Movies, music, parades, sports and even a bit of religion compose Christmas Eve and Christmas holiday television programming.
With tighter budgets and the awareness that television viewing is down on Christmas Eve, ABC and NBC will be re-running Christmas-themed movies tonight, while CBS has its regularly scheduled lineup of situation comedies and a “Trials of Rosie O’Neill” rerun.
ABC (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42) airs “Roots: The Gift” at 9 p.m. Louis Gossett Jr. and LeVar Burton reprise their roles as Fiddler and Kunta Kinte from the 1977 miniseries in this 1988 made-for-TV movie of the tale of a freed slave needing help guiding runaway slaves on Christmas Eve.
NBC (Channels 4, 36 and 39) counters at 9 p.m. with a more contemporary tale, “Christmas Eve,” a 1986 made-for-TV movie starring Loretta Young as a rich eccentric trying to reunite her family as her son tries to oust her from the family business.
The day’s lone new Christmas special, “A Very Retail Christmas,” airs at 8:30 p.m. on Channels 4, 36 and 39. Ed O’Neill, best known as “Married . . . . With Children’s” Ed Bundy, stars as a mean-spirited toy manufacturer busily designing the most dangerous toys ever and attempting to put Santa Claus out of business. (Please see review, F12.)
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” which has evolved not only into the quintessential Christmas movie but also a cautionary tale about the savings and loan industry, gets what figures to be its last showings until Thanksgiving, 1991. Frank Capra’s story of the head of a troubled S&L; who turns to a guardian angel instead of five U.S. senators for aid, airs at 5 p.m. on cable station WGN; at 7 p.m. on KTLA Channel 5; at 7 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. on American Movie Classics; at 9 p.m. and 3:45 a.m. on the Disney Channel; at midnight on KCET Channel 28; at 12:30 a.m. on KUSI Channel 51; on Tuesday at 2 a.m. on USA, 4 p.m. on KTLA Channel 5, and at 1 p.m. on KDOC Channel 56.
Marlo Thomas’ feminist remake of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “It Happened One Christmas,” can be seen at 9:30 a.m. Christmas Day on USA cable.
Music-related events are highlighted by KCET Channel 28’s 12-hour coverage of “The 31st Annual Los Angeles County Holiday Program,” beginning at 9 a.m. today from the Pavilion.
Religious programming includes “Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s” (midnight, Channels 4, 36 and 39), with Pope John Paul II celebrating midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and “Light for the World” (midnight, Channels 7, 3 and 10), a look at services from what was once East Berlin and Decatur, Ill. CBS airs services from Atlanta’s Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip (12:05 a.m. Channel 2, midnight Channel 8.)
Christmas doesn’t evoke the same kind of parades as New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving or July Fourth, but there are parades nonetheless. Alan Thicke and Joan Lunden host “The Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade” (Tuesday, 7 a.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42). Channel 11 airs the Huntington Park Christmas Parade at 9 a.m. and the South Gate Christmas Parade at noon. KTLA replays last month’s Hollywood Christmas Parade at 10 a.m.
Christmas Eve proves to be a silent night and day for sports fans, with nary a live or delayed event. But action resumes on Christmas with the Kelly Tire Blue/Gray All-Star Classic (9 a.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42), an NBA game between the two-time champion Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls (12:30 p.m., Channels 4, 36 and 39) and the Eagle Aloha Bowl, matching Arizona and Syracuse (12:30 p.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42).
Radio choices include a version of “A Christmas Carol” starring Lionel Barrymore at noon today on KCRW-FM (89.9), with a new National Public Radio production starring Jonathan Winters at noon Tuesday.