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Christmas Shows and Movies on TV—When to Watch

Update: Specific dates and times are from last year, but the general references and links to guides and Amazon are still accurate.

The more popular Christmas films and TV specials —with info on screening times and/or links to info on screening… You can also look up times for these and other shows on the TV Guide website. (And you can read about, and possibly find times for, the cartoon/animated Christmas movies and specials at A Cartoon Christmas.)

ABC Family seems to have gotten hold of many of the more popular Christmas movies and TV shows for its 25 Days of Christmas—particularly those from Disney, which is hardly surprising since that’s who owns them.

TCM, likewise, has lined up an array of Christmas screenings—some terrific ones, including the 1951 A Christmas Carol, with Alastair Sim as the definitive Scrooge, Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), and what is probably my favorite Christmas movie, The Bishop’s Wife, with Cary Grant typecast as an angel.

And you can check out CBS Holiday Central for a guide to their offerings. The jewel in the crown is the stop-motion animation classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’ll update this if I find more times or remember movies I left out…

A Charlie Brown Christmas — ABC online or on Tuesday, December 18 at 9/8c—a weirdly late time for a show aimed squarely at the “in bed by 9pm” crowd. Though now that I think of it, spot on for the nostalgic viewing crowd of people like me, who are probably the real target audience these days. Certainly the most popular and well-loved of all the Christmas TV specials, and for good reason.

A Christmas Carol (1938) — Earliest sound version of the Dickens story, and still my favorite film version. Available on Amazon instant video and TimeWarner Cable On Demand.

A Christmas Carol (1951) — TCM on Sunday, December, 16 at 9:30pm. With Alastair Sim in what is probably the definitive Scrooge portrayal; even if you’ve never seen this movie, you will probably recognize this Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol (1984) — AMC on Sunday, December 16 at 8pm and 10pm. Made for TV version with George C. Scott as Scrooge, considered by many to be one of the best versions.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009) — ABC Family on Thursday, December 6 at 8/7c. Animated version with Jim Carrey. Haven’t seen it and don’t intend to. Also available on Amazon instant video.

A Christmas Story (1983) — TBS for 24 hours, starting on Christmas Eve, 8/7c. A boy wants a BB gun for Christmas. “Somehow usually tasteless director Bob Clark, whose specialty was fairly vile exploitation movies (PORKY’S and the even worse PORKY’S II: THE NEXT DAY), managed to make a totally charming and lovable Christmas film. Based on the short stories of midwestern humorist Jean Shepherd (who also narrates in the first person), A CHRISTMAS STORY is an episodic comedy set in the 1940s about the family life of young Ralphie (Billingsley) as Christmas approaches. The plot loosely revolves around Ralphie’s desire for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas that his mother (Dillon) has forbidden because she’s afraid he’ll shoot his eyes out.”

Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife

The Bishop’s Wife (1947) — TCM on Sunday, December 23 at 8pm and Monday, December 24 at 1pm. Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven—hard to go wrong with a cast like this. Cary Grant is maybe typecast—as an angel—but he brings restraint as well as charm, and a level of mystery and seriousness, to his performance.  One of my favorite Christmas movies.

Die Hard (1988) — HBOe on Monday, December 10 at 10pm and Friday, December 14 at 11:45pm. Weirdly, this has become a Christmas classic.  It’s set at Christmas, but I somehow feel like there should be more to make a classic than just that, and somehow guns and a high body count don’t seem to me in the spirit of the season. But of course it’s terrific fun. The Die Hard people knew they were on to a good thing: the second one is set at Christmas as well. Also available through Amazon instant video.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)— ABC Family on Sunday, December 2 at 7/6c & 9:30/8:30c and again on Monday, December 17 at 7/6c & 9:30/8:30c, and ABC on Tuesday, December 25 at 8:30|7:30c. The remake, and possibly one of the most ill-conceived remarks ever made.  What were they thinking?

Doctor Who‘s Christmas special, The Snowmen — BBC America on Christmas Day.

Elf — ABC Family on Sunday, December 2 at 5/4c, and various times after that. Also somehow showing on CBS on Saturday, December 15 at 8pm. With Will Farrell. A bit snarky, but not without warmth and charm. Also available on Amazon instant video.And playing at San Francisco’s Castro Theater on Saturday, December 22 at 12:30pm as part of a full day of Christmas fun.

Frosty the Snowman — CBS on Saturday, December 8 at 8pm. With the voice of Jimmy Durante.

Gremlins (1984) — VH1 on Sat, December 15 at 11am and 8pm. Another movie that, like Die Hard, seems to have become something of a “Christmas classic” predominantly by dint of being set at Christmas.  Still, more so than with Die Hard there is something about it, beyond the time it takes place, that genuinely connects with Christmas, something about the anarchic destructiveness of the Gremlins, and the way they get wrapped up (forgive the pun) in decorations, destroy presents, etc.  It’s the flip side of the consumption of Christmas.

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixABC Family on Saturday, December 8 at 7a/6c. Because of when they were originally released, and because of the wonderful winter sequences in some of the films, the Harry Potter movies have become a common Christmas thing for many people.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — ABC Family on Saturday, December 8 at 10a/9c.


Holiday Inn (1942) — Doesn’t appear to be showing on TV. Bing Crosby starts an inn that only opens on holidays, each time with a special, thematic floor show. Fred Astaire is his best friend. And they’re both in love with the same girl. It’s not a great movie.  The plot is thin, and while I’m fond of Crosby and adore Astaire, neither are at their best here.  But the tunes by Irving Berlin are great, and Bing Crosby sings “White Christmas” for the first time. And frankly, when it comes to musicals and Fred Astaire, I’m pretty easy. Also available on Amazon instant video.

Home Alone ABC Family on Wednesday, December 5 at 7/6c, and various times after that.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) — FMC on Friday, December 21 at 12:55pm and Saturday, December 22 at 7:15am (which I think would be a bad way to begin the weekend, but probably would have enjoyed when I was at the Saturday morning cartoon age). Also available on Amazon instant video.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) — Cartoon Network Sat, December 15 at 5:30pm and Mon, December 17 at 6pm; also available online—The original animated version, with the wonderful narration by Boris Karloff and directed by the great Bugs Bunny director, Chuck Jones. Not the Carrey one, which should never be watched by anyone.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) — This, too, has got to be showing somewhere, but I haven’t found where yet. Available on Amazon instant video and, surprisingly, on YouTube:

Jack Frost (1979) — ABC Family on Tuesday, December 4 at 6:30/5:30c, and various times after that.

Love, Actually (2003) — Cinemax on Sunday, December 2 at 1pm and Thursday, December 13 at 1:20am.

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) — TCM on Tuesday, December 18 at 10pm and Monday, December 24 at 4:30pm. Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) — AMC on Sunday, December 9 at 8pm and 10:15pm, and almost every day after that through Christmas Eve. A department store Santa thinks he’s the real thing. The original version, a bit overdone at times, but still charming.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994) — ABC Family on Sunday, December 2 at 8:30a/7:30c and Tuesday, December 18 at 5:30pm/4:30c. Another remake that I haven’t seen.  The colorized version of the original was bad enough.

National Lampoon’s Christmas VacationABC Family on Monday, December 3 at 8/7c & 10/9c, and various times after that. I haven’t seen it, and don’t propose to, but it clearly has an audience.

The Polar Express — ABC Family on Wednesday, December 5  at 9/8c, and various times after that. Tom Hanks gives an interesting performance, and it is technically quite impressive. It’s not without its touching moments, but overall it feels a bit cold to me. Still, for many people a very good Christmas movie. Also available on Amazon instant video.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerCBS on Tuesday, December 4 at 8pm and Friday, December 14 at 8pm.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys — ABC Family on Monday, December 3 at 6:30pm/5:30c.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to TownABC Family on Friday, December 14 at 8pm/7c.

The Santa Clause —  ABC Family on Friday, December 7 at 7/6c, and various times after that. Tim Allen inherits the red suit.

The Santa Clause 2 — ABC Family on Saturday, December 22 at 8pm/7c. The one where he has to marry? Who can keep them straight.  I enjoyed them, but we have already established that I am an uncritical, wet hen when it comes to holiday stuff.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause —ABC Family on Friday, December 7 at 9/8c, and various times after that.

Scrooged (1988) — Not sure where and when this is playing yet, but try to catch it.. An updated version of the Dickens story. With Bill Murray basically being Bill Murray, playing a TV executive who is putting on a Christmas special, but is a real “bah humbug” guy—until he gets visited by three spirits. A bit snarky, but not without moments of genuine charm and warmth. Also available on Amazon instant video. And playing at San Francisco’s Castro Theater on Saturday, December 22 at 5:30pm as part of a full day of Christmas fun.

The Shop Around The Corner (1940) — TCM on Friday, December 7 at 12am, Sunday, December 16 at 10am, and Monday, December 24 at 8pm. Ernst Lubitsch directs, James Stewart stars. The movie on which the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film You’ve Got Mail was based, but so much better. A romantic comedy, set in Budapest during the holiday season. An absolute gem of a movie.

Singin’ In The Rain (1952) — TCM on Monday, December 17 at 2:15pm. Has become a Christmas tradition for many people. It shows at San Francisco’s Castro Theater every year and I usually go with as many family, friends and kids as I can get together.  This year it will be screening there on Boxing Day, December 26, at 4:45, 7:00, and 9:15pm. A wonderful pick-me-up as the magic (and loot) of Christmas Day starts to fade. Available on Amazon instant video, too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The Sound of Music (1965) — Not sure when this is playing yet, if at all. Available on Amazon instant video. (And catch a sing-along Sound of Music at San Francisco’s Castro Theater through Sunday, December 2.)

White Christmas (1954) — AMC on Friday, December 14 at 7pm and 9:45pm, December 15 at 7pm and 9:45pm, and a few more times after that. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are a couple of army buddies who become a couple of song and dance men after the war. With a couple of women they’re hitting on, they end up at a ski lodge in Vermont, run by their old commander and about to go out of business because of the lack of snow. Isn’t that a weird way to synopsize the movie? Accurate though it is, it doesn’t exactly capture the point and the pleasures of the movie. And the pleasures are many, and very pleasurable.  Danny Kaye’s choreography number has nothing to do with the holidays, but is brilliant. Bing Crosby crooning “When I get worried and I can’t sleep / I count my blessings instead of sheep” is unexpectedly nice, though Crosby is looking a bit old for his part here.  The final number, “White Christmas,” should be a show-stopper, but to my mind suffers from over-production.  But the byplay between Kaye and Crosby is a treat and the whole movie has a warmth and charm that, for me, are irresistible. Also available on Amazon instant video.

The Year Wihtout a Santa ClausABC Family on Monday, December 10 at 8pm/7c.

Christmas Episodes of Popular TV Shows

That 70s Show — ABC Family is screening a bunch of Christmas episodes from this hit (and charming) series on Friday, December 14, starting at 2pm


Doctor Who

2 Responses

  1. James Worthy says:

    what?! No Christmas Story!!!?

    • zerode says:

      Yes, you’re absolutely right. It was on my list to add last night. It’s not on my personal list, which is why it wasn’t on there earlier, but thinking about what OTHER people like, I realized that one needed to be added.

      And also Bad Santa (maybe-it would be first which I’m not keen on) and Die Hard. And Gremlins since we are going violent.

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows


is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.


What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.



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