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[11/17/03 - 12:00 AM]
Networks Get in Holiday Mood
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The broadcast networks are starting to prep their holiday schedules as NBC, ABC and the WB revealed a slew of themed programming over the weekend. Here's a breakdown of what to expect with descriptions, if available, taken from their respective press releases:

Thursday, November 27

10:00/9:00c - HARRY FOR THE HOLIDAYS (NBC)

Multi-platinum-selling and Grammy-winning music artist Harry Connick Jr. (who also stars in the recurring role of Leo on NBC's comedy "Will & Grace") toasts the holidays with guest stars Grammy-winner Marc Anthony (Best Tropical Latin Performance, "Contra La Corriente"), Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg (NBC's "Whoopi") and multi-Tony-winner Nathan Lane ("The Producers") in a new one-hour, Christmas-themed special taped in New York City. An artist of many talents � singer, musician, composer and actor � Connick brings them all in focus in a spirited showcase of his spectrum of musical styles. The holiday celebration boasts traditional and untraditional performances that reflect Connick's New Orleans jazz and funk roots. In addition, the special coincides with the release of his new CD, "Harry for the Holidays," in time for the festive season. Also joining Connick is gospel singer Kim Burrell and the Harry Connick Jr. Band. Connick, Brad Lachman and Ann Marie Wilkins are the executive producers and Bruce Gowers is the director of this special from Brad Lachman Productions.

Saturday, November 29

8:00/7:00c - MOVIE: FAMILY MAN (NBC)

In its network television premiere Oscar winner Nicolas Cage ("Leaving Las Vegas") stars as Jack Campbell, a career-driven workaholic with a seemingly perfect life -- until a chance meeting with a would-be robber, Cash (Don Cheadle, "Ocean's Eleven"), on Christmas Eve changes his life. Waking up Christmas morning in a New Jersey suburb, Jack's suddenly living a different life where he's married to his college sweetheart (T�a Leoni, "Hollywood Ending") and is the father of two children. At first he is aghast, but Jack soon warms to his new life even though he knows that his new circumstances cannot last.

Tuesday, December 2

8:00/7:00c - A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (ABC)

The ABC Television Network will celebrate the joy of the holidays with the classic animated Christmas-themed PEANUTS special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," created by late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. The hour will also include a series of Christmas-themed animated stories entitled "Charlie Brown Christmas Tales," based on Schulz's work, in which each of the beloved PEANUTS characters - Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and Sally - star in his or her own charming animated vignette. PEANUTS focuses on the anxieties and joys of childhood as expressed by an ensemble cast of children who often seem wise beyond their years. Among them are the lovable Charlie Brown, who perseveres despite continuous failure; the philosophical, blanket-carrying Linus; the fussbudget Lucy, who dispenses psychological advice for a nickel from behind a concession stand; and toy-piano virtuoso Schroeder. Central to the comic strip is Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, who first stood on his hind legs in 1956 and became extremely popular for his imaginative adventures as a number of characters. In the digitally-remastered 1965 special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Charlie Brown complains about the overwhelming materialism that he sees everywhere during the Christmas season. Lucy suggests that he become director of the school Christmas pageant, and Charlie Brown accepts, but it proves to be a frustrating struggle. When an attempt to restore the proper spirit with a forlorn little fir Christmas tree fails, Charlie Brown needs Linus' help to learn what the real meaning of Christmas is. The cast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" includes Peter Robbins ("Charlie Brown"), Christopher Shea as ("Linus"), Tracy Stratford ("Lucy"), Chris Doran ("Schroeder") and Sally Dryer ("Violet"). "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was executive-produced by Lee Mendelson and created and written by Charles M. Schulz. Bill Melendez is the producer and director, and Vince Guaraldi is the music composer.

Wednesday, December 3

8:00/7:00c - CHRISTMAS IN ROCKEFELLER CENTER (NBC)

NBC continues a holiday tradition with its live, sixth-annual national telecast of the 71st celebration of the world's most famous Christmas tree in "Christmas in Rockefeller Center," a star-studded one-hour special from Rockefeller Center in New York City hosted by NBC's "Today" hosts Al Roker and Ann Curry. The popular musical lineup for the special will include a mix of current hits along with holiday music with performances by Harry Connick Jr., Ashanti, Enrique Iglesias, "American Idol" winners Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. NBC stars will participate as well including Martin Sheen, Stockard Channing and Elisabeth Moss from "The West Wing," Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay from "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and Tracy Morgan from NBC's upcoming mid-season comedy "The Tracy Morgan Show." "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" is produced for a national audience by WNBC and TWI, the television division of IMG (International Management Group). Steve Mayer and Adele Rifkin are executive producers, Mike Mathis is event producer and Steve Grymes is Producer/Director.

