By Mike Hughes,
Gannett News Service
"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), 7 p.m., NBC. In 1943, writer Philip Stern wrote a story called "The Greatest Gift," about a suicidal man who is shown the effect of his life. The story promptly was rejected by magazines. Stern turned it into a 24-page pamphlet he sent to friends as a Christmas card. One of those was an agent. Soon, Hollywood bought the story. Top writers (including Clifford Odets and Dalton Trumbo) wrote scripts. Director Frank Capra took over and hired more writers including an uncredited touchup by Dorothy Parker. James Stewart and Donna Reed were cast and the film was budgeted at $2.36 million; it went over budget by $800,000, and lost just about that much. Then came the surge. "'It's a Wonderful Life' is one of those rare movies that actually gets better with the passing years," Frank Thompson wrote in "Great Christmas Movies." Now its timing seems ideal.
"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," 7 p.m., CBS. Some people consider this tale, done in stop-motion animation, to be a classic.
"The Tangerine Bear: Home in Time for Christmas," 7 p.m., Pax. At a half-hour, this cartoon about a teddy bear with an inverted smile would be charming. At an hour, it's stretched. Still, this is a big-time effort with pleasant drawings and star voices. David Hyde Pierce plays a cuckoo-clock bird; Trisha Yearwood narrates and sings some tunes that are beneath her immense talent.
"Sting in Tuscany: All This Time," 6 p.m., A&E. This starts as a terribly dull film with Sting and others preparing for a concert. It adds dimension because the concert was staged Sept. 11; faced with news of the attack, the musicians hesitated, then proceeded.
"A Handmade Holiday" (8 p.m.) and "A Country Holiday" (10 p.m.), HGTV. Two new specials hosted, respectively, by Kitty Bartholomew and Michele Torres.
"The District," 9 p.m., CBS. Cops try to figure out why a woman was thrown in front of a subway train.