Holiday fare gets a bit too sweet

Two movies by Emmy-winning actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Mary Tyler Moore should be a reason for celebration. But subpar scripts and pat, predictably sentimental stories sink both efforts.

Redgrave offers a curiously restrained performance as a bitter but wise resident of an old folks' home in "The Locket" (8 p.m. Sunday, CBS).

After a cranky start, she shares endless advice about love lost and chances untaken with Michael (Chad Willett), a medical orderly who dropped out of college to care for his dying mother. He's not sure if he should pursue his sweetheart, Faye (Marguerite Moreau), as she leaves for medical school. Just when "The Locket" reaches a kind of preachy crescendo, the plot takes an awkward lurch toward the melodramatic.

Fans in search of a kinder, gentler brand of corn will prefer "Miss Lettie and Me" (7 p.m. Sunday, TNT). Mary Tyler Moore returns to "Ordinary People" form in the title role. She lives alone in her family's palatial Southern mansion with only her antiques, her memories and her weekly mah-jongg club to keep her company. But that all changes when her spunky grandniece Travis (Holliston Coleman) is left in Lettie's care.

Eventually Travis arranges for Lettie to get reacquainted with her long-lost love, the widowed Samuel Madison (Burt Reynolds), who has just returned to town to open a drug store. While Reynolds ("Evening Shade") is perfectly cast as the Southern silver fox, the script doesn't give him too many chances to shine.

  • A strong cast, including Michael Keaton, Helena Bonham Carter and Lili Taylor, provides the best reason to watch "Live From Baghdad" (7 p.m. today, HBO), a look back at CNN's efforts to broadcast from behind enemy lines during the buildup to the (first) Gulf War :quot; even after cruise missiles began falling on Jan. 16, 1991. Note: HBO and CNN are part of the AOL Time Warner media omniverse.

Today's highlights

  • Oklahoma and Colorado meet in the Big XII college football championship live from Houston (7 p.m., ABC).
  • Pub violence and domestic abuse loom large in the 2002 British mystery "Helen West: A Clear Conscience" (8 p.m., A&E;).
  • Asia Argento ("XXX") is host of the 2002 European Film Awards (8 p.m., Sundance).
  • Halle Berry won a Best Actress Oscar in the grim 2001 drama "Monster's Ball" (9 p.m., Cinemax), co-starring Billy Bob Thornton.
  • A small-town boy (Frankie Muniz) remembers his first best friend in the 2000 drama "My Dog Skip" (9 p.m., TNT).
  • Robert De Niro is host of "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Norah Jones.

Sunday's highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): "selling" the war; Nicole Kidman; the soon-to-be-incarcerated mayor of Providence, R.I.
  • OK, admit it. You still get a lump in your throat when Linus explains it all in the 1965 special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • Stevie Wonder, Destiny's Child, India Arie, Thelma Houston, The Temptations and others make a joyous noise on "A Motown Christmas" (7 p.m., USA), with D.L. Hughley as host.
  • Ian McKellan appears on "Inside the Actors Studio" (7 p.m., Bravo).
  • Scientists discuss new evidence about the 1941 sinking of the German battleship on "James Cameron's Expedition: The Bismarck" (8 p.m., Discovery).
  • Tony and Carmela shop for a shore house as "The Sopranos" (8 p.m., HBO) wraps up its fourth season with an extended 75-minute episode.
  • Jessica's boyfriend is beside himself on "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" (8:30 p.m., Fox).

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