There is terrible, and there is deliberately terrible. And there is a difference. "Nightmare Christmas" (10 p.m., ID, TV-14) deserves credit for trying to combine predictable holiday programming with a certain audience's insatiable appetite for true crime docudramas. But "Nightmare" attempts lightheartedness without a light touch. The ghoulish Christmas puns (slay bells, ginger-dead, etc.) arrive with all the subtlety of a poisoned fruitcake.
The actors hired for the re-enactments appear to have been directed to ham it up. This is amusing -- within limits. "Nightmare" kicks off with a reverse twist on O Henry's "The Gift of the Magi": Newlywed Amber stabs her husband with a kitchen knife because he opened his presents five days too early. After sending him to the emergency room, she begs a doctor there to finish him off.
This is followed by a tale of hapless burglars who rob a church collection box on Christmas Day, and the story of a son who bestows a beautiful and exotic robe on his mother, forgetting that his lovely gift is covered in blood.
All of the narrative wordplay and campy acting in the world can't redeem these vignettes of their sad and sordid nature. That's why this "Nightmare" special, like that bloody gift, can seem so desperate and wrongheaded.
---Along similar lines, "Im practical Jokers" (10 p.m., TRU) returns for a second season. This hidden-camera series follows four guys as they compete to outdo one another by putting perfect strangers in awkward and ridiculous situations. In one segment, they pretend to be office sensitivity consultants and put employees on the spot with a deliberately rude seminar on workplace behavior.
Since the sole purpose of this exercise is for these four jokers to crack one another up, we hear them laughing at their own stunts with unpleasant frequency. Like any small circle of friends, they laugh at the others' jokes even when they're not funny. They seem as indifferent to their audience as they do to their victims. This is deadly.
---Neighborhood moms, overwhelmed by holiday chores, go "On Strike for Christmas" (8 p.m., Lifetime Movie Network). This 2010 bauble starring Daphne Zuniga is notable for being a rare TV offering that acknowledges that such things as strikes even exist.
---"Live From Lincoln Center" (8 p.m., PBS) presents "The Richard Tucker Opera Gala."
---Christmas past on "The Big Bang Theory" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
---Christmas in Mystic Falls on "The Vampire Diaries" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
---On two episodes of "Up All Night" (NBC, TV-14): a rare snow (8 p.m.) and a wedding flashback (8:30 p.m.).
---Alan faces Christmas alone on "Two and a Half Men" (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---"Glee" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) borrows its plot from the 2003 British romantic holiday comedy "Love Ac tually." That was actually a pretty terrible movie.
---Christmas decor looms large on "Project Runway All Stars" (9 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).
---Live results on "The X Factor" (8 p.m., Fox).
---A new rescue mission on "Last Resort" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
---"The man in the suit" becomes a target of the FBI on "Person of Interest" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
---Bailey gets cold feet on "Grey's Anatomy" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
---Sherlock meets the family on "Elementary" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Betrayal on "Scandal" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
---A former client targets Michael on "Burn Notice" (10 p.m., USA, TV-PG).
---Not-so-fine dining on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).
A college graduate (Lena Dunham, "Girls") returns to her family's nest in the 2010 comedy "Tiny Furniture" (8 p.m., Sundance).
---Howie Mandel hosts "Take It All" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG)
---Joe and Tess lock lips on "Beauty and the Beast" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14)
---"Rock Center With Brian Williams" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
---Kristen Stewart is scheduled on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central)
---Leslie Mann, Sheamus and Ryan Adams appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS)
---Amanda Seyfried, Brad Wollack, Kerri Kenney-Silver and Greg Fitzsimmons are booked on "Chel sea Lately" (11 p.m., E!)
---Sister Simone Campbell, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples and Sean Lennon sit down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).
---Jamie Foxx and Julie Chen appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS)
---Jay Leno welcomes Hugh Jackman, Maria Sharapova and J.D. McPherson on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC)
---Zachary Knighton and Dan Deacon appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (midnight, ABC).
---Martin Short, John Cena and Neal Brennan visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC)
---Craig Ferguson hosts Howie Mandel and Olivia Williams on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.