— Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year. You’re stuffed with ham and fruitcake; foil wrappers of former chocolate Santas (or gelt coins) are scattered around you like tinsel; and you’re ready for your greatest end-of-year role yet — as a Holiday Couch Potato.
Unfortunately, like you, Hollywood also wants to kick back now, which means you could be surfing a long while before you figure out what to watch. Not to worry. Here's a merry collection of holiday programming, served with a pretty bow and ready for unwrapping. Someone take the remote out of the eggnog and let’s get started.
Yule be happy
The annual airing of "The Yule Log" — a multihour, commercial-free, often holiday-music-accompanied video of nothing but a burning fireplace — may have begun on New York City’s WPIX-11 television in 1966, but it has national significance now.
According to fan site TheYuleLog.com, Tribune broadcasting stations will air the "Log" on Christmas Day in select cities around the country (check the schedule for specifics). The Grinchy part? There’s no national coverage on cable or satellite, though starting in 2011 it will air annually on the Antenna TV cable network, bringing faux light and heat, but real joy into homes.
Put away those pecan turtles and cheesecake — there’s enough sweetness and light at the Hallmark Channel to go around. All this month, Hallmark will air at least four Christmas/holiday-themed films, guaranteed to leave cavities behind:
It is recommended that you brush your teeth after every viewing.
The deep freeze
The antidote to holiday sweetness is cheese, so dig in over at Syfy, which has cornered the market on campy original-monster mania such as “Ice Quake” (Dec. 11 at 9 p.m.). Not to be confused with Prince’s song “Housequake,” “Ice Quake” explores how a family will make it home for Christmas now that the Alaskan permafrost has melted and rivers of methane are generating massive earthquakes.
And you thought your over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s was tough.
You won’t be able to swing a gingerbread house this season without hitting a TV marathon — though admittedly, this is more a cable phenomenon than a broadcast one. Marathons are an ideal way to zone out and plow through your leftover tins of three-flavored popcorn (you know, the ones where the caramel corn disappears first).
The flurry of marathons includes TBS’ annual 24 hours of "A Christmas Story" starting Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. Then there's AMC’s marathons of 1954’s “White Christmas” on Dec. 11-12 at 8 p.m. and 10:45 p.m., “Miracle on 34th Street” Dec. 17-20 at 8 p.m., “Scrooged” on Christmas Day from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning, and the “Back to the Future” trilogy on Dec. 27-Jan. 1 at 6 p.m.
Not to be left out, Bravo and Comedy Central will run short marathons of their own original programming (“Real Housewives” starting Dec. 23 for the girls, “South Park” on Monday nights for the boys). Sadly, “Law & Order” nerds like yours truly will have to do without the annual TNT marathon this year — Jack McCoy is apparently getting the holiday off.
Alcohol and eggnog is one great holiday mixture. Harry Potter and Doctor Who, that’s even better. BBC America’s “Doctor Who: A Christmas Special” (Dec. 25 at 8 p.m.) will feature not just the floppy-haired, bow-tied doctor, but also Michael Gambon, known best to Potter fans as Albus Dumbledore.
Those resisting the pull of the wacky doctor in the past now have an ideal platform from which to board the TARDIS time and spacecraft, joining a series that has been on air (on and off) since 1963. As show lead writer/executive producer Steven Moffat noted, “It’s all your favorite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters.”
What more could you ask for?
Very, very special holidays
In case your own home isn’t jolly enough, just look to your usual favorite series, many of which have been airing special holiday episodes since Thanksgiving. Look for special holiday episodes on all three broadcast networks: Amy Ryan returns to NBC’s “The Office,” while “Community” features a stop-motion episode (both Dec. 9, 9 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively); ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” stars Mariah Carey and a holiday parade (Dec. 12, 8 p.m.); and CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother” and “Hawaii Five-0” each have their own seasonal installments (both Dec. 13, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. respectively).
Expect intense but probably hilarious story lines from TNT’s “Leverage” (Dec. 12, 9 p.m.) and USA’s “Psych” (Dec 15, 9 p.m.).
The last (or possibly first) resort
Sick of what those “expert” programmers at the networks are spoon-feeding you? Toss it out and take this extended TV time to empty out your DVR, which is likely groaning under the weight of the accumulated TV shows you’ve failed to watch this the year.
Or make a game of it: See just how many episodes of Bravo’s “The Millionaire Matchmaker” you can stand to see in a row before you have to do something more productive — or until your formerly adoring relatives begin hurling lumps of coal at the television set.