Ah, the smell of barbecues and relatives and the sound of toys breaking.

Christmas again. And what's under the television tree this year? Santa has infused TV One with the most Christmas spirit, while TV2 and TV3 are big on seasonally themed movies. TV3 has a major magical mini-series, while TV4 stays close to its youth roots with South Park and Harry Enfield.

Sadly, Prime isn't having Christmas this year. For bah humbug viewers, programmes with a non-Christmas theme are covered on page 13.


Christmas Eve Claymation. It rocks. Almost as much as Robbie Williams (left), so it's appropriate that the two combine for Robbie the Reindeer in Hooves of Fire (TV One 7 pm). This will keep the kids happy for half an hour while the grown-ups behave badly out on the deck.

Robbie plays Robbie, a reindeer who arrives at the North Pole to take his place on Santa's team. Robbie has to prove to himself and the rest of the team that he's up to the task and win the girl of his dreams.

Then it's off to Metropolis with a tattoo artist and a wahine — nah, just kidding. Other characters are voiced by Harry Enfield, Jane Horrocks, Caroline Quentin and Steve Coogan.

What it has to do with Christmas we don't know, except that TV One is calling it the Documentary New Zealand Christmas Special. Her Daughter's Voice (TV One 7.35 pm) follows Hinewehi Mohi (left, you know, she sings things in Maori and some of us think the world is about to end) as she promotes her album Oceania and copes with the demands of looking after her daughter, Hineraukatauri, who has cerebral palsy.

Last-minute prezzie-wrapping can be done to the accompaniment of Last Christmas (TV One 8.40 pm), which is actually about a boy, Frank, who learns the truth about his father's death on Christmas night the year before. The lovely Pauline Quirke stars, along with Ray Winstone and Phil Daniels.

TV One then sings its way into Christmas with Charlotte Church: A Christmas Dream From the Holy Land (10.15 pm) which sees the diminutive warbler in Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. She pops up again for Christmas Glory From Westminster Abbey (11.15 pm), along with Andrea Bocelli, Bryn Terfel and Dame Joan Plowright, where there is music, readings and poetry.

Over on TV2, it's singing of an altogether different kind (the grumpy among you may say it's not singing at all, but here at e.g. we don't like to pass judgment) with N'Sync N'Intimate Holiday Special (TV2 6.30 pm). The boy band do a few hits, do their own versions of some Christmas classics and strangle a couple of cats — nah, just kidding.

And another thing we don't like to do here at e.g. is make sarcastic comments. No sir. No way. But we think it's safe to assume that the private study off the Oval Office will not feature in The First Family's Holiday Tour of the White House (TV2 7.30 pm). What we will see are the family room, movie theatre and Bill's music studio, plus hear about the building's 200-year history, architecture and artworks.

What it has to do with Christmas is unclear, except that TV4 is calling it the Men Behaving Badly Christmas Special (9.30 pm) and showing the last three episodes of the comedy.

Christmas Day viewers may be giving praise for the ad-free nature of the day, but the devout will be up and about for Praise Be (TV One 9 am), which features carols, hymns and readings, with the Junior Choir from Wellington Cathedral and congregations throughout the land. The good Christian lovin' continues in A Millennium Celebration (TV One 10 am).

After the orgy of unwrapping, some of us may be needing a wee sit down around about 11.40 am, when Christmas in Vienna 1998 (better late than never) has Placido Domingo shakin' his Christmas thang in that fair city.

The kids will have played with all their new toys by the time the animated Mole's Christmas (TV One 5.05 pm) rolls around, which has the delightful Richard Briers as Rat and Peter Davidson as Mole trudging home through the snow late one Christmas Eve (better late than never again).

Sshh! It's The Queen's Message at 6.50 pm (TV One of course), just in time for the cold turkey sandwiches. Then we can lie bloatedly in front of Flint Street Nativity (TV One 9.05 pm) as Dervla Kirwan, Neil Morrissey, Stephen Tompkinson, Jane Horrocks and Julia Sawalha prance around pretending to be seven-year-olds.

TV One sees out the night with song again, with Carols From Kings 1998 (better late yeah, yeah), where the Christmas story is sung by the choir of King's College, Cambridge (11.10 pm). How jolly.

TV2 actually features some local fare, with a repeat of Christmas in the Park (5.40 pm), where Aucklanders can relive the splendour of Jay Laga'aia, Erika Takacs, Anthony Ray Parker et al singing their showbusiness hearts out and lighting New Zealand's largest Christmas tree.

And the great thing is, this time there's no parking hassles and you won't need a rug and thermos.

In true Matt Groening style, Futurama's (TV2 8.05 pm) Xmas story (Christmas is a dirty word in the year 3000) features a murderous robotic Santa Claus, voiced by John Goodman.

Kids getting scratchy? Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too (TV3 3.45 pm) may calm a few little tired ones, while Merry Christmas Mr Bean (TV3 7 pm) has a few laughs before TV3's massively magical over-four-consecutive-nights mini-series The 10th Kingdom (TV3 7.30 pm), which may not have that much to do with Christmas, but does feature trolls, giants, goblins, wolves, dogs and Rutger Hauer.

Look out for Married With Children's Ed O'Neill as Relish the Troll King, and Dianne Wiest as the evil queen. No toilet stops either — it's commercial-free until 10.30pm.

TV4 is quite in the spirit with A Kiwi Christmas (10 am) and French and Saunders Christmas (10.45 am). Equally cheap and silly is Harry Enfield's Yule Log Chums (TV4 8.25 pm), which sees Kevin the teenager out on the Titanic, followed by the definitely not rock DJs Smashie and Nicey: The End of an Era (TV4 9.05 pm).

And it's a big Hidee-Ho! from everyone's favourite faecal friend, Mr Hanky, who presents a few tunes in Mr Hanky's Christmas Classics (TV4 9.50 pm). Merry Christmas, mmkay?

Boxing Day Christmas? What Christmas? It's back to the regular TV line-ups, although The 10th Kingdom continues on TV3. Happy holidays!