Is there room for a new holiday classic? The competition is fierce, and the giants of the field (“Grinch,” “Charlie Brown” and “Rudolph”) have a 60-year head start.
Netflix streams “Robin Robin,” from the Aardman Animation studio famous for the stop-motion magic of “Wallace & Gromit.” In “Robin,” directors Dan Ojari and Michael Please have dreamed up a new variation on the adorable misfit who learns the meaning of the holidays.
In this case, it’s a robin with a slightly skewed perspective. Because his egg fell out of its nest before he was hatched, he ended up being raised by mice and tends to prefer their company. Similar to a mouse, this bird wants nothing more than to sneak into a human’s house and nibble on the bounty of Christmas or at least the crumbs that fall to the floor.
• If introducing a new Christmas tradition is difficult, remaking one can be treacherous. Having reinvented the world of Archie Comics in all of the strangest ways, the CW goes out on a limb with a reboot of “The Waltons’ Homecoming” (7 p.m. Sunday, CW, TV-PG), the 1971 movie special that launched the beloved series. Richard Thomas, who played John Boy in the original, returns here to narrate.
One of the reasons for the initial success of “Homecoming” and “The Waltons” was the Depression-era setting. Not to sound like Charlie Brown, but the more “commercial” Christmas becomes, the more viewers seemed to yearn for a time when people seemed to have, and need, less in the way of things. With its tales of foreclosures and runs on the bank, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was heavily influenced by the Depression era. “A Christmas Story” takes place at the tail end of the 1930s, when affluence seemed but a rumor. Written in 1956, Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” reached back to the Depression-era South. It was adapted for television in the 1960s and 1990s, always finding a receptive audience.
These poignant tales of simpler times stand in contrast to the more recent school of holiday comedies, such as “8-Bit Christmas,” now streaming on HBO Max. While bathed in the nostalgic glow of 1980s pop culture, “Bit” concerns a boy desperate to get his Nintendo Entertainment System before anyone else. Not exactly “The Gift of the Magi.”
• Speaking of gifts, the four-part series “The Toys That Built America” (8 p.m. Sunday, History) recalls the games, dolls and toys that made history, as well as how historical events from the Civil War to the Cold War influenced children’s playthings.
“Toys” also profiles business visionaries who turned small family operations into billion-dollar enterprises named Milton Bradley and Mattel. Filled with clips, interviews and historic reenactments, it recalls the development of such favorites as the Frisbee and the industrial mishap that inspired the Slinky.
• If a new “Waltons” doesn’t prove everything must be recycled, a two-hour “Nash Bridges” (8 p.m. Saturday, USA, TV-14) movie event might.
Fit, trim and charming as ever, Don Johnson reprises his role as a rule-breaking San Francisco cop. He’s first seen cracking wise with his sidekick (Cheech Marin) before becoming embroiled in a gun battle with bad guys in the middle of a traffic jam that results in the explosion of a gasoline truck. And yes, he still is driving his vintage Barracuda convertible.
In the formulaic logic of these shows, his derring-do gets him feted as a hero before being busted for breaking the rules, a mere speed bump for our hero, because the brass is aware even a 70-something Nash is indispensable.
Comfort food as nonthreatening as leftover turkey, “Nash Bridges” is several TV generations removed from its heyday. It was popular CBS fare in the years before “CSI” upped the budgets and body counts for that network’s police procedurals. It was not out of place on a schedule that included Angela Lansbury in “Murder, She Wrote” and Dick Van Dyke’s “Diagnosis Murder.”
Is “Nash” a signal USA wants to reclaim its reputation for nonthreatening procedurals such as “Monk” and “Royal Pains”? Times have changed since those shows’ departures. For some viewers, the sight of a handsome man of a certain age driving vintage Detroit metal might make them think they’re watching a Viagra commercial.
• College football action includes Texas A&M at LSU (6 p.m., ESPN), Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (6:30 p.m., ABC) and Notre Dame at Stanford (7 p.m., Fox).
• “Robbie the Reindeer in Hooves of Fire” (7 p.m., CBS, r, TV-G) is followed by “Robbie the Reindeer in Legend of the Lost Tribe” (7:30 p.m., CBS, r, TV-G).
• Favorites return on “Home Town Takeover: Where Are They Now?” (7 p.m., HGTV).
• A child is born on “Merry Liddle Christmas Baby” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).
• Pursued by gangsters, a businessman goes undercover as the big guy in the 2021 holiday comedy “Soul Santa” (7 p.m., BET, TV-14).
• The late Ed Asner is among the voices heard in “The Story of Santa Claus” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-G).
• A tourist is mistaken for an elite party planner and hired to run a posh Irish estate in the 2021 romance “Christmas at Castle Hart” (8 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): A Washington State University hazing incident that claimed a freshman’s life; a profile of Rita Moreno and a glimpse at the new “West Side Story”; how Rwanda’s rising gorilla population has attracted upscale tourism.
• “The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration” (6 p.m., ABC, TV-G).
• “One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga” (7 p.m., CBS) offers a bittersweet coda to Bennett’s career that stretches all the way back to “Because of You,” his first hit record, released in 1951. The 95-year-old singer has been diagnosed with dementia.
• The Baltimore Ravens host the Cleveland Browns in NFL football action (7:20 p.m., NBC).
• Musicians are honored on the 2021 Soul Train Awards (7 p.m., BET, TV-14).
• The local tycoon makes an announcement on “Dexter: New Blood” (7 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
• “The Great Christmas Light Fight” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) returns for a ninth season.
• Threats on several fronts on “Yellowstone” (7 p.m., CMT, Paramount, TV-MA).
• Jane Pauley hosts “Forever Young: Searching for the Fountain of Youth” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Taissa’s campaign mulls the low road on “Yellowjackets” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
Ewan McGregor stars in the 2019 shocker “Doctor Sleep” (9 p.m. Sunday, TNT, TV-14), a sequel of sorts to “The Shining.”
John O’Hurley and David Frei host the National Dog Show (7 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... A vintage helping of “Saturday Night Live” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
Rain men on “The Simpsons” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Beef’s idol (J.K. Simmons) returns on “The Great North” (7:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Bishop’s son becomes a target on “The Equalizer” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... Tina feels ignored on “Bob’s Burgers” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... A film-noir mystery on “Family Guy” (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
— OK, that was weird. The least expected story of the week was the scandal involving Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”) and Lori Loughlin, star of “When Calls the Heart” (7 p.m. Sunday, Hallmark, TV-G), in a bribery/cheating plot to get their respective daughters into elite universities.
This is obviously an ongoing case, and all sides must have their say, or day, in court. But the motivation at the center of this story is worth discussing. It involves some overwhelming need to do anything to get children into elite schools. As if anything “lesser” were unthinkable.
Television plays no small role in this insecurity. I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to describe an ABC legal drama where every single character hails from only the most exclusive Ivy and spends most of the pilot bragging about it.
There was a time, not that long ago, when John Grisham wrote best-selling books about young, barely accredited lawyers from no-name institutions who took on impossible cases against massive corporations and eventually won. And got the girl, to boot.
So, our current era’s neurotic obsession with elitism and inequality is hardly hard-wired.
If anything comes of this sordid affair, it’s an appreciation that shoddy efforts at snobbery are always essentially pathetic. Or on classic TV, comedic. Watching “Gilligan’s Island,” we identified with Mary Ann and the Skipper, and pitied the millionaire and his wife.
— CNN launches the four-hour documentary “Tricky Dick” (8 p.m., Sunday), profiling the life and times of Richard Nixon’s public career, which spanned the decades from the dawn of the Cold War to the Clinton years.
— An anxious new mother joins a group for solidarity and support, only to discover that it has darker plans on its agenda in the 2019 shocker “Mommy Group Murder” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).
— The Thunder and Warriors meet in NBA action (7:30 p.m., ABC).
— An old kidnapper returns to form on “Ransom” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
— Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): Embassy workers in China and Cuba complain of mysterious ailments; AOL founder Steve Case and his plans to invest in the future of overlooked American small towns and cities; a visit to Monaco.
— The duels begin on “World of Dance” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
— Auditions continue on “American Idol” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
— Lex Luthor is on the loose on “Supergirl” (7 p.m., CW, TV-PG).
— Mr. Wednesday prepares for battle on “American Gods” (7 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
— After learning about her royal lineage, an adopted 10-year-old becomes a little tyrant in the 2019 shocker “Mommy’s Little Princess” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).
— A secret room holds dangers on “Charmed” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
— Hidden secrets revealed on “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).
— A new trial is pursued on “The Case Against Adnan Syed” (8 p.m., HBO, TV-14).
— Axe is determined to destroy Taylor on the fourth season premiere of “Billions” (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
— Ulysses pursues a conspiracy theory on “Now Apocalypse” (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
— “Unsung” (8 p.m., TVONE) profiles the Jets.
— Pacific overtures on “Madam Secretary” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
— Tensions rise on “Good Girls” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
— Mo’s past is revealed on “Black Monday” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
— St. Patrick’s Day inspires many traditions. Syfy offers a marathon of “Leprechaun” movies, from “Leprechaun 5: In the Hood” (4 p.m. Saturday, TV-14) to “Leprechaun 2” (8 p.m.). TCM takes the traditional approach, ladling out the Technicolor blarney of director John Ford’s 1952 romance “The Quiet Man” (7 p.m. Sunday, TV-PG).
“Dateline” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) ... “NBA Countdown” (7 p.m., ABC) ... The kids are all right on “MasterChef” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) ... “48 Hours” (9 p.m., CBS) ... A vintage helping of “Saturday Night Live” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
A visit from an old friend inspires Miles on “God Friended Me” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Homer can’t leave Bart’s virtual realm on “The Simpsons” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-14) ... Empathy for all things on “Bob’s Burgers” (7:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
A walk down the aisle on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... On two episodes of “Family Guy” (Fox, TV-14), Meg’s winter Olympics (8 p.m.), fighting over a dowager (8:30 p.m., r) ... Aches and pains on “Shark Tank” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).