Saturday, December 6

8:00/7:00c - ORIGINAL MOVIE: IT'S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE (NBC)

Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg ("Ghost," NBC's "Whoopi") joins two-time Oscar nominee Joan Cusack ("Working Girl") and David Arquette ("Eight Legged Freaks") to star with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and an all-star Muppets cast in this first-ever, made-for-television Muppet movie (first telecast on NBC last year). Matthew Lillard ("Scooby Doo") also stars and cameo appearances will be made by Oscar/Emmy winner William H. Macy, Carson Daly (NBC's "Late Night with Carson Daly"), Kelly Ripa, Joe Rogan (NBC's Fear Factor"), Molly Shannon and the cast of "Scrubs" among others. The movie event pays homage to all Christmas movies -- with a dash of "Moulin Rouge," "Cirque du Soleil" and "Fear Factor" -- as Kermit struggles on Christmas Eve to save the Muppet Theater from the stylish, yet Scrooge-ish, bank owner Rachel Bitterman (Cusack) who plans to demolish it and open a trendy nightclub in its place. Arquette stars as Daniel, the rookie angel, who is trying to earn his wings by helping Kermit while Goldberg stars as Daniel's "Boss." Juliet Blake and Brian Henson are executive producers of the presentation from The Jim Henson Company.

Sunday, December 7

7:00/6:00c - MOVIE: THE WIZARD OF OZ (WB)

9:00/8:00c - MOVIE: NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION (NBC)

NBC invites viewers to join the Griswold's in an unforgettable holiday gathering with the third installment in the "National Lampoon's" series. Emmy Award winner Chevy Chase ("Saturday Night Live"), Emmy nominee Beverly D'Angelo ("Coal Miner's Daughter"), Oscar Nominee Juliette Lewis ("Natural Born Killers"), Oscar and Emmy nominee Randy Quaid, Emmy winner Doris Roberts ("Everybody Loves Raymond," "St. Elsewhere") and Emmy winner Julia Louise-Dreyfus ("Seinfeld") star in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is banking on his much-anticipated Christmas bonus while preparing to celebrate the holidays with his extended family � even his redneck cousin (Randy Quaid) has come to join in the festivities. But the holiday happiness soon becomes holiday hijinks as the celebration takes a traditional Griswold turn.

Thursday, December 11

8:00/7:00c - GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER (WB)

Saturday, December 13

8:00/7:00c - MOVIE: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (NBC)

NBC will once again present this beloved yuletide classic about a disheartened but generous man who is given a remarkable "gift" - to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Henry Travers and Lionel Barrymore star in the touching holiday masterpiece directed and co-written by Oscar winner Frank Capra.

Sunday, December 14

9:00/8:00c - ORIGINAL MOVIE PREMIERE: SECRET SANTA (NBC)

The original movie stars Jennie Garth ("What I Like About You," "Beverly Hills, 90210") as a young journalist, Rebecca Chandler, whose cynical take on Christmas lands her in a small town on assignment to uncover the identity of a mysterious philanthropist � or "Secret Santa." In the process, she learns the true meaning of Christmas. Steven Eckholdt ("Providence"), who joins the cast of "The West Wing" this season as President Bartlet's son-in-law, stars as John Carter, the town's generous and handsome millionaire, who quickly becomes Rebecca's prime "suspect." Television veterans Barbara Billingsley ("Leave It to Beaver") and Charlie Robinson ("Night Court") also star. Robert Tate Miller is the writer. Ian Barry ("The Christmas Wish") is the director. Beth Polson ("The Christmas Wish," "The Last Dance") is executive producer of the presentation from The Polson Company.

Thursday, December 18

8:00/7:00c - DR. SEUSS': HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (WB)

8:30/7:30c - A SCOOBY DOO CHRISTMAS (WB)

Saturday, December 20

9:00/8:00c - ORIGINAL MOVIE PREMIERE: NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION 2: COUSIN EDDIE'S ISLAND ADVENTURE (NBC)

Oscar and Emmy nominee Randy Quaid ("The Last Detail," "A Streetcar Named Desire") reprises his unforgettable role as Cousin Eddie from the popular "National Lampoon's Vacation" feature-film franchise in this fun-filled NBC holiday original movie. Miriam Flynn, who played his wife, Catherine, in the previous "Vacation" films, also stars, along with Dana Barron ("National Lampoon's Vacation"), Jake Thomas ("Lizzie McGuire"), multiple Emmy Award winner Ed Asner ("Lou Grant," "Mary Tyler Moore"), Sung Hi Lee ("Nurse Betty"), Fred Willard ("A Mighty Wind," "Everybody Loves Raymond") and Eric Idle ("Monty Python"). In the movie, the affable Eddie and his family are given an all-expense paid trip to the South Pacific for Christmas vacation, but Eddie can't seem to go anywhere without causing chaos - even in the tropical South Seas. When they get shipwrecked on an island, hilarity ensues as Eddie and his family try to survive the elements � and each other � in a Christmas vacation they'll never forget. Matty Simmons, who produced "National Lampoon's Animal House" and the "National Lampoon's Vacation" films, is the writer and executive producer of the Warner Bros. Television production. Nick Marck ("Malcolm in the Middle," "Gilmore Girls") directs.

Look for additional holiday-themed programming to be announced over the coming weeks.





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· AMERICAN IDOL (FOX)
· BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 (FOX)
· EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (CBS)
· FEAR FACTOR (NBC)
· GILMORE GIRLS (CW)
· IT'S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE (NBC)
· LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT (NBC)
· MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (FOX)
· NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION 2: COUSIN EDDIE'S ISLAND ADVENTURE (NBC)
· PROVIDENCE (NBC)
· SCRUBS (ABC)
· SECRET SANTA (NBC)
· TRACY MORGAN SHOW, THE (NBC)
· WEST WING, THE (NBC)
· WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU (WB)
· WHOOPI (NBC)
· WILL & GRACE (NBC)









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