Aerosmith singer odd Santa pick

Friday, December 6, 2002

Proof that Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler will do anything, and I mean anything, to keep his gaunt mug in the public gaze can be found tonight on the depressingly slick "Lizzie McGuire" (6:30 p.m., Disney) holiday special. Titled "Xtreme Xmas," this episode stars Tyler as the scrawniest Santa Claus in the long, sad history of bad Christmas specials. One wonders why Tyler was cast as the jolly round guy. With his reptilian features and rubbery lips, he wouldn't need makeup to play the Grinch.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, "Lizzie McGuire" stars Hilary Duff in the title role as a smart, but often flustered, blond teen whose inner thoughts and frustrations appear in brief cartoon snippets. This allows Lizzie to be both a real character (like the Olsen Twins) and a cartoon character (like SpongeBob). The licensing possibilities are endless.

In addition to the overexposed Mr. Tyler, "Xtreme Xmas" features vintage comedian Shelley Berman as one of Santa's sardonic elves. The story involves Lizzie's manic desire to compete in a contest to build a float for a Christmas parade. She gets so carried away in her desire to build the perfect "rock and roll Christmas" float that she loses the spirit of the holidays. But the only sentiment present here is the spirit of self-promotion. Tyler concludes "Xmas" with a screeching version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Tonight's first episode recalls the music and pyrotechnics of a dozen Bond movies as the kids take on the adult meanies who are bent on keeping them from their fair share of ice cream. Although occasionally witty and action-packed, "Codename" is a little short on character development. It's difficult to differentiate between five children who call themselves Numbah One, Numbah Two, etc.

Tonight's other highlights

Cult choice

Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson star in the 1971 musical fantasy "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (8 p.m., Family).

Series notes

Syd's cold grows uncommonly virulent on "Providence" (7 p.m., NBC).