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When, where to see your favorite TV Christmas specials this season

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it's just a sleigh ride into Christmas. The TV schedule is filling up with snowmen and Santas, some shows starting this week. (Though Hallmark channel gets the most spirited award for kicking off their holiday programming way back on Nov. 9.) Here are five of our favorites, but look below for plenty more stocking-stuffers. As always, check your local listings for channels and last-minute schedule changes.

1. It's a Wonderful Life: Ah, the classic of all classics. Christmas Eve wouldn't be complete without the 1946 Frank Capra movie about George Bailey. Oh, quit complaining that it's in black and white, or that it's three hours long. We dare you not to be moved when Jimmy Stewart runs through Bedford Falls, shouting about how he wants to live again. See it at 8 p.m. Dec. 1, and, of course, Dec. 24 on NBC. You can also see it on the big screen at Tampa Theatre: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22; and 3 p.m. Dec. 23. $9.

2. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: We've puzzled and puzzled till our puzzler was sore, but just can't ignore this Boris Karloff-narrated cartoon classic from 1966. Thankfully the green creature whose heart is two sizes too small never gets old. It only runs 30 minutes (didn't it seem so much longer when you were a kid?), so hunker down with a plate of roast beast and just try not to sing along with the Whos (Fahoo fores / dahoo dores / Welcome Christmas!). ABC shows it at 8 p.m. Dec. 18 and Dec. 25. Or there's always the fantastical live-action movie starring Jim Carrey, playing on ABC at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 25. It's also on ABC Family Dec. 2, 7, 17 and 23.

3. Miracle on 34th Street: The 1947 black-and-white original starring a young Natalie Wood will always reign supreme, but the 1994 version with Mara Wilson (Matilda) as the young girl is just as delightful, thanks to Wilson's general adorableness and the cheesy rom-com antics between Dylan McDermott and Elizabeth Perkins. Catch the 1994 version on ABC Family at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 1, with repeats on Dec. 2 and 18.

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas: Of all the Charlie Brown specials in the world, this 1965 classic is the Charlie Browniest. The jazzy music. The memorable lines. The simple message: "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" No one else could make us consider the saddest tree on the lot because, as Chuck says, "I think it needs me." Aw, melt. Watch it at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.

5. Elf: If you don't think this underrated comedy from 2003 is a new Christmas classic, you are a cotton-headed ninny-muggins. Goofy Will Ferrell, a young, blond Zooey Deschanel and an elfin Bob Newhart will spread Christmas cheer just about every day the first week of December on ABC Family, starting at 8 p.m. Dec. 1. It's also on CBS at 8 p.m. Dec. 15.

And the best of the rest...

Frosty the Snowman (CBS), 8 p.m. today

Jingle & Bell's Christmas Star (Hallmark), 7 p.m. today

The Happy Elf (CW), 9 p.m. today

It's a SpongeBob Christmas! (CBS), 9:30 p.m. today

SNL Christmas (NBC), 9 p.m. Wednesday

Christmas In Rockefeller Center 2012 (NBC), 8 p.m. Wednesday

The Christmas Heart (Hallmark), 8 p.m. Dec. 2, 7, 12 and 25

The Dog Who Saved Christmas (Hallmark), 8 p.m. Dec. 4

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (ABC Family), 8 and 10 p.m. Dec. 3; 9 p.m. Dec. 12; 7 p.m. Dec. 13; 9 p.m. Dec. 20; 7 p.m. Dec. 21; 12 a.m. Dec. 24; 9 p.m. Dec. 25

Rudolph's Shiny New Year (ABC Family), 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3; 4:30 p.m. Dec. 4; 7 a.m. Dec. 9; 2 p.m. Dec. 22

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys (ABC Family), 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3; 12:30 p.m. Dec. 22; 7 a.m. Dec. 23

Blake Shelton's Not-So-Family Christmas (NBC), 10 p.m. Dec. 3; 9 p.m. Dec. 14

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (CBS), 8 p.m. Dec. 4

The Polar Express (ABC Family), 9 p.m. Dec. 5; 6 p.m. Dec. 6; 9 p.m. Dec. 13; 5 p.m. Dec. 14; 10 p.m. Dec. 18; 7 p.m. Dec. 19; 1 p.m. Dec. 24

Home Alone (ABC Family), 7 p.m. Dec. 5; 9 p.m. Dec. 10.; 5 p.m. Dec. 11; 8 p.m. Dec. 18; 5 p.m. Dec. 19; 9 p.m. Dec. 24; 7 p.m. Dec. 25

The Santa Clause (ABC Family), 7 p.m. Dec. 7; 4 p.m. Dec. 8; 7 p.m. Dec. 11; 5 p.m. Dec. 12; 9 p.m. Dec. 21; 6 p.m. Dec. 22; 3 p.m. Dec. 24; 11 a.m. Dec. 25

Michael Buble: Home for the Holidays (NBC), 10 p.m. Dec. 10; 8 p.m. Dec. 21

The Year Without a Santa Claus (ABC Family), 8 p.m. Dec. 10; 11 p.m. Dec. 15; 1 p.m. Dec. 16; 4 p.m. Dec. 22

Christmas in the White House (NBC), 8 p.m. Dec. 13; 9 p.m. Dec. 21

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (ABC Family), 8 p.m. Dec. 14; 10 p.m. Dec. 15; 2 p.m. Dec. 16; 5 p.m. Dec. 22

The Little Drummer Boy (ABC Family), 8 a.m. Dec. 15

CMA Country Christmas (ABC), 9 p.m. Dec. 20

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (NBC), 8 p.m. Dec. 22

Disney Christmas Parade (ABC), noon Dec. 25

— Times staff writer Kelly Smith contributed to this story.

Love it or hate it?

A Christmas Story: The annual 24-hour marathon is an ode to this endlessly quotable '80s movie. But do you love the sexy leg lamp, or will you shoot your eye out if you see this movie starring Peter Billingsley one more time? After all the BB gun fantasies and pink bunny suit humiliations, we have a theory about why this movie is so polarizing: It's a guy thing. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But we triple dog dare you to admit it. It airs on TBS for 24 hours straight starting

8 p.m. Dec. 24

When, where to see your favorite TV Christmas specials this season 11/22/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 22, 2012 3:30am]

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