Deck the TV schedule with Rudolph, Stefani and 'Love'
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Welcome back, Donner and Blitzen! And thanks for bringing along Gwen Stefani, Tariji P. Henson and "Love Actually" to a holiday TV lineup that mixes the familiar and the fresh.
We want "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "It's a Wonderful Life" again, for the pleasure and the memories they summon. But no complaints if the punch is spiked with new music specials, comedy and original movies.
Settle in to wrap gifts, slurp nog and choose among these highlights, all times EST:
— "Christmas at Holly Lodge," 8 p.m. Dec. 3, Hallmark. There are sparks between lodge owner Sophie (Alison Sweeney) and Evan (Jordan Bridges), who's been sent by a developer to check out the property. Will love and the lodge prevail? Sheryl Lee Ralph co-stars.
— "Instrument of War," 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 and 23, BYUtv (carried on DirecTV and DISH Network). Inspired by the real-life WWII story of American bomber pilot Clair Cline who, held in a Nazi POW camp, painstakingly crafts a violin to lift his spirits and bring the music of Christmas to his fellow prisoners. Jack Ashton stars.
— "Love Actually," Netflix, Dec. 14. Filmmaker Richard Curtis' witty, romantic creampuff that weaves together stories featuring, among many, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley and the late, great Alan Rickman. Add the hit tune "All I Want for Christmas is You" and, of course, many happy endings.
— "It's a Wonderful Life," 8 p.m. Dec. 24, NBC. Watch it for the 100th time or the first and try to resist the sentimental pull of the 1946 Frank Capra fable about a self-doubting man (Jimmy Stewart) who gets perspective from a dotty but caring angel (Henry Travers). Future TV mom Donna Reed also stars.
— "The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special," 8 p.m. Dec. 3, CBS. TV's great funny lady gets a deserved two hours to celebrate "The Carol Burnett Show" milestone, joined by cast members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner and admirers including Jim Carrey, Harry Connick Jr. and Bernadette Peters.
— "Lidia Celebrates America: Homegrown Heroes," 10 p.m. Dec. 15, PBS (check local listings). Inventive chef Lidia Bastianich travels to the West Virginia and Kentucky countryside to meet and honor veterans who are making productive new lives for themselves and others as farmers and caretakers.
— "A Home for the Holidays," 8 p.m. Dec. 19, CBS. Music stars including Josh Groban, Kelly Clarkson, Kacey Musgraves and Kane Brown align to bring attention to the issue of adoption with inspirational stories and songs.
— "I Love Lucy Christmas Special," 8 p.m. Dec. 22, CBS. Irrepressible redhead Lucy (Lucille Ball) shines even brighter in two colorized episodes of the classic sitcom: 1955's "Christmas" episode and "The Fashion Show," in which Lucy goes over-budget on a dress and pays the price for showing off.
— "Gwen Stefani's You Make it Feel Like Christmas," 9 p.m. Dec. 12, NBC. The singer-songwriter mixes music, sketches and friends including duet partner Blake Shelton, Chelsea Handler, Ken Jeong, Seth MacFarlane and Ne-Yo. Stefani's new album gives the special its title and tunes, including "Silent Night."
— "Taraji's White Hot Holidays," 8 p.m., "Showtime at the Apollo: Christmas," 9 p.m. Dec. 14, Fox. This double bill opens with Tarji P. Henson offering classic holiday tunes with help from Chaka Khan, Faith Evans, Leslie Odom Jr. and others. In "Showtime," artists including Snoop Dogg and Boyz II Men and aspiring newcomers performing their Christmas favorites at the famed New York City theater.
— "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir featuring Rolando Villazon," Dec. 15, PBS, and on BYUtv on Dec. 17 (check local listings). Celebrated tenor Villazon joins the choir in what's described as a "cross-cultural, Latin-themed" celebration of Christmas that promises pageantry as well as music.
— "A Christmas Story Live!" 7 p.m. Dec. 17, Fox. Writer Jean Shepherd's priceless anecdotes came first, followed by the 1983 big-screen movie comedy and a Broadway musical. Now it's TV's turn to share Ralphie's (Andy Walken) memorable holiday, inspired by the stage version and with new songs and a cast including Maya Rudolph, Chris Diamantopoulos and Jane Krakowski.
— "Peppa Pig," 9:30 a.m. Dec. 8, Nickelodeon. Peppa and the gang put on a big holiday show for all the moms and dads and Father Christmas drops by. Stay tuned for "Nella the Princess Knight at 10:30 a.m., with guest star Iain Glen ("Game of Thrones") as the voice of Santa.
— "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," 8 p.m. Dec. 9, CBS. Rudolph and his glowing nose rescue Christmas and all is right with the world in this 1964 song-inspired tale. It's paired with "Frosty the Snowman," which follows at 8:30 p.m.
— "I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown!" 8 p.m. Dec. 16, ABC. ReRun, little brother to Lucy and Linus, gets caught up in "Peanuts" holiday mischief with Snoopy and his brother Spike.
— "How Murray Saved Christmas," 7:30 p.m. Dec. 24, NBC. Music and animation are joined with the voices of Jerry Stiller, Sean Hayes, Dennis Haysbert and others in the story of a cranky deli owner who fills in for Santa.
Lynn Elber can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.