Holiday movies and specials are dominating your on-screen cable guide these days, and the next week brings us merry and bright reasons to set those DVRs.
NBC presents its first of two airings of Frank Capra's classic "It's a Wonderful Life" at 7 p.m. Saturday. If you're one of the many people who have never seen it from start to finish -- and there are a lot of you! -- let this be the year when you finally become acquainted with the tale of George Bailey (James Stewart).
Though often taken for granted, "It's a Wonderful Life" is about as perfect a movie as you could ever hope to see, thanks to its lovable, funny characters and an ending that never fails to inspire tears.
In fact, "It's a Wonderful Life" was the first movie that ever made me cry -- not at the ending, oddly enough, but at depressed pharmacist Mr. Gower's realization that he almost poisoned a customer. That scene's mix of sadness, anger and joy was cathartic for Mr. Gower, George Bailey and me; I realized at an early age the emotional power a movie could have.
Four animated specials on two different networks will air Monday, Dec. 16, beginning at 7 p.m. on ABC with Disney's "Prep & Landing." The 2009 tale of an elite band of elves who prepare homes for Santa's deliveries won four Emmys and boasts music by Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino. It will be immediately followed by the 2011 sequel, "Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice."
At 8 p.m., Fox airs two specials featuring characters from Disney rival DreamWorks Animation's popular "Ice Age" and "How to Train Your Dragon" franchises. First up is "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas" and then it's "DreamWorks Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury."
A musical holiday
Wednesday delivers a duo of holiday music specials.
"Home for the Holidays With Celine Dion," airing at 7 p.m. on CBS, brings the "Titanic" songbird together with R&B star Ne-Yo and country star Chris Young. The annual special, now in its 15th year, celebrates and raises the awareness of adoption. Dion will perform songs from her new album, "Loved Me Back to Life."
Later that night on NBC, crooner Michael Buble returns for his third annual Christmas special at 9 p.m. with guests Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and ... Cookie Monster!
No DVR? No worries
Holiday-themed or not, "Mary Poppins" is definitely a classic -- and it's now available in a new 50th anniversary Blu-ray and DVD package.
The new release arrives just as "Saving Mr. Banks," a film about the making of "Mary Poppins" starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney himself, comes to theaters across the country. (It opens in select cities today and expands nationally Dec. 20.) The Blu-ray boasts a new digital restoration of the film, a 7.1 lossless audio track and a bevy of special features including a chat between legendary Disney songwriter Richard Sherman and the man who plays him in "Saving Mr. Banks," Jason Schwartzman.
• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. He's practically perfect in every way. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.