TUNE ON, TUNE IN OR MISS OUT : 'Bastard Out of Carolina' on Showtime; Fox visits the Munsters for Christmas; new 'Angel' comes to CBS



"Holiday Affair" / 6 p.m. USA

Consider yourself a film buff if you can name the stars of the 1949 movie bearing the title above. For now, you should know that the updated plot of this remake concerns a widow (Cynthia Gibb) being courted by two very different suitors--an attorney (Tom Irwin) and a dreamer ("JAG's" David James Elliott). And what about the answer to our pop quiz? The leads were played by Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Wendell Corey.


"The Summer of Ben Tyler" / 9 p.m. CBS

James Woods stars in his fifth "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production (he owns Emmys for "Promise" and "My Name Is Bill"), a film dealing with truth and racism. He plays a lawyer in the South, circa 1942, who opens his home to the title character (newcomer Charles Mattocks), the retarded black son of his late housekeeper. It's a decision that rankles the town's wealthiest resident (Len Cariou), a man whose son is on trial following a fatal car accident. Elizabeth McGovern plays Woods' wife.


"Bastard Out of Carolina" / 9 p.m. Showtime

First-time director Anjelica Huston's frightening film about child abuse is a jolt. And be forewarned: The violence is brutal and the molestation and rape scenes of a child are repugnant. Based on a novel by Dorothy Allison, this 1950s-era drama set in South Carolina (produced and subsequently disowned by TNT) is told from the perspective of a bright young girl (beautifully played by Jena Malone) who is abused by her stepfather (Ron Eldard).


"The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas" / 8 p.m. Fox

They're no Fred Gwynne and Yvonne DeCarlo, but you can call them Herman and Lily just the same. Sam McMurray, a farceur from "The Tracey Ullman Show," and Ann Magnuson, who traded quips with Richard Lewis on the sitcom "Anything but Love," star as those oddball monsters from 1313 Mockingbird Lane. In this new TV movie, the Transylvanian twosome try to lift the holiday spirits of homesick son Eddie (Bug Hall).


"Unlikely Angel" / 9 p.m. CBS

The network that gave us "Touched by an Angel" offers Dolly Parton as a "fun-loving" country singer trying to earn her wings. In lieu of Roma Downey or Della Reese, the cast includes Roddy McDowall as Peter, keeper of the keys to heaven's gate, and Brian Kerwin, a widower with two children in need of a good deed. Accomplishing that deed is easier said than done, however, when Dolly falls for Kerwin, and the feeling is mutual.


"Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants" / 10 p.m. HBO

That title becomes clear when you realize it revolves around the card tricks of the veteran illusionist. Jay turns to his sleight-of-hand mastery in this hourlong special sprinkled with anecdotes about the history of magic. Oddly enough, the show has been assembled with input from two heavyweights: playwright David Mamet, who directed it, and Joel Silver ("Executive Decision," "Die Hard"), the executive producer.


"Christmas in Washington" / 10 p.m. NBC

Aliens have landed in the nation's capitol! No worries, though. It's merely the actors who play extraterrestrials on the network's hit series "3rd Rock From the Sun." John Lithgow, Jane Curtin, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will tone down their usual mugging as they host the traditional celebration in front of an audience that is expected to include the first family. Luther Vandross, Faith Hill and Cece Winans are the performers.


"Means of Grace" / 11 p.m. KCET

Ann Conger was a journalist who read Jung and saw herself as "a modern woman in search of a soul." She also was a so-called "madwife," one of more than a million American women committed to mental hospitals in the 1950s. Filmmaker J Clements uses her mother's journals and diaries to trace her schizophrenia and subsequent recovery in this PBS documentary, whose scope includes a look at other women unable to conform to narrow cultural norms of their era.

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