Holiday shows: kids, music and comedy

Of 10 holiday shows premiering this season, one is a total bust, four are good if not great and five at least have the grace to fade inoffensively into the background.

*"The Kid Who Loved Christmas" (8 p.m. Dec. 14 and 10 a.m. Dec. 15, WMAR-TV, Channel 2) is a heart-tugging family drama produced by Eddie Murphy Television Enterprises. The script is mediocre, but the cast is great: Michael Warren, Cicely Tyson, Della Reese, Esther Rolle, Ben Vereen, even a small role by deposed Miss America Vanessa Williams. The biggest draw is a cameo appearance by Sammy Davis Jr. in his last film performance. Mr. Davis said in January that he liked the idea of an all-black Christmas movie because many people fail to "look at black life and what it means as part of our overall quilt of society."


The story is about a jazz musician (Mr. Warren) who is trying to adopt a little boy. A nasty adoption official (Ms. Rolle) does her best to thwart him.

*"Guess Who's Coming for Christmas" (9 p.m. Dec. 23, WMAR-TV, Channel 2) is about an alien (Beau Bridges) who makes friends with an earthling, George Walters (Richard Mulligan). Most of George's neighbors don't believe in aliens, of course. Neither does his son, who whines, "Why can't you just be like everybody else, Pop?"


But that's the point of this pleasant movie: Sometimes it's better not to be like everybody else.

*"Madeline's Christmas" (7:30 p.m. tonight, 6 p.m. Dec. 13 and 11:30 a.m. Dec. 16, The Family Channel) is based on the famous children's book. It's a charming story, but it would have been better minus some of the silly songs and the too-frequent commercial breaks.

*"The Tailor of Gloucester" (9:30 a.m. Dec. 26, MPT, Channels 22, 67) is based on the Beatrix Potter tale of a humble tailor who falls sick at Christmas. While he's lying in his bed, some mice do his work.

"Masterpiece Theatre" fans will recognize the talented Ian Holm as the tailor. The mice and the cat are less recognizable, but also wonderful. It's a nice family show.

*"The Gingham Dog & the Calico Cat" (4:35 a.m. Dec. 13, 9:30 a.m. Dec. 16, 4 p.m. Dec. 21, 5:35 p.m. Dec. 27, Showtime) uses the illustrations from the original book. It's a charming half-hour for small children.

*"Clarence" (8 p.m. tonight, 8 p.m. Dec. 14 and 4 p.m. Dec. 16, The Family Channel) is about an angel who comes to Earth to save a woman's life. If this sounds like "It's a Wonderful Life," it should. This angel, played by Robert Carradine, is based on that angel.

Unfortunately, "Clarence" is so slow and predictable that it will make your heart tired, not warm.

*"A Broadway Christmas" (3:30 p.m. and 3:25 a.m. Dec. 13, 4:30 a.m. Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23, Showtime) features the London casts of several Broadway plays singing carols. The music is good, but watching actors standing on a stage isn't exactly inspiring. Best advice: Buy the tape -- proceeds go to Save the Children -- and turn off the TV.


*"Charlie Daniels: Christmas Time Down South" (5:30 p.m. Dec. 15, 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Dec. 24, The Nashville Network) also has to be the perfect country-music special. Mr. Daniels wears his cowboy hat, croons sweet songs from a rustic set and reads the Christmas story to small children. If you like country, you'll enjoy Charlie's Christmas.

*"Home for the Holidays" (8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 24, The Nashville Network) is a series of tapes featuring RCA recording artists singing their Christmas favorites. It's a blatant attempt to get you to buy their records, but at least it offers good background music for a tree-trimming party.

*"Six Ladies Laughing" (9 p.m. Dec. 12, with repeats Dec. 15, 21 and 25, Lifetime) should have been great adult fun. When you've got six female comedians talking about the stresses of the holiday season, how could it miss?

Here's how: Make most of the jokes focus on single life, on men, on sex. One comedian talking about these things would have been funny. More than that and you've got holiday boredom.