If It's a Wonderful Life (NBC, CTV, 8 p.m.) is airing tonight, then it must be Christmas.
The best thing about the actual arrival of the holiday season is that the build-up is over. Contrived jollity gives way to calm. People stop making lists. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer won't be heard again for another 11 months.
Previously at this time of the year, this column has often compiled a list of Most Irritating Canadians (TV-related), but this year it was abandoned. There was enough harshness at the end of the year. Joy to the world does not ensue from such a list.
Sure, it was fun. A few years ago, after the list appeared, someone wrote to me in a fury. He (I'm assuming it was a man, from the tone) began by calling me "a Dork," and proceeded to describe me as part of a "ragtag band of leftie losers" and reached a thunderous end by calling me a "displaced Irish Pansy." I laughed so hard I wiped away the tears of pleasure, and then abandoned the meanness of the Internet for the pleasure of television.
It really doesn't matter what you watch during the holidays. The TV connects you to the world and offers warmth. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The TV set in your living room, tucked in the corner or hanging on the wall, has replaced the traditional hearth as a core emblem of the holiday spirit. Most of the emblems to signify the holidays are derived from the initial commercialization of Christmas that happened in Victorian England. And, of course that's why there is so much Dickens on TV at Christmas – the 1951 version of Scrooge starring Alastair Sim is on CBC tonight, also at 8 p.m.
In so much writing of the Victorian period, the meaning of the Christmas spirit was anchored in home and hearth. A person without a home and a fireside (usually an orphan in Victorian storytelling) was the loneliest person at Christmas. Now, with fewer real hearths or firesides existing, the TV has become the replacement hearth. It's not the fire that we sit by and enjoy for its warmth, it's what emanates from the TV set.
Whether you're watching the Christmas-themed episode of 30 Rock (City, 9:30 p.m.) or the final episode of Mankind: The Story of All of Us (History, 9 p.m.), pleasure can be gained from relaxing and escaping to the place where TV brings you.
Perhaps you'll watch A Christmas Kiss (Bravo, 8 p.m.). The gist: "Wendy is an aspiring designer and assistant to her callous boss Priscilla. Unfortunately, Wendy's dreams of impressing her boss get complicated when she realizes that the mysterious man she kissed in a falling elevator is Priscilla's boyfriend, Adam." Even with such slight fare, a sense of fun and optimism comes through. Everything works out in the end. And during this time of the year there is no better thought than believing that things will work out in the end. Television at Christmas is a safe harbour.
Now, vital information for the next few days: The Queen's Christmas Message is delivered Tuesday, CBC, at noon. And repeated on CBC NN, at 3 p.m. For those of you gripped by Her Majesty's message, it might also be important to know that on Jan. 1, CBC will air three new back-to-back episodes of Coronation Street, starting at 6:30 p.m.
Also, if you're Brit-TV inclined, know that the new Christmas episode of Dr. Who airs Tuesday on Space at 9 p.m.
If you need to catch up with important TV, then note that the second season of Game of Thrones is repeated starting Wednesday (HBO Canada, 9 p.m.) and continuing over the next several nights.
Finally, good news for those of us missing La Liga soccer from Spain and Serie A games from Italy: I am assured that coverage of both will return to Canadian TV in early January.
And I'll be back in this space in early January, too. It's been a pleasure to write and recommend for you during 2012. Enjoy the holidays, be good to each other and enjoy whatever you watch on TV. A whole new mid-season TV cornucopia arrives in January. Get ready.
All times ET. Check local listings.