The creative forces behind "Yes, Virginia" know they face daunting odds.
At this time every year, TV programmers serve up shiny, new holiday-themed fare, only to have viewers discard most of it like crumpled wads of gift wrap. When it comes to seasonal fare, the stuff that's new rarely generates the same interest as the tried-and-true.
"It's tough to break through the crowd," said Matt MacDonald, a producer for "Yes, Virginia," which debuts Dec. 11 on CBS. "A lot of specials in recent years have failed to stick around. Everyone seems to love the classics from the 1960s."
He's referring to holiday hall-of-famers such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - timeless favorites that still cast a powerful yuletide spell.
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"Yes, Virginia," featuring the voice talents of Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Alfred Molina, is one of this season's "rookies" trying to seize some attention. It's a computer-animated offering that revisits the late 1800s tale of little Virginia O'Hanlon, who wonders if Santa Claus really exists. She eventually writes a letter to the New York Sun newspaper, which responded with an editorial that has become part of Christmas lore.
The story received TV treatment for a 1974 special, but MacDonald and his collaborators thought it was worth telling again.
"We anchored it in reality, but we didn't try to make it too hip or too modern," he said. "We don't want it to be something that has its day and is gone. Twenty years down the road, we'd love to be right there with Charlie Brown and Rudolph."
Here's a rundown of some of television's prime-time holiday highlights. Take note that many of the cable programs will receive multiple airings. (For dates and times, consult your listings).
THE HOLIDAY HALL OF FAME
"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas": Quick, put Whoville on lockdown. The greedy grouch is lurking once again. (8 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 23, ABC).
"A Charlie Brown Christmas": A pathetic little tree gets some love, and the Peanuts gang learns the true meaning of Christmas. (8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8 and Dec. 24, ABC).
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer": It's a celebration of nonconformity as North Pole outcasts rise and shine. (8 p.m. Wednesday and Dec. 12, CBS)
"The Year Without a Santa Claus": Say it isn't so: The big guy goes on strike. (8 p.m. Dec. 8, ABC Family).
"Santa Claus is Comin' to Town": Mickey Rooney as Kris Kringle melts the heart of the Burgermeister Meisterburger. (8 p.m., Dec. 7, ABC)
"Frosty the Snowman": It's time to chill out with the jolly, happy soul. (8 p.m. Dec. 18, CBS).
NEW FOR THE KIDDIES
"Disney's Prep & Landing": An elite unit of Santa's elves readies homes for the big night. (8:30 p.m. Tuesday and 16, ABC).
"Yes, Virginia": Neil Patrick Harris and Jennifer Love Hewitt lend voices to familiar tale of girl who questions the existence of Santa. (8 p.m. Dec. 11, CBS).
"A Christmas Carol": The 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge. (8 p.m. Thursday, TCM).
"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation": Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) becomes a walking disaster zone around the holidays. (8 p.m., Monday, AMC).
"The Polar Express": Tom Hanks is the conductor on a magical train en route to the North Pole. (8:30 p.m. Thursday, ABC Family).
"White Christmas": Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye work hard to make your days merry and bright. (8 p.m., Saturday, AMC).
"It's A Wonderful Life": Capra classic still has the power to turn us into blubbering wrecks. (8 p.m., Dec. 12 and 24, NBC).
"A Christmas Story": We triple-dog dare you not to watch this nostalgic charmer over and over and over. (24-hour marathon starts at 8 p.m., Dec. 24, TBS).
GIFTS THAT KEEP GIVING
"Shrek the Halls": The cranky ogre struggles to get into the Christmas spirit. (8:30 p.m. Monday, ABC).
"Mickey's Christmas Carol": Disney does Dickens in this 1983 'toon. (7 p.m. Dec. 8, ABC Family).
"A Miser Brothers' Christmas": A 2008 sequel to 1974's "The Year Without a Santa Claus." (9 p.m. Dec. 8, ABC Family).
"A Muppets Christmas: Letters To Santa": Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang celebrate the holidays. (8 p.m. Dec. 11, NBC).
"The Flight Before Christmas": Animated tale of a young reindeer who aspires to be an expert flyer like his father. (9 p.m. Dec. 12, CBS).
"Frosty Returns": Apparently, there's still some magic in that old silk hat. (8:30 p.m. Dec. 18, CBS).
FRESHLY WRAPPED TV MOVIES
"The Dog Who Saved Christmas": Ex-police dog confronts Grinch-like burglars. Dean Cain stars. (8 tonight, ABC Family).
"A Dog Named Christmas": Farm family adopts a lonely pup for the holidays. Bruce Greenwood stars. (9 tonight, CBS).
"Debbie Macomber's Mrs. Miracle": Doris Roberts plays a heaven-sent housekeeper who gives a fractured family an unforgettable holiday. (8 p.m., Saturday, Hallmark).
"12 Men of Christmas": Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth plays a PR exec who raises temperatures in a Montana town with a hunk-filled calendar. (9 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime.)
"Christmas in Canaan": Billy Ray Cyrus stars in tale about two boys who form an unlikely friendship in the 1960s. (8 p.m. Dec. 12, Hallmark).
"The Christmas Hope": A social worker (Madeleine Stowe) bends the rules and takes in an orphaned child. . (8 p.m. Dec. 13, Lifetime Movie Network).
MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT
"Christmas in Rockefeller Center": Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Barry Manilow and others help light up the big tree in the Big Apple. (8 p.m. Wednesday, NBC).
"Carrie Underwood: An All-Star Holiday Special": The country crooner performs holiday classics with her pals, including Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley. (8 p.m. Dec. 7, Fox).
"Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas": The Oscar-winning 'Dreamgirl' gets into the holiday mood. (8 p.m. Dec. 14, ABC).
"Christmas in Washington": Mary J. Blige, Neil Diamond, Sugarland and others celebrate in musical style. (8 p.m. Dec. 20, TNT).
"A Home For the Holidays with Faith Hill": Celebrities present inspirational stories about adoption. (8 p.m. Dec. 23, CBS).