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TV: Five shows worth watching tonight: December 24

A select viewing guide for Monday, December 24

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FOOD Sweet Genius (Food Network, 7 p.m.) If you haven’t started your holiday baking by now, better get cracking. Draw inspiration from this popular U.S. cable series that challenges cocky pastry chefs in a lively competition to create exotic and unique new desserts. Each episode runs three rounds and the results are judged by the seriously weird Ron Ben-Israel, surely the most humourless man to ever don chef whites. But the elfin master baker seems to be in good spirits in tonight’s holiday episode in which the contestants have little difficulty mastering the first two cooking challenges. The third challenge, however, presents a near-impossible task. Is it really possible to make a world-class dessert by merging chocolate and beets?

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COMEDY Raising Hope (Fox, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) If you love redneck reality fare like TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and A&E’s Duck Dynasty, have we got a sitcom for you. Now in its third season, the premise casts the likeable Lucas Neff as the blue-collar single dad Jimmy, who is doing his level best to raise his baby daughter Hope after her mother is executed by the state (for killing previous boyfriends, as it turns out). Child-raising doesn’t exactly come naturally to Jimmy since his own hillbilly parents Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and Virginia (Martha Plimpton) are wrapped up in their own problems, and his grandmother Maw-Maw (Cloris Leachman) is a vicious old cuss. Tonight’s mini-marathon spins off It’s a Wonderful Life with a cinema-dizzy Jimmy getting a glimpse of what his life might be like if he had never met Hope’s serial-killer mama Lucy (Bijou Phillips).

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FAMILY Shrek the Halls (ABC, 8:30 p.m.) First broadcast in 2007, this festive special starring key characters from the Shrek film franchise is no How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but it does have several very funny moments. The story takes place on Christmas Eve as the awesome ogre Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) realizing that this is his first Christmas with lady love Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their three ogre kids. The problem is that Shrek’s usual dour demeanor is even lower than usual courtesy of unannounced drop-ins from Donkey (Eddie Murphy), Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) and the Gingerbread Man, who is deeply traumatized by Santa Claus devouring his girlfriend. Can you blame him?

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DRAMA The Kennedys (Global, 10 p.m.) Epic in budget (an estimated $30-million US) and steeped in star power, this filmed-in-Toronto miniseries was supposed to be the first original series produced for the U.S. version of the History Channel. The History Channel, however, backed out at the last minute and the series ended up on the lower-tier ReelzChannel, and on Global in Canada. There is still much to admire in the film, which stars Greg Kinnear as JFK and Katie Holmes as his wife Jacqueline Kennedy. Tonight’s first chapter reaches back to the late thirties and depicts U.S. ambassador and Kennedy patriarch Joe Sr. (Tom Wilkinson) butting heads with U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt in his efforts to keep America out of the Second World War. Joe Sr. is eventually forced to resign, America goes to war, and Joe’s eldest son Joe Jr., dies in battle, which connects directly to the old man’s efforts to have his son John become the commander-in-chief two decades later. Rookie Blue regular Charlotte Sullivan makes a smashing Marilyn Monroe.

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MOVIE A Christmas Carol (CBC, 8 p.m.; CTV, 11:30 p.m.) Far and away the most revered version of Charles Dickens’s classic story, this holiday chestnut is required viewing on Christmas Eve for many people. The 1951 film rides on the strength of British actor Alastair Sim in the role of the miserly curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge–a performance that was imitated near-verbatim by Jim Carrey in the animated Disney remake of A Christmas Carol (which also airs tonight on Global at 8 p.m.). Watch very closerly for a boyish Patrick Macnee–who would eventually play spy-guy John Steed on The Avengers–as the young version of Jacob Marley.

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