Christmas Eve means the column must be written in verse, a tradition I've maintained for better and, perhaps, much, much worse.

Some stanzas are vintage, others original. The meter tends to wobble and explode, like the Hindenburg dirigible.

So without further ado, or introductory clatter, let's get this poem on the road, before Santa gets any fatter.

'Twas the night before Christmas, and it's an NBC ritual to repeat "It's a Wonder ful Life" (8 p.m., TV-G). In fact, it's habitual.

It stars Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart, but I bet you didn't know that Nick is played by Sheldon Leonard, who would later produce "The Andy Grif fith Show."

Henry Travers plays Clarence, the angel who does earn his wings, but in Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt," he's up to more ominous things. He didn't just play characters spectral and scary. He also appeared in "The Bells of St. Mary's."

Tight-fisted Mr. Potter may have been ahead of his time. His loans may not have come easily, but they were hardly subprime. George Bailey, in contrast, loaned more with his heart than his head, a practice, it seems, that may have run afoul of the Fed. And should an IRS auditor arrive on some unhappy morn, then George Bailey might really have wished he'd never been born.

Over on CMT, a country Christmas they're a-startin'. Catch "Unlikely Angel" (9 p.m.), starring Roddy McDowall and Dolly Parton.


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If biblical tales are your Christmas cup of tea, don't miss "Noah's Ark" (8 p.m., Encore), starring Jon Voight (the father of Angelina Jolie!).

A Christmas tale of three critters (not including a mouse), "Second Star to the Left" (9:30 p.m., CW, TV-G) features the voice of Hugh Laurie, the head doctor on "House."

If squeaky-clean movies are your holiday bane, catch "Bad Santa" (10 p.m., Comedy Central, TV-14). It's fairly profane.

Carson Kressley appears in "It's Christmas, Carol!" (10 p.m., Hallmark) as an editorial elf. It stars Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia herself!

Adam Sandler stars in "Jack and Jill" (9 p.m., Starz), a film more obvious than clever. Some critics contend it's his worst movie ever!

"Who Was Jesus?" (8 p.m. through 1 a.m., Military) you might ask, warm in your long winter flannel. Then you might wonder, "What's this doing on the Military Channel?"

"Starship Troopers" (9 p.m., Syfy) proved Denise Richards does not easily embarrass, and it rebooted the career of Neil Patrick Harris.

The "Christmas Story" (8 p.m. through 8 p.m. Tuesday, TBS) marathon brings tradition galore, inspired by Jean Shepherd, an esteemed raconteur.

With the solid ratings it's achieving, CBS treats Christmas Eve like any other evening. More people watch its shows -- though they could choose from many others. No wonder it trots out two repeats of "How I Met Your Mother" (8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., TV-14).

So here's to Christmas, with rhymes less than rewarding. If I haven't quite tortured syntax, I've come close to waterboarding.

May the New Year bring you contentment and a reputation closer to that of Martin, than Charlie, Sheen. And may all of your reviews be good in 2013.

HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS

---"Miracle on 34th Street" (7 p.m., AMC).

---"Disney Prep & Landing" (8 p.m., ABC).

---"Christmas Is Here Again" (8 p.m., CW).

---"Shrek the Halls" (8:30 p.m., ABC).

---"Shrek the Third" (9 p.m., ABC)

---"A Christmas Wedding Date" (9 p.m., ION).

---"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (midnight, ABC Family).

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

---On four episodes of "Raising Hope" (Fox, r): a George Bailey moment (8 p.m.), doomsday prep-

ping (8:30 p.m.), social services gets suspicious (9 p.m.), the Great Escape (9:30 p.m.).

CULT CHOICE

Laurel and Hardy star in the 1934 adaptation of the Victor Herbert operetta "Babes in Toyland" (6:30 p.m., TCM). Better known as "March of the Wooden Sol diers," this film offered its young audience a curious combination of comedy, song, fairy tale fantasy and fear. Produced by Hal Roach.

SERIES NOTES

---Seasonal work on "2 Broke Girls" (9 p.m., CBS, r).

---Work woes spoil Molly's festive mood on "Mike & Molly" (9:30 p.m., CBS, r).

---A murder with ceremonial trappings on "Hawaii Five-0" (10 p.m., CBS, r).

LATE NIGHT

---Marisa Tomei, Liz Carey, Sarah Colonna and Ross Mathews are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!, r).

---Samuel L. Jackson, the cast of "Jersey Shore" and Ed Sheeran appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (midnight, ABC, r).

Kevin McDonough can be reached at kevin.tvguy@gmail.com.