By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Dec 24, 2009 at 11:00 AM

We use television in different ways. Sometimes, it's most valuable as a backdrop to our chores.

Especially on a day like today, as we check the final preparations for the holiday off the list, TV can help move us through the day.

The big Christmas Eve TV picks, of course, are NBC's second seasonal airing of "It's a Wonderful Life" on Channel 4 at 7 p.m, and the "Christmas Story" marathon starting at 7 on TBS.

AMC has added a new marathon of 1952's "White Christmas," which began at 8 this morning and stretches until 3:15 a.m.

But here are two lesser picks to serve as a backdrop to your final holiday preparations, or a way to take a half-hour break in advance of tomorrow's Christmas crush. 

Among my favorite TV sitcoms is the 1960 Christmas episode of "The Andy Griffith Show, airing at 7:30 tonight on TV Land. It repeats at 11 a.m. Friday.

Mayberry's version of "A Christmas Carol" features Elinor Donahue as Ellie Walker, the best of Andy's many women. Craggy character actor Will Wright does a touching turn as curmudgeonly Ben Weaver.

Just a couple weeks after its original airing, ABC is rerunning the Christmas episode of "Modern Family" at 8 p.m. on Channel 12.

The fine new sitcom blends the Christmas stories of its various families, with my favorite being traditionalist Jay (Ed O'Neill) Pritchett coming to terms with the new traditions being formed by his Colombian wife and step-son.

Those two episodes of two very funny shows span a half-century of television. But both share a warmth and humanity that's often lacking in sitcoms. It's fitting that they run back-to-back on Christmas Eve.

Some Christmas morning warmth: If you're looking for something to accompany the opening of all those presents on Christmas morning, WGN-TV is firing up the "Yule Log" from 7 to 10 a.m.

Or you could just put this on your laptop:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.