NBC reaches back in television history to broadcast the 1962 animated holiday musical “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol” (7 p.m. Saturday). A favorite for years, it fell into relative obscurity in recent decades, showing up sporadically on the Cartoon Network. NBC hasn’t aired “Magoo” in prime time since 1967.
Arguably, one of the reasons this special disappeared is Magoo himself. There’s something a tad antique about the myopic character. Most of the cartoon’s jokes were at the expense of his visual handicap. And this special features a character even older than Magoo. Tiny Tim is “played” by the character Gerald McBoing Boing, a popular cartoon for the small United Productions of America animation studio dating back to 1950.
‘‘Magoo” is notable for being the very first Christmas program made especially for television. Its success paved the way for “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964) and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965). It’s also the only one with the heart and soul of a Broadway musical.
The songs range from the celebratory (“The Lord’s Bright Blessing”) to the sad and poignant (“Alone in the World”). The music was by Jule Styne and the lyrics by Bob Merrill. Once finished with “Magoo,” they collaborated on a play called “Funny Girl,” a vehicle for Barbra Streisand’s exploding career.
A recent survey of NPR listeners revealed that many still rank “Magoo” as one of their holiday favorites. Nostalgic viewers can celebrate NBC’s decision to dust off “Magoo.” Young viewers should enjoy this for the very first time.
Saturday holiday highlights
• “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” (7 p.m., ABC).
• “The Santa Clause 2” (7 p.m., ABC Family).
• “A Chipmunk Christmas” (7:30 p.m., ABC).
• “The Christmas Card” (7 p.m., Hallmark).
• “A Boyfriend for Christmas” (7 p.m., Lifetime).
• “On Strike for Christmas” (7 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network).
• “The Real Story of Christmas” (8 p.m., H2).
• “The Santa Clause 3” (9 p.m., ABC Family).
Saturday’s other highlights
• Photographers explore “The Great Barrier Reef” (6 p.m., Discovery), home to more than 1,500 species of fish.
• On two episodes of “Cops” (Fox): backseat contraband (7 p.m.), a Christmas recap (7:30 p.m.).
• The Detroit Lions host the Atlanta Falcons in NFL football (7:30 p.m., ESPN).