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Highlights

TURN ON, TUNE IN OR MISS OUT : 'Cats!' forever (well, for two hours) on A&E; CBS airs prequel to 'Christmas Box'; KCET airs L.A. holiday party

December 22, 1996|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sunday

"Cats!"/ 5 and 9 p.m. A&E

A screening of the Broadway play, perhaps? Scratch that thought. This two-hour documentary sinks its claws into the social, cultural and historical impact of felines. An overview of the subject precedes segments on various breeds, as well as their health, behavior and training techniques. As for popularity, did you know there are 56 million cats living in U.S. households, compared to 51 million dogs? Purr-fectly understandable, some would say.

****

"How Do You Spell God?" / 7:30 p.m. HBO

Children of different religions examine life's biggest mysteries in this half-hour family special. Based on the well-received 1995 book by longtime friends Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman, the program includes animated adaptations of stories, poems and parables by renowned authors such as Maya Angelou ("Thank You, Lord"), A.A. Milne ("Vespers") and Isaac Bashevis Singer ("Menaseh's Dream"). Chris Rock, Fred Savage and Marlo Thomas are among the actors lending their voices to the project.

****

"Timepiece" / 9 p.m. CBS

A prequel to last season's highly rated TV movie "The Christmas Box" (which resurfaces Wednesday) tells a story of love, tragedy and forgiveness. Set in the 1940s, the drama recounts the history of a watch owned by a young woman named Mary (Naomi Watts). James Earl Jones portrays a character whose relationship with Mary and her husband (Kevin Kilner) sparks racial tension. Ellen Burstyn co-stars as a socialite in this film based on a book by Richard Paul Evans, the author of "Christmas Box."

Tuesday

"37th Annual Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration" / 3 p.m. KCET

Jazz. Gospel. Barbershop harmonies. And, oh yes, selections from "The Nutcracker." A more eclectic program would be hard to find than the one being offered at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The six-hour telecast serves as a showcase for 30 groups (including St. Anthony's Tamburica & Kolo Club) that reflect the multiple cultures of Los Angeles.

Wednesday

Pro Basketball / 3 p.m. NBC

Gifts unwrapped? Fruitcakes tossed out? Hey, get away from that mistletoe! It's time to grab your favorite NBA jersey and settle in for the Peacock network's traditional Christmas Day doubleheader. The first game is a Pacific Division matchup--or is that mismatch?--between the Lakers and the lowly Phoenix Suns. Afterward, Michael Jordan leads the defending world champion Chicago Bulls against the Detroit Pistons in a showdown of Central Division powers.

****

"The Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade" / 4 p.m. ABC

Mickey Mouse and his pals wish viewers a happy holiday in the annual event originating from the Florida amusement park. Suzanne Somers and Jerry Van Dyke are hosts of the two-hour telecast--that's a switch from the usual duo of Regis Philbin and Joan Lunden--featuring a festive assortment of floats, marching bands and celebrities. Among the musical highlights: "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King"; "Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid" and "Be Our Guest" from "Beauty and the Beast."

Thursday

"The Kennedy Center Honors" / 9 p.m. CBS

A touch of Lemmon. A wad of Cash. Put them together and you have two of the celebrated honorees at the 19th annual gala. Jack Lemmon, an Oscar winner whose gallery of characters have included a fastidious photographer and a grumpy old guy, is saluted alongside the Man in Black, country singer Johnny Cash. Jazz composer Benny Carter, playwright Edward Albee and ballerina Maria Tallchief are other recipients of the prestigious distinctions.

Saturday

"Harambee!" / 6 p.m. KOCE; 7 p.m. KCET

The African American observance of Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration of unity and values, is integral to this family drama whose title is Swahili for "unity." Set in an urban housing project, the film's plot is triggered by a stray bullet entering an apartment during Christmas dinner. The incident prompts an 11-year-old boy (Aaron Beener) to write a composition on the injustice of violence, which in turn serves as a catalyst for positive action in his neighborhood. Novella Nelson and the late Howard Rollins have supporting roles.

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