'Wonderful Life' imitation simply scary

Monday, December 1, 2003

Pale imitations of "It's a Wonderful Life" only serve to point up the superiority of the original film. Nancy McKeon ("The Division") stars in the cable fantasy "Comfort and Joy" (7 p.m., Lifetime) as Jane Berry, an ambitious advertising executive. She's a harried, unmarried corporate workaholic, attached to a vain Peter Pan boyfriend who conducts business on his cell phone headset during their Christmas Eve lunch. Suddenly, on the way to an office Christmas party that she's really dreading, she crashes her Jaguar.

Dazed and bloodied, Jane sees a handsome man, Sam (Steven Ekholdt), who helps her out of the car and suggests that she come "home." To her surprise, and no little horror, the Tom Hanks-like stranger insists that he is her husband and that they have two children and have been married for 10 years. She also learns that she's given up her career to help her husband in his low-paying charity work and devote herself to the children as a full-time mom. This uncomfortable postfeminist fantasy unfolds like a psychotic episode.

Other programming observing World AIDS Day includes "Nick News with Linda Ellerbee" (8 p.m., Nickelodeon), with a report on the disease's effect on South Africa, where upwards of 1,000 infected people die every day, leaving thousands of children without parents.

Tonight's other highlights

Late night

Howard Stern visits "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Tom Cruise, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Tori Amos on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).