By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Dec 24, 2010 at 11:00 AM

We know the lines by heart and have long ago stopped looking for something new in them.

It's their familiarity that warms us tonight.

This is a night when we listen to songs by long-dead crooners, when we search out old TV instead of searching for new stuff, a night when holiday nostalgia is the dominant theme of television.

And there are plenty of familiar choices tonight.

TBS again offers its marathon of 1983's "A Christmas Story," as Ralphie tries again to get that Red Ryder BB gun for a Christmas that has become part of ours.

It runs from 7 tonight to 7 on Christmas night.

Here's the trailer, if you really need reminding:

NBC has the biggest of the holiday classics, "It's a Wonderful Life" at 7. It's the second airing of the season, but only airs once tonight.

AMC is alternating two old movies, "Miracle on 34th Street" and "White Christmas" throughout the day today. In prime time, "Miracle" airs at 7, followed by "White Christmas" at 9:15, with another repeat into the early hours of Christmas night.

It's not my idea of a Christmas classic, but "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is an annual treat for a lot of folks who identify with Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold. It airs at 7 tonight and 7 a.m. Saturday on TV Land.

A present for movie buffs: It's not a Christmas story, but the 1939 "Wizard of Oz" airs at 7 p.m. Christmas night on TBS. That's not unusual, since Judy Garland's trip to Oz airs pretty regularly on TBS. But sister channel TCM is airing the 1925 silent version of the story featuring Oliver Hardy before he teamed up with Stan Laurel at 11 p.m. Sunday.

It's Christmas in Dr. Who-ville: If you're looking for something new this Christmas, BBC America airs a "Dr. Who" special at 8 p.m. Christmas night. It's another take on Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

Some other holiday gems to watch for: Sitcoms from the 1960s and '70s (and even earlier) aired some classic Christmas episodes that pop up at this time of the year.

You can start on TV Land, where "The Andy Griffith Show" airs at 3:30 this afternoon, with Andy and Barney celebrating Christmas in the courthouse.

Me-TV (Over-the-air Channel 49 , Channel 19 on Time Warner and Charter) has a few timeless Christmas episodes:

  • "The Mary Tyler Moore" airs at 7 tonight, with Mary spending Christmas Eve alone at the station.
  • "The Honeymooners" at 9:30 tonight, finds Ralph pawning his bowling ball to buy Alice a fitting Christmas gift.
  • "The Dick Van Dyke Show" at 7:30 p.m. Christmas night features the Alan Brady Show gang putting on a holiday show.
  • "The Bob Newhart Show" has Christmas episodes tonight and Christmas night at 8.

On the radio: Most radio stations dump out of their regular programming by this evening, substituting a syndicated feed of Christmas music through tomorrow.

Among the most interesting lineups comes from WISN-AM (1130), which programs classic radio Christmas shows amid the other holiday programming.

It's airing "A Christmas Carol" at 11, followed by the radio version of "It's a Wonderful Life" at noon, and the radio version of "Miracle on 34th Street" at 1.

The cycle repeats throughout the day today and tomorrow. Here's the complete schedule.

Sirius XM Satellite Radio has a number of Christmas options, including "Bing Crosby Christmas Radio" on Sirius 113/XM 118. Hosted by members of the family, it's a collection of songs, celebrity guests and family anecdotes. It runs through the wee hours of Christmas night.

A glimpse of Christmas TV past: Here's a Christmas greeting CBS first aired back in 1966.

The one-minute animated spot is simple and powerful, and hasn't aged a bit in the 46 years since it debuted.

It's a Christmas gift I'm happy to share yearly:

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.