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Holiday Television

A look at some new contenders for holiday specials this year.

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Even in an era of time-shifted television, gathering around ye olde flat screen for network airings of perennial Christmas faves is still a holiday tradition for many. Alongside classics like Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" (NBC, Dec. 24, 8 p.m.) or Rankin-Bass' stop-motion triumph "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (CBS, Nov. 28 and Dec. 9, 8 p.m.), this season always brings new contenders gunning for Christmas glory, like the following trio.

Gwen Stefani
  • Gwen Stefani

I was never much of a fan of Gwen Stefani's music — her 2005 single "Hollaback Girl" being the notable exception — and her new album "You Make It Feel Like Christmas" didn't change that, so why am I still interested to check out the Gwen Stefani Holiday Special (NBC, Dec. 12, 9 p.m.)? For one thing, thanks to her tenure as a judge on NBC's singing competition "The Voice" (her special's lead-in), though I'm indifferent to Stefani's music, I like her. For another, she's always had a talent for making entertaining music videos, which bodes well for this endeavor. So, I'll give it a shot, even if it means sitting through an inevitable duet with Blake Shelton.

The networks' appetite for live musicals (and the ratings they bring) has led them to tackle sacred cows before — NBC's "Sound of Music Live!" and Fox's "Grease: Live" come to mind — but Fox's decision to produce "A Christmas Story Live!" (Fox, Dec. 17, 7 p.m.) makes you wonder if someone triple-dog-dared them. The potential for a tapestry of obscenity directed their way in real time on Twitter gets that much stronger when dealing with a quirky holiday farce that's been watched in 24-hour marathons for more than two decades. On the other hand, the Broadway source material scored three Tony nominations, they've got Matthew Broderick narrating the thing and Maya Rudolph playing Ralphie's mother, and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriting duo behind current Broadway hot ticket "Dear Evan Hansen," will add a few new songs to their original score.

For a certain segment of the population, one holiday tradition shines brighter than all the rest — the "Doctor Who" Christmas special (BBC America, Dec. 25). This year's installment, "Twice Upon a Time," promises to be extra special: After three seasons as the Doctor, Peter Capaldi, the 12th actor to portray Britain's favorite time-hopping hero, is stepping down, and for the first time, a woman, English actor Jodie Whittaker, will take on the role (albeit toward the end of the episode) when, per tradition, the Doctor regenerates in a new body. Predictably, this has angered all the right people, but anyone who remembers Whittaker kicking alien butt in the movie "Attack the Block" knows that we're in good hands. Truly dedicated Whovians looking to experience this episode on the big screen can head to Regal Virginia Center Stadium 20, where it'll be shown at 7 p.m. on Dec. 27. Tickets cost $12.50 at fathomevents.com.

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