The most beloved Christmas movie used to be shown at least twice during the season. But NBC had a hit with its live remake of “The Sound of Music” and showed that in place of one of the usual slots for Frank Capra’s classic on Saturday.
So tonight is just about the only time to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” (NBC, 8 p.m.) with all of its enduring themes of the effect one person’s life has on the world. It’s Jimmy Stewart’s career high point, and one of the only Christmas movies that is built around a suicide. It’s also the only black and white movie broadcast TV ever still shows.
Elsewhere, as if to show the superiority of succinct storytelling, the original 1966 animated special “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (NBC, 8 p.m.) precedes the overblown 2000 live-action version with Jim Carrey, “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (ABC, 8:30 p.m.). It probably won’t stand up to the comparison.
The third broadcast TV holiday offering is 2004′s “The 12 Dogs of Christmas” (The CW, 8 p.m.) about a girl who tries to fight anti-dog legislation in Depression-era Maine. There is probably a reason it’s not a classic.
What they all have to compete with is “A Christmas Story” (TBS, 8 and 10 p.m., midnight, 2, 4 and 6 a.m.), another beloved holiday movie that is saved for one day, but way overused that day, with 12 repeat showings over 24 hours.
A second film getting the 24-hour treatment for the first time is “Elf” (Starz, noon, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 p.m., midnight, 2, 4 and 6 a.m.), the Will Ferrell comedy in which the kid from “A Christmas Story,” coincidentally, gives a cameo as a head elf.
Sure to be unintentionally entertaining will be “A Fox & Friends Christmas” (Fox News, 8 p.m.).
It’s the most inactive night of the year on late night, with everything from Leno and Letterman to Fallon, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Conan O’Brien all preempted. Bumping Dave, ironically, is Regis Philbin, hosting “A New York Christmas to Remember” (CBS, 11:35 p.m.) from The Church of St. Paul the Apostle. Choirs will sing carols, puppets will dramatize stories and Regis will read Bible passages in an exasperated voice.
Leno, meanwhile, is bumped by no less than Time’s Man of the Year with “Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome” (NBC, 11:35 p.m.). It’s followed by “Miracle at Gate 213″ (NBC, 1 a.m.). And Stewart and Colbert are replaced by someone less saintly: “Tommy Boy” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.).
Robert Osborne chooses the Christmas Eve movies on Turner Classic Films with “Christmas in Connecticut” (8 p.m.), “Sun Valley Serenade” (10 p.m.), “I’ll Be Seeing You” (11:45 p.m.), “The Bishop’s Wife” (1:15 a.m.), “Holiday” (3:15 a.m.) and “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima” (5:30 a.m.).
Earlier, there is “Meet Me In St. Louis” (TCM, 9:15 a.m.), the 1938 “A Christmas Carol” (TCM, 1:15 p.m.), “The Shop Around the Corner” (TCM, 2:30 p.m.), “Holiday Affair” (4:15 p.m.) and “It Happened on 5th Avenue” (TCM, 6 p.m.).
Just one sporting event: Boise State vs. Oregon State (ESPN, 8 p.m.) in the Hawaii Bowl.
Kelly & Michael: Ben Stiller, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The View: Cast of “Duck Dynasty,” winners and runners up from “Dancing with the Stars” (rerun). The Talk: Craig Ferguson, Michael Chernow & Daniel Holzman (rerun). Ellen DeGeneres: Emma Thompson, Lenny Kravitz, Carmen Electra (rerun). Wendy Williams: Patti Stanger, Hill Harper (rerun).
Jimmy Kimmel: Jason Schwartzman, Guillermo Diaz, Jake Owen (rerun). Tavis Smiley: Joshua Bell. Arsenio Hall: Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, Regina Hall, Melissa De Sousa, Nick Cannon (rerun). Chelsea Handler: James Marsden, Greg Fitzsimmons, Fortune Feimster, Gary Valentine (rerun).