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Weekend TV: A little Santa, a little Stephen King...

Christmas Magic Sunday, CTV, 9 p.m.

The gist is this: "To gain entry to heaven, a woman must help a man and his young daughter." There is no denying that this sort of holiday entertainment – formulaic and slight though it is, remains enormously popular. Stressed people want a nice story about nice people at this time of the year and usually get it in something like this, a Hallmark Channel production. Lindy Booth plays Carrie, a top event planner in New York. That's a typical gig for someone in need of learning the true meaning of Christmas. Naturally Carrie is a workaholic too. Anyway, after a car accident in a snowstorm, Carrie has a head injury. Then it seems she regains consciousness in Central Park and an older man, Henry (Canadian Derek McGrath), turns up to help her get into to heaven. Her task is to help a widowed restaurant owner, Scott (Paul McGillion), who is suicidal. Of course she's single and he's a nice, well-scrubbed widower.

Stephen King's Bag of Bones Sunday, A&E, 9 p.m.

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A new miniseries based in a Stephen King bestseller is always an attention-getter but, in truth, King miniseries tend to be plodding. It's movies of his books that work best – the tendency toward long, long exposition has to be curbed. Here – only portions were available in advance – Pierce Brosnan plays the main character, a successful writer whose wife dies in an accident. Suffering from loss and ensuing writer's block, he returns to his house in a place that is obviously haunted by terrible forces of darkness. There he broods on the fact that he's been told his wife was pregnant, but he knows it wasn't by him. Jason Priestley turns up to play the overly oily literary agent who is tasked with sorting out the mess of the writer's life. But is he doing good or evil?

Becoming Santa Sunday, CBC NN, 10 p.m. on The Passionate Eye

Made for Oprah's OWN channel, this doc chronicles the journey of a guy named Jack (part-time actor, part-time real-estate broker) who decides to play Santa for the holiday season. He goes through the entire transformation, from having his beard turned white to attending a "Santa school" for lessons. It's the school segment that is the most interesting, as viewers hear what instructors tell the students they will face from kids and adults. Jack is at first overwhelmed by the job, not to mention exhausted. But along the way he comes to understand what the Santa Claus figure represents to different people. As his journey is documented, we also get much and valuable punditry about the origins of the Santa figure and the development of the Santa myth and marketing in the USA.

Boardwalk Empire Sunday, HBO Canada, 9 p.m.

It's the season finale for what has been a slow-burning show these past few episodes. Nucky (Steve Buscemi) is beset by rivals and the law as he is forced to be increasingly ruthless in the bootlegging business. His trial, which he has tried to manipulate, is about to get under way. Rival Jimmy (Michael Pitt) inexpertly tries to make alliances. Meanwhile tortured FBI agent Nelson (Michael Shannon) knows the jig is up. His relationship with Lucy (Paz de la Huerta, who is the show's breakout star) is more awry than ever. And Margaret (Kelly MacDonald) – who is supposed to be Nucky's comfort – is compromised, it seems. This will end badly. Stay up and awake after Boardwalk Empire for a sneak peek of HBO's new series Luck, starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte (HBO Canada, 10 p.m.).

Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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