Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Thursday, December 24. All times are Eastern.
It’s A Wonderful Life (NBC, 8 p.m.): NBC continues its annual tradition of airing It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. Though first-time viewers may marvel at how little of this Christmas classic actually takes place on the holiday, it is hard to think of something more seasonally appropriate than George Bailey wishing a Merry Christmas to that old Building and Loan. As Todd VanDerWerff explained back in 2012:
One of the things that makes Wonderful Life endure is just how cracked it is. Yes, we get the little angel framing story that lets us know we’re not just watching a slight and unlikely morality tale, but for the most part, the film is a relentlessly small-scale tragedy of errors. George makes a decision for anyone but himself. He is beaten down by it. Everybody else, whom he sacrificed for, gets ahead. Rinse. Repeat. It’s like George Price’s nightmares come to life, and it goes on for three quarters of the film’s running time. The gimmick everybody remembers about the film—wherein Clarence Odbody, the guardian angel, plummets down from heaven to show George what life would have been like if he’d never been born—only takes up roughly 20 minutes of its running time, but it’s intensely cathartic, as is the joyful ending that follows. Capra knew that the only way to earn an ending this happy would be to send the audience through utter, bleak horror, so everything before George gets to live again is shot to maximize the sense of his confinement, before breaking loose into rapture. It’s the story arc the country itself had just lived through for the four years prior.
Elsewhere in TV Club
In our final Christmas Carol Cage Match, Erik Adams and Gwen Ihnat debate whether Nancy Wilson or Karen Carpenter performed the definitive version of “The Christmas Waltz.” Elsewhere, we toot our own horn by looking back on the best of The A.V. Club this year.
What else is on?: Secular Edition
Dawn Of The Croods (Netflix, 3 a.m.): Dreamworks’ 2013 CGI film, The Croods, gets reimagined as an animated cartoon series. All 13-episodes of the first season drop on Netflix early Christmas Eve morning, which means Croods superfans have a lot of binge-watching to do today.
Doctor Who Marathon (BBC America, all day): To be fair, a good portion of this marathon involves Doctor Who’s various Christmas specials, which aren’t exactly secular. But BBC America is airing a couple of non-holiday sci-fi adventures from Peter Capaldi’s tenure before the more Christmas-themed episodes start at 11:30 a.m. with “The Christmas Invasion,” David Tennant’s first proper introduction as the 10th Doctor.
The Mummy Marathon (Spike, 9 a.m.): In this particular segment of The Mummy franchise (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Scorpion King) viewers don’t have to contend with the Rachel Weisz casting switch in The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, but they do have to face the terrible CGI of Dwayne Johnson as the Scorpion King.
Back To The Future Marathon (Spike, 5 p.m.): Enjoy eight and a half hours of Marty McFly and Doc Brown as Spike airs all three films back-to-back-to-Back To The Future.
The Big Bang Theory/ Life In Pieces/Mom/2 Broke Girls/Elementary (CBS, 8/8:30/9/9:30/10 p.m.): While the other major networks are airing holiday programming tonight, CBS is stubbornly sticking with its Thursday night line-up—albeit, in rerun form. Forgoing rhyme or reason, CBS is airing random episodes of all five of its Thursday shows including the pilot of Life In Pieces, last season’s penultimate episode of The Big Bang Theory, the fourth season premiere of 2 Broke Girls, and the third episode of Elementary’s third season.
Billy On The Street (TruTV, 10:30 p.m.): Andy Cohen joins Billy Eichner to play “New Year’s Eve or Deformed?”
What else is on?: Christmas Eve Edition
The Nightmare Before Christmas (ABC Family, 3:15 p.m.): What’s this?!? What’s this?!? Oh, it’s just ABC Family airing The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Scrooged (AMC, 5 p.m.): For those looking to inject a healthy dose of Bill Murray into their holiday, this 1988 Christmas comedy makes a perfect double feature with A Very Murray Christmas.
Meet Me In St. Louis (TCM, 6 p.m.): Not only did this film introduce Judy Garland’s iconic song “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” into the lexicon, it’s also chockfull of perfectly-observed family dynamics. Caroline Siede explains why this film is an under-appreciated Christmas classic, while Alex McCown correctly defends Garland’s rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” as the definitive one.
A Christmas Story Marathon (TNT, 7 p.m.): TNT continues its incomprehensible tradition of airing 24 hours of A Christmas Story each year. Meanwhile, those who prefer TBS can watch the same 24-hour marathon over there starting at 8 p.m.
Santas In The Barn (TruTV, 8 p.m.): In the finale of TruTV’s Santa-themed reality competition, America’s best Santa is declared. That means he’s got a pretty fast turnaround time to get all those presents delivered tonight.
Last Holiday (WE, 8 p.m.): Queen Latifah plays a mousy department store employee who learns she has weeks to live and decides to live them to the fullest. Because nothing screams “Christmas comedy” like fatal brain tumors.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (ABC, 8 p.m.): Christmas time is (almost) here.
It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown (ABC, 9 p.m.): After the Charlie Brown Christmas special, stick around for this hour-long retrospective hosted by Kristen Bell.
Jingle All The Way (AMC, 9 p.m.): Those who spent the days leading up to Christmas desperately searching for a BB-8 will definitely relate to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempts to snag the last Turbo-Man.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (WGN, 9 p.m.): Last year, Erik Adams noted that Muppet Christmas Carol may be “the most important Dickens adaptation of our time.” Revisit the film on Christmas Eve, the one time of year when the lyrics, “There’s only one more sleep ‘til Christmas,” really resonant.
The Great Christmas Light Fight (ABC, 10 p.m.): Celebrate Christmas with competition and capitalism as three neighborhoods duke it with decorations in hopes of winning $50,000.
Hallmark Christmas Corner
Each week leading up to Christmas we’ll highlight one of Hallmark’s dumbest sounding made-for-TV holiday movies.
A Bride For Christmas (Hallmark, 6 p.m.): “A holiday bet prompts a man to pursue a woman who has sworn off serious relationships after three failed engagements. As the two spend time together, the woman starts to reconsider her stance on romance.” Throw in a cute kid and/or a potentially magical Santa figure and we’re sold!
Hawaii Bowl: San Diego State vs. Cincinnati (ESPN, 8 p.m.): We’re just going to assume that this entire game will be underscored by “Mele Kalikimaka (The Hawaiian Christmas Song).”
In case you missed it
F Is For Family: Dennis Perkins wraps up his coverage of this Netflix animated series with the holiday-themed finale, “O Holy Moly Night.”