Times Staff Writer

Brace yourself. The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it tidings of great joy, to be sure, but also crowds of shoppers, mountains of fattening food and hordes of sloppily sentimental TV specials.

The first of TV's new season's greetings shows, "Miracle at Moreaux," arrives tonight on public television's family-oriented "Wonderworks" series (8 p.m. on Channel 28, 9 p.m. on Channel 50).

Set in France in December, 1943, it's the story of a nun (played by Loretta Swit) and her students at a Catholic school who take it upon themselves to hide three Jewish children from the occupying Nazi forces.

On the positive side, the hourlong drama is commendable for being the rare TV program to acknowledge Hanukkah, that "other" December holiday. And it goes lightly on the sentimentality.

But neither does it contain much drama. A potential conflict between the Jewish children and a seemingly anti-Semitic Catholic girl quickly fades without explanation, and the escape from the Nazis is ineptly staged, undermining the suspense that is intended.

Also regretable, considering that the program is aimed at a children's audience, is the fact that "Miracle at Moreaux" fails to place the story in an understandable context. We get no explanation of why the Jewish children are being pursued by the Nazis, nor of what it is that makes them so ominously different from their Catholic counterparts. This may prove confusing for young viewers who aren't well-versed in religion and World War II.

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