By Kevin McDonough
ABC offers curious and contradictory messages about the holidays tonight. But when corporations grow big enough, they can ignore any irony.
Arguably America's favorite Christmas special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (8 p.m., TV-G) is shot through with sentiments about the holiday being too commercialized. Charlie Brown and Linus spend most of the story worrying about the tinsel aspects of Christmastime and the fact that the day had been taken over by a big "Eastern Syndicate."
Charlie Brown's miseries are compounded by the fact that he knows he's supposed to be happy. The small miracle of this special is that, along with jazz and Beethoven, it celebrates psychiatry (Lucy's booth) and self-awareness. Even these grade-school students wrestle with tensions between being thoughtful and being neurotic. Or as Linus puts it, "Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem."
It's funny that Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and Schroeder spend their first television special decrying the "commercial." The animated "Peanuts" characters were first seen in just that: a TV advertisement for the 1960 Falcon, Ford's new "compact" car. But even that two-minute spot (viewable on YouTube) seems self-aware. At one point, Linus turns to the camera and asks, "Is this a commercial?" and turns bright red in embarrassment.
After "Peanuts," ABC-Disney goes into full-throated cross-promotional mode, hyping stars of television, movies and theme parks.
Julianne Hough and Nick Lachey host "The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration" (9 p.m., TV-PG), a two-hour event from Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Festive events include coverage of "castle lightings" at Disney theme parks around the world, from Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and Anaheim, California, to Paris, Shanghai and Hong Kong. A special treat for those without a castle of their own to illuminate.
Temperatures may vary from the winter norms, but Disney keeps things "Frozen." Idina Menzel joins fellow "Frozen" star Kristen Bell to perform "When We're Together" from the new Disney featurette "Olaf's Frozen Adventure."
Also in the spirit of Christmas corporate synergies, viewers will get a peek at "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge," the newest attraction coming to Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• The Penguin puts on a poker face on "Gotham" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• The Dallas Cowboys host the Washington Redskins in "Thursday Night Football" (8:25 p.m., NBC, NFL).
• A voyage to new dimensions on "The Orville" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• The gang from season 16 holds a reunion on "Project Runway" (9 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).
• Imposters in uniforms perpetrate home invasions on "S.W.A.T." (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
• For those who just haven't heard the last word about the notorious 1989 murders, "The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All" (10 p.m., A&E, TV-14) offers new insights.
• Heavy on impersonations, "The President Show" (10 p.m., Comedy Central, TV-14) offers its "I Came Up With Christmas" holiday special.
On a mission to buy a quirky Scottish town for a Texas oilman (Burt Lancaster), an arrogant executive (Peter Riegert) falls under its spell in the 1983 comedy "Local Hero" (3:45 a.m. early Friday, TCM). A perfect little movie directed by Bill Forsyth.
Sheldon exacts revenge on "The Big Bang Theory" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) * The devil's luggage on "Supernatural" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) * Sheldon challenges an expert on "Young Sheldon" (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) * Bonnie is sidelined on "Mom" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * Illusionists audition on "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG) * Tim and Heather put their mouths where their money is on "Life in Pieces" (9:30 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is booked on "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" (11 p.m., Comedy Central) * Josh Hutcherson and Talib Kweli featuring Anderson .Paak appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) * Kate Winslet, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Wolf Alice are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Kumail Nanjiani, Kristaps Porzingis and Miguel on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Elizabeth Banks and Matt Smith appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC) * Jennifer Garner and Bryan Cranston appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
© 2017, United Feature Syndicate