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Televised chestnuts: Christmas present

November 30, 1999
Web posted at: 3:31 p.m. EST (2031 GMT)

(CNN) -- Those animated holiday-season shows about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Frosty the snowman and old Kris Kringle have become staples in annual television programming. But this year, broadcast and cable networks are making some new offerings -- and a few retreads -- in hopes they'll be received as welcome gifts, not lumps of Nielsen-ratings coal.

Here's a look at what programmers are looking to stuff into viewers' stockings.

Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol"

"A Christmas Carol"

TNT: Sunday, December 5 at 8 p.m. ET

One more time, Ebenezer: TNT, a sister Time Warner company to CNN Interactive, conjures up ghosts of many Christmases past. The 1843 fable is here in the form of Patrick Stewart's one-man show, played for years on stages in New York and Los Angeles.

Stewart says he doesn't just go through the motions in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." "If I just say 'Bah! Humbug!' that might as well be something just written on a T-shirt," he says. "It's not just an exclamation, but it's a rejection of everything to do with Christmas, with the spirit of Christmas, with gift-giving, with generosity."

So Stewart goes full-out, playing Scrooge and all those Cratchits, he says. It's a solo act with a stage full of characters. God bless him, every one.

It's "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" with Garth Brooks on NBC

"Garth Brooks & the Magic of Christmas"

NBC: Wednesday, December 1 at 9 p.m. ET

Following NBC's hour-long "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" special, Garth Brooks gets all jingly for his first holiday special, which will promote his newly released album "Garth Brooks & the Magic of Christmas." Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett and Trisha Yearwood are to appear on the show with the guy in the hat.

Not the red hat with the white fur. The cowboy hat.

Santa gets imprisioned in a Spanish jail in "Santa and Pete"

"Santa and Pete"

CBS: Sunday, December 5 at 9 p.m. ET

"Welcome home" for the holidays -- that's got to be CBS' line this season. Starting Wednesday, the network rolls out a planned 16 evenings of festivities.

Amid the usual suspects -- Rudolph guides the sleigh Wednesday night, Charlie Brown trundles out on Friday, Frosty chills out December 7 -- there's a new entry called "Santa and Pete" on Sunday.

No, not the story of the building of St. Petersburg (good guess, though), this film is based on a Dutch legend and finds St. Nicholas in a Spanish jail on a trumped-up spy charge. He's befriended by Pete, the prison cook.

The cast features Hume Cronyn, James Earl Jones and the interestingly spelled Tempestt Bledsoe.

CBS adds another angel to the network with Amy Grant's Christmas special

"Amy Grant: A Christmas To Remember"

CBS: Saturday, December 4 at 8 p.m. ET

CBS again. And calling this "A Christmas To Remember," Amy Grant has brought together three generations of artists in Banff, a snowy resort in the Canadian Rockies. Among the performers: Tony Bennett -- he's on a fast bus from Garth's show -- plus gospel singer CeCe Winans and rockers 98 Degrees, who have their own new Christmas album to plug.

Grant says she got a special kick out of meeting the four members of 98 Degrees. She says one of them told her, "Hey, I've got a confession to make. I don't know if you read your mail, but I wrote you a love letter when I was 8."

"Winnie the Pooh & Christmas, Too"

ABC: Sunday, December 5 at 7 p.m. ET

When Pooh and Piglet try to retrieve a letter to Santa -- oh, bother -- they end up in a giving mood, on "Winnie the Pooh & Christmas, Too."

And that one-hour show is followed on ABC at 8 p.m. ET by "A Rosie Christmas." That's the ubiquitous Rosie O'Donnell revving the reindeer with guests Gloria Estefan, 'N Sync and Donny Osmond -- all he wants for Christmas is a comeback.

Oh, and Trisha Yearwood joins Rosie in Broadway's Longacre Theatre for this show. Yearwood, with Bennett, is starting to turn up on all these things. Like Santa on street corners.

'Tis certainly the you-know-what.

CNN Entertainment Correspondent Lauren Hunter contributed to this report

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