As it has for decades now, NBC will air the 1946 fable “It’s a Wonderful Life” (7 p.m., NBC). Like many films directed by Frank Capra, “Life” has been considered “corn” by some. But while Capra’s movie does culminate in an angel getting his wings, it’s hardly Hallmark fluff. Without George Bailey’s desire to have never been born, a grim concept that leads to a suicide attempt, “It’s a Wonderful Life” would have no reason for being.
TBS is airing its 24-hour “A Christmas Story” (7 p.m., TBS) marathon. TBS first aired “Story” back in 1992, only nine years after the film’s theatrical debut. Like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” (and for that matter, “The Wizard of Oz”) this Jean Shepherd tale was not exactly a big box office draw. Its classic status owes to repeat TV viewings.
But, sometimes, repeated airings are not enough to make a TV tradition. Over the past several years, CBS has trotted out colorized holiday episodes of “I Love Lucy” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” for Christmas Eve. They are conspicuous for their absence tonight.
For some time in the early part of this century, NBC tried to turn the 2000 Tea Leoni/Nicolas Cage Christmas fantasy “The Family Man” into a holiday tradition. Audiences didn’t buy into the magic.
Is there room for “new” Christmas Eve traditions? Let’s hope so. ABC airs the 2017 spectacular “The Greatest Showman” (7 p.m., ABC), starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum. It’s got nothing to do with Christmas. But then again, neither does “The Sound of Music,” and that’s been a December ABC tradition since 2002.
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTSBBC America kicks off a daylong “Doctor Who” (5 a.m. through 7 p.m.) marathon that returns Christmas, running from midnight to 3 p.m.
Damage control on “The Resident” (7 p.m., Fox, rerun).
Billie Eilish, Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, Lewis Capaldi, Sam Smith, Shawn Mendes and The Weeknd appear on “iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2020” (7 p.m. CW, rerun).
Dermot Mulroney guest-stars on “Prodigal Son” (8 p.m., Fox, rerun).
Misadventures in babysitting on “Mom” (8 p.m., CBS, rerun).
The FX Movie Channel, FXM, kicks off multiple chances to catch the 1951 adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” (1:30 and 6:50 p.m. and 12:10 a.m., FXM) starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer. He’s my favorite Scrooge.