- - Sunday, December 14, 2014

Although “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” has the permanent gig of leading Santa’s sleigh each Christmas Eve, he clocked in early last Tuesday night and led CBS to No. 1 in the 8 p.m. timeslot, beating out NBC’s “The Voice” and ABC’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

It’s heartening for some of us to know that 50 years after the reindeer with the nose that made him an outcast debuted, he ranked No. 1 for both adult and children TV viewers in his timeslot, even now that most people can buy or rent the show and watch anytime. His top ratings also left us craving more shows that have the kind of humor that puts us in mind of times metal TV antennas sprouted from the roofs of most homes.

Here are some of the best bets from the big three networks:

“Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas,” NBC, 8-9 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 16. It’s been almost a dozen years since Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart and Zooey Deschanel teamed up for the Jon Favreau-directed comedy about a man raised by elves who travels to New York to find his real father, wrecks havoc and leads everyone to discover their Christmas spirit.

Corny as it sounds the film, which was transformed into a Broadway production, is a holiday “must-watch” for many. Now it’s time for a new version courtesy of NBC whose execs apparently pulled out the cash to give it extra sparkle.

This animated version has nine songs including “Nobody Cares About Santa Claus,” and an all-star cast of voices including: four-time Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons (Sheldon on the CBS hit “The Big Bang Theory”) as Buddy, Mark Hamill, Ed Asner, Fred Armisen, Jay Leno, Matt Lauer, Gilbert Gottfried and Kate Micucci (You know, Raj’s girlfriend Lucy in the “Big Bang Theory” and now on IFC’s “Garfunkel and Oates”).

“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” ABC, 8-9 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 16. Clearly, “Elf” has some major competition in its timeslot from this digitally re-mastered version of the Emmy Award-winning 1965 classic by Charles M. Schultz.

This animated program has been such a mainstay in American homes, many of us could probably recite most of the dialogue and serve as human Cliff Notes for the plot. Once again, good ol’ Charlie Brown rescues a lonely Christmas tree, much to the disappointment of Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Snoopy and his other friends, but wise-beyond-all-of-our-years Linus saves the day and leads the way for peace and kinship to triumph over commercialism (despite Snoopy’s megawatt decorated dog house).

“The I Love Lucy Christmas Special” CBS, 8-9 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 24. We’re telling you about this now so you can set your recorder (We know you missed this when it was first broadcast. It’s OK, so did we).

You know you’ll hate yourself if you miss the rare back-to-back showings of the seldom-seen 1956 “Christmas Episode” and the hilariously funny 1952 “Job Switching,” which you likely know as “The Chocolate Factory.” (Don’t feel bad. On a recent visit to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy in Jamestown, New York, even the center staff referred to it as such).

The “Christmas Episode” features best friends and New York neighbors the Ricardo’s (Ball and Arnaz) and the Mertz’s (Vivian Vance and William Frawley) reminiscing about life before “Little Ricky” Ricardo was born. “Job Switching,” of course, is famous for the scenes in which Lucy and Ethel work the candy factory line. This year, the network saves you a trip to Jamestown by adding some never-before-broadcast behind-the-scenes footage.

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