Pick of the Week
TV highlights for the week of Dec. 1-6. All times are Eastern; check local listings.
SUNDAY - 12/1
Vanessa Williams and Friends: Christmas in New York (ABC, 8-9 p.m.): Phil Collins, Shania Twain, Luther Vandross, Rosie O'Donnell, and Elmo from "Sesame Street" join Williams and the Harlem Boys Choir at the Shubert Theater for an hour of Christmas caroling.
Las Vegas: Gamble in the Desert (A&E, 8-10 p.m.): This miniseries traces the history of the city that began with the Mormons and the Hoover Dam. Las Vegas today is attracting new residents annually and is offering more family fare, along with its usual large helping of glitz and gambling. Part 2 airs on Monday.
Avonlea (Disney, 9-10 p.m.): Return to Prince Edward Island one last time for the finale of the long-running family series. The future looks shaky for P.E.I. residents when the Dales' cannery burns down, and Felicity (Gema Zamprogna) gets a crimp in her wedding plans when Gus Pike (Michael Mahonen), her first love, returns after having been reported lost at sea.
Calm at Sunset (CBS, 9-11 p.m.): This Hallmark Hall of Fame movie has lovely scenery and decent acting, but the screenplay, based on a book by Paul Watkins, is lacking. The novel's plot is followed fairly closely - a young man faces challenges from the sea and his parents when he quits college to become a fisherman. But as with many translations to film, some character development is lost in the process. Includes a bit of mild violence. Starring Peter Facinelli, Michael Moriarty, and Kate Nelligan.
Jurassic Park (NBC, 9-11 p.m.): In this 1993 mega-blockbuster, show-stopping special effects and an interesting story by Michael Crichton - about scientifically reproduced dinosaurs that wreak havoc on a small island - mask lightweight acting by all but the delightful Jeff Goldblum. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
A Grand Day Out (PBS, 8-8:30 p.m.): Wallace and Gromit come to PBS in two of their cartoons by British animator Nick Park. For the uninitiated, Wallace is a cheese-loving inventor with more gadgets than Batman, and Gromit is his faithful, if long-suffering, dog. It's destination moon in the first cartoon, which attempts to answer the all-important question: Just what kind of cheese is the moon made of anyway? In the faster-paced A Close Shave (PBS, 8:30-9 p.m.), which won this year's Oscar for best animated short, Gromit must foil a sheep-rustler with diabolical designs on Wallace's new knitting machine. But will solving the mystery ruin Wallace's budding romance with yarn-shop owner Wendolene Ramsbottom?
MONDAY - 12/2
Images of Life: Photographs That Changed the World (CBS, 10-11 p.m.): This thoughtful documentary hosted by Candice Bergen celebrates 60 years of photographs from Life magazine. Some of the subjects will be familiar to viewers - walking on the moon, Robert Kennedy's assassination. Others will be less so - actress Ingrid Bergman's exile from Hollywood because of an extramarital affair, an AIDS patient dying in the heartland. Still photos along with video footage are complemented by interviews with those in the pictures or connected to them - including poet Maya Angelou, actress Sophia Loren, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
WEDNESDAY - 12/4
An Unexpected Family (USA, 9-11 p.m.): Barbara Whitney (Stockard Channing) is a career-oriented woman suddenly saddled with two kids when her sister abandons them and takes off for Merry Old England. Chelsea Russo is precious as Meghan and Noah Fleiss alternates between precocious and plucky as her older brother, Matt. Of course their mother returns, and of course the climax is that showdown staple of made-for-TV movies: the custody battle. But Channing's performance and a hint of forgiveness at the end of the movie elevates what would otherwise be ho-hum fare.
THURSDAY - 12/5
Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too (CBS, 8-9 p.m.): It's Christmas in the Hundred Acre Wood, and that adorable Bear of Very Little Brain is racking his mind to make his friends' holiday as special as possible.
Murder One (ABC, 9-10 p.m.): The verdict is in. Will the real murderer of California Gov. Tom Van Allen please step forward? Viewers may discover who pulled the trigger, but fans will have to wait one more week to discover the true mastermind behind the philandering governor's murder.
FRIDAY - 12/6
Frosty the Snowman (CBS, 8-8:30 p.m.): Last stop: the North Pole, for cool fun featuring America's favorite ball of snow. Jimmy Durante narrates. In Frosty Returns (CBS, 8:30-9