Holiday clichés, 'Prancer' return

Most of us haven't even defrosted our Thanksgiving turkey yet. But that doesn't stop the USA Network from inflicting the first Christmas TV movie of the season. As the title implies, "Prancer Returns" (7 p.m.) is supposed to invoke the spirit of Rudolf, Santa and all that ho-ho-ho. Unfortunately, it takes a dreary, roundabout way to the Yuletide spirit.

Gavin Fink stars as Charlie Holton, a shy boy with few friends and a bratty 13-year-old brother Ryan (Robert Clark), who is making Christmas particularly miserable for their mother, Denise (Stacy Edwards). Along the way, Charlie befriends a crusty farmer (Jack Palance, who has played this role at least a dozen times) who has lost all sense of Christmas joy. He also bonds with the handsome town handyman, Tom (John Corbett), who has a thing for Denise.

Too obvious for adult viewers and often too grim for the kids, "Prancer Returns" is the first mistletoe misfire of the season.

� John Lithgow hosts "Life's Greatest Miracle" on "Nova" (7 p.m., PBS), a film showing the making of a human life from conception to birth.

Tonight's other highlights

� Jennifer Lopez performs songs from her album "J. Lo" on "Jennifer Lopez in Concert" (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG). Taped in September in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

� Spike misbehaves while Willow works more magic than she can handle on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., UPN).

� Lorelai and Sookie bicker over a long-held business scheme on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).

� Nick befriends a young heart patient on "The Guardian" (8 p.m., CBS).

� Kimberly and Janet find themselves in greater peril on "24" (8 p.m., Fox).

� Clark's dad (Joe Spano) continues to beef about Sipowicz on "NYPD Blue" (8 p.m., ABC).

� Maxine's estranged nephew (Kevin Rahm) drops by on "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS).

� Scheduled on "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC): the McCaughey septuplets turn 4.

Cult choice

An editor (Sherry Stringfield, "ER") returns to her small town to care for her sick father (Jason Robards) in the 2000 TV drama "Going Home" (8 p.m., Lifetime).

Series notes

China seizes a Navy jet after a midair collision on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Eric accuses Donna on "That '70s Show" (7 p.m., Fox) ... A chance run-in with Pat Benatar (as herself) on "Dharma and Greg" (7 p.m., ABC).

Eric returns for revenge on "Undeclared" (7:30 p.m., Fox) ... After the mayor's opponent is stricken, his wife takes his place on "Spin City" (7:30 p.m., ABC).

Wine club wars on "Frasier" (8 p.m., NBC) ... A complicated honeymoon on "Roswell" (8 p.m., UPN).


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