes, Virginia” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Nothing says Christmas like showing off your home decor with the help of your very own interior decorator. “Celebrity Holiday Homes” (8 p.m., HGTV) visits with Haylie Duff, Lisa Lampanelli and Tamara Tunie.
• An elf tries to enchant a skeptical boy in the 2011 special “The Elf on the Shelf” (8:30 p.m., CBS).
Tonight’s other highlights
• The worst of the worst, revisited, on “Kitchen Nightmares” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• Peter and Olivia are led into the woods on “Fringe” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• An apparent suicide could be murder on “Blue Bloods” (9 p.m., CBS).
• High school madness on “Haven” (9 p.m., Syfy).
• Barbara Walters interviews President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC).
• Colder weather and weight woes on the “Winter in Portlandia” (9:30 p.m., IFC) special.