weather icon Partly Cloudy

How to watch your favorite Christmas movies and TV specials

Christmas TV is like Lake Wobegon: Everything is special.

Surf through your channels at any hour before Dec. 26, and you’re bound to stumble upon a Christmas special — even though there’s very little that’s “special” about most of them.

A handful, though, are worth revisiting, year after year — and decade after decade.

Here’s a look at the 12 specials you shouldn’t miss:

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

(8 p.m. Nov. 30, ABC)

Remember the true meaning of Christmas — and jam out to the Vince Guaraldi Trio as the kids do the Running Man decades before it was a real dance — as Charlie Brown adopts the saddest Christmas tree ever.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

(8 p.m. Tuesday, CBS)

Revisit the classic 1964 animated tale that took an anti-bullying, pro-misfit stance long before either was fashionable. Although it still makes no sense that children would turn down a water pistol that shoots jelly. That sounds kind of amazing.

“Frosty the Snowman”

(8 p.m. Friday, CBS)

That jolly happy soul is back to be tormented by an evil magician, who tries to melt him and is willing to let a little girl freeze to death, all so he can regain an old silk hat.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

(8 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Dec. 25, NBC)

His heart is full of unwashed socks, his soul is full of gunk, yet despite that, the Grinch (voiced by the great Boris Karloff) has become a holiday institution.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

(9 a.m. Thursday, NBC)

Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker will once again banter awkwardly while Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Flo Rida, the Goo Goo Dolls, Smokey Robinson, Wyclef Jean and 98 Degrees join the casts of Broadway’s “Anastasia,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Once on This Island” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” in the parade’s 91st annual edition.

“Christmas in Rockefeller Center”

(8 p.m. Wednesday, NBC)

Gwen Stefani and Pentatonix are among the performers scheduled during the lighting of the 75-foot Norway spruce. They also have their own NBC specials, “Gwen Stefani’s You Make It Feel Like Christmas” (9 p.m. Dec. 12) and “A Very Pentatonix Christmas” (10 p.m. Monday and 8 p.m. Dec. 6).

“The Year Without A Santa Claus”

(3:35 p.m. Dec. 1, 2:40 p.m. Dec. 11, midnight Dec. 13, 3:40 p.m. Dec. 14, 3:30 p.m. Dec. 19, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and 2:20 p.m. Dec. 22 on Freeform)

Ostensibly the story of the year Mrs. Claus almost had to take over for Santa, all anyone remembers are the showstopping musical numbers by Heat Miser and Snow Miser.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”

(8 p.m. Friday, ABC, and 1:10 p.m. Dec. 3, 1:35 p.m. Dec. 11, 11 a.m. Dec. 12, 7:30 a.m. Dec. 18, 3:30 p.m. Dec. 20, 9:30 a.m. and 10:55 p.m. Dec. 21, 1:15 p.m. Dec. 22, 11:05 a.m. Dec. 24 and 8:30 a.m. Dec. 25 on Freeform)

Fred Astaire narrates this tale of Kris Kringle (voiced by Mickey Rooney), the Winter Warlock and a penguin named Topper that explains how, if Sombertown’s mayor, Burgermeister Meisterburger, never injured himself while stepping on a toy duck, the world wouldn’t have Santa Claus.

“A Christmas Story Live!”

(7 p.m. Dec. 17, Fox)

Maya Rudolph portrays Ralphie’s mom, Chris Diamantopoulos (“Silicon Valley”) is The Old Man and Matthew Broderick narrates this musical event featuring new songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“La La Land,” “Dear Evan Hansen”). The annual 24-hour movie marathon returns to TBS and TNT on Dec. 24.

The “Doctor Who” Christmas Special

(TBA Dec. 25, BBC America)

Before Peter Capaldi hangs up his coat as the Twelfth Doctor and regenerates into Jodie Whittaker’s new Doctor, he’ll team up with his former self (David Bradley’s First Doctor) in the episode “Twice Upon a Time.”

“CMA Country Christmas”

(8 p.m. Monday, ABC)

Country music superstar and part-time Caesars Palace headliner Reba McEntire sings and hosts holiday performances by Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and Trisha Yearwood at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House.

“It’s a Wonderful Life”

(8 p.m. Dec. 24, NBC)

It’s technically not a special. But this is your only chance to see George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) run through the streets of Bedford Falls, screaming like a maniac, on the way to his “wonderful old drafty house.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of Las Vegas theater talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)