1983's A Christmas Story, with the tongue sticking to the flagpole bit.
You'd think it would be easy to catch your favorite classic holiday specials - there's holiday-related programming on the tube every night from Thanksgiving on. But there's so much programming, you can sometimes miss out on the best of the bunch.
ABC Family's "25 Days of Christmas" (cable channel 49) kicks off Dec. 1 with a Dr. Seuss extravaganza that still manages to leave out the must-see half-hour of television animation (1966's How the Grinch Stole Christmas featuring the voice of Boris Karloff). Instead, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the movie featuring Jim Carrey) is the keynote offering, at 7 p.m. and repeated at 9 p.m.
But you can see the original: ABC (WKOW-27; cable channel 7) rebroadcasts the 1966 Grinch animation at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30. Put it in your planner.
Sadly, CBS (WISC-3, cable channel 9) is counterprogramming with Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer, the greatest of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animations, at the same time - Nov. 30, 7 p.m. Still, not a problem if you have some sort of DVR option, or if you plan ahead and watch The Grinch on TBS (cable channel 31) on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.
The undeniably essential A Charlie Brown Christmas will once again elucidate what Christmas is really all about on ABC, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, another of the classic Rankin/Bass animations, stars Fred Astaire as a dancing mailman and Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle. It airs Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. on ABC. (This is the one with Burgermeister Meisterburger and the song "Put One Foot in Front of the Other.") Rankin/Bass' Frosty the Snowman, with the voices of Jimmy Durante and the now all-but-forgotten Jackie Vernon, comes on CBS Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.
For the generation that does not know who Jimmy Durante was, Yes, Virginia, with the voices of Neil Patrick Harris and Jennifer Love Hewitt, airs on CBS Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. And a new NBC offering, Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, with voices by Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman, airs Nov. 24 and Dec. 4, both at 7:30 p.m.
Not everyone agrees on what constitutes essential holiday movie viewing. Some families have developed great devotion to the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, starring the little boy Ralphie and the tongue sticking to the flagpole bit. If you are among its partisans, you can see it (again and again) on TBS on Christmas Eve, where it will be looping continually, starting at 7 p.m.
Others will place themselves firmly in the It's a Wonderful Life camp, the 1946 Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed-Frank Capra masterpiece. The movie shows on NBC (WMTV-15, cable channel 5) on Nov. 30 at 8 p.m., to usher in the season, and again to cap it off on Christmas Eve at 7 p.m.
Elf, the 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell as a human raised by elves at the North Pole, is broadcast on the USA network (cable channel 34) on Nov. 25 and 27 at 8 p.m.
Scrooge, from 1970, stars Albert Finney in a musical version of A Christmas Carol on TCM (cable channel 58), Dec. 10, 8:30 p.m. The darker Scrooged, the 1988 film starring Bill Murray as a modern-day Scrooge, appears on AMC (cable channel 57) on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.
And Tim Burton's even darker The Nightmare Before Christmas comes on ABC Family on Dec. 4, late-ish, at 10 p.m.