With Thanksgiving over and the end of the November ratings period, there's tons of TV time that's filled either by reruns or holiday specials.
Even though they're readily available on DVD, the Christmas specials are an annual treat for many viewers, who enjoy the holiday ritual that TV offers them. It's also the annual resurrection of lost stars like Boris Karloff, Bing Crosby and even Jimmy Durante (who lent his voice to the animated "Frosty the Snowman."
There's a lot to sort through and a lot to pass by (Jim Carrey's overblown live-action "Grinch," and the 1994 remake of "Miracle on 34th Street, for example). But a handful of classics rise above it all, and three of them air next week.
"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," the 1966 animated version narrated by Karloff, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday on Channel 12.
If you caught this week's TV version of the column on Time Warner's Wisconsin on Demand Channel 411, I hadn't tracked down this one on the schedule at the time of taping. So it was almost like a holiday gift to find that it airs next week.
The finest of the lot is "A Charlie Brown Christmas," airing at 7 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 12.
This half hour of simple animation with an equally simple message first aired in 1965. It was innovative in that real children were used as the voices.
And it's a rarity in that the message of the half-hour of animation focuses on the religious side of a holiday, with Linus reading from the gospel of Luke.
Because TV schedules aren't as etched in stone as they used to be, it wouldn't be a surprise if it aired again in December, so watch the listings.
Next up is "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," airing at 7 p.m., Wednesday, on Channel 58.
It's the oldest of the network Christmas specials still in rotation, dating back to 1964. It veers from the basic story of reindeer that didn't fit in with the herd with a side-trip to the Island of Misfit Toys. But that's part of the charm that keeps it pulling in viewers year after year. It also features another of those lost stars of the past, Burl Ives.
The big Christmas movies: Before some rights issues intervened, "It's a Wonderful Life" aired virtually every day between now and Christmas. Now, NBC has it tied up and rations it to two airings Dec. 12 and Dec. 24, both at 7 p.m. on Channel 4.
The three-hour presentation fills up prime time with the 1946 film starring Jimmy Stewart as a guy who didn't know how well off he really was.
The other is "A Christmas Story," with TBS repeating its annual marathon of the tale of little Ralphie, who wants a BB gun for Christmas despite the warning that "you'll shoot your eye out." It starts at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve and runs 24 hours.
The long, long list: I've been getting requests from readers for a comprehensive list of Christmas programming. AOL offers a pretty good one. TV Guide has a holiday-viewing calendar that's easy to read.
Make sure you subtract an hour for Central time viewing, and remember that schedules can change at the last minute.
Brrrr, it is cold outside: The temperature dipped below freezing this morning and there's nothing like Zooey Deschanel singing in "Baby It's Cold Outside," from Will Ferrell's "Elf" to warm things up a bit.
"Elf," by the way, airs on USA Network tonight at 6 and Saturday at 8, and you'll be able to see it throughout December.
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. 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 OnMilwaukee.com.
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.