When “The Christmas Box” (CBS at 9) debuted in 1995, I said that it had the spirit and mystique that would give it lasting power. The network agrees, making the made-for-TV drama its movie of choice on Christmas night.
Adapted from Richard Paul Evans’ best-selling short story, it embodies the warmest meaning of Christmas: that it is a season of redemption and renewal, a time when joy can be restored even to those who have been embittered by life’s inevitable hardships.
Richard Thomas (“The Waltons”) stars as a self-centered husband and father who puts his struggling ski business before his family. As times get tough, his wife (Annette O’Toole) talks him into moving with their daughter Jenna (Kelsey Mulrooney) to the large home of a wealthy widow (Maureen O’Hara), where they trade domestic chores for room and board.
The widow, Mary, is a genuine grinch who is hateful and demanding, even toward darling little Jenna.
Soon, strange things begin to happen in the old house that only Jenna witnesses. As the story unfolds, the girl discovers the reason behind Mary’s miserable demeanor.
It all leads to a Christmas miracle you won’t soon forget.
Thomas is well cast as the hardheaded and not always likable dad. O’Hara turns in a blissful performance - one of those old-fashioned turns that builds to heartwarming heights.
Share “The Christmas Box” with your family. It will leave everyone in the spirit.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962), ABC at 8: If you’re ready for a break from holiday programming, you couldn’t ask for more than this classic courtroom drama about racial prejudice. Gregory Peck stars as Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch, who risks the wrath of his neighbors when he defends a black man (Brock Peters) accused of raping a white woman.
Mary Badham won an Oscar nomination as Finch’s feisty daughter, Scout.
“King of the Hill,” FOX at 8: FOX repeats holiday episodes of “Hill” and “The Simpsons” back to back.
The former finds Hank coping with a visit by his mother and her new boyfriend, a Jew (voiced by Carl Reiner).
On “The Simpsons,” Marge tries to save Christmas with an appearance on “Jeopardy!”
“Friends,” NBC at 8: Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) is convinced that a stray cat is her mother reincarnated. Joey and Chandler (Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry) decide to sell their infamous entertainment center. Repeat.
“413 Hope Street,” FOX at 9: Thomas (Richard Roundtree) is approached by a young prostitute (Mena Suvari), whom he brings to the center. She mistakes his good intentions for a sexual advance.
“ER,” NBC at 10: From last season, Jeanie (Gloria Reuben) clears the air about her medical condition, and Ross (George Clooney) pays Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) a visit.
“A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story” (1995), LIFE at 9: This disappointing TV movie traces the life of the most famous of the Mouseketeers. The story moves back and forth between pure elation and intense depression as Funicello recounts her Disney success and battle with multiple sclerosis.
Three actresses - Elysa Hogg, Andrea Nemeth and Eva LaRue - play Funicello.
“Larry King Live,” CNN at 6; repeated at 11: King’s scheduled guest is first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Skating,” TBS at 7:35: Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Katarina Witt, Brian Orser and other great stars skate in a “Stars on Ice” exhibition taped in Lake Placid, N.Y., last month.
“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35 : George Clooney (“ER”), director-actor Rob Reiner and singer Melissa Etheridge.
“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actor John Travolta, Julianna Margulies (“ER”) and music group The St. Luke’s Bottle Band.
“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” ABC at 12:05 a.m.: Jason Alexander, Robin Leach and commentator Lisa Shiffren.
“The Late Late Show With Tom Snyder,” CBS at 12:35 a.m.: Kristen Johnston (“3rd Rock From the Sun”) and director Oliver Stone.
“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 12:35 a.m.: Actors James Woods and Jay Mohr and musical guest John Pizzarelli. Repeat.