Sackful of holiday shows, but no 'Life'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's Christmas Eve, which, in TV terms, used to mean 121 showings of "It's a Wonderful Life." However, since that film no longer is in the public domain -- in other words, since stations now have to pay a fee to show it -- it's nowhere to be found. Later in the evening, though, TV retains its tradition of providing a mass of Masses. And in the afternoon, there's the last full slate of 1994 pro football.

* "Countdown to Christmas" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., Channel 2) -- Leeza Gibbons "interviews" Santa. This time of year, or any other, it's hard to imagine anything I'd like to see less. NBC.

* "Pete's Dragon" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., Channel 13) -- And this time of year, so am I. ABC.

* "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., Channel 11) -- Somehow, when CBS was putting together last night's special about "Television's Christmas Classics," this 1993 episode of "Dr. Quinn," in which Diane Ladd takes Jane Seymour's Mike on a ghostly journey to Christmases past, present and future, was overlooked. CBS.

* "Holiday Greetings From Ed Sullivan" (9 p.m.-11 p.m., Channel 11) -- Boy, the post office is even more backlogged than I thought. CBS.

* "Christmas Eve at St. Peter's" (11:30 p.m.-1 a.m., Channel 2) -- From St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Pope John Paul II conducts a midnight Mass -- their time, which means this is a delayed broadcast. NBC.

Cable

* "Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas" (6:30 p.m.-7 p.m., DIS) -- This doesn't quite count as an annual TV "classic," either -- but there are some well-realized production numbers here and an overall sense

of fun that makes it a fun family diversion.

* "Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas To Remember" (7 p.m.-8 p.m., FAM) -- According to whom?

* "Holiday Inn" (8 p.m.-9:50 p.m., AMC) -- No, this isn't some tacky new low in the movie-marketing "science" known as product placement. The Holiday Inn chain actually took its name from this 1942 movie, which stars Bing Crosby -- and introduces Crosby's signature holiday tune, "White Christmas."

* "Beavis and Butt-Head Christmas" (10 p.m.-10:30 p.m., MTV) -- Be forewarned: With these animated idiots, chestnuts aren't the only things likely to be roasted over an open fire. . . .

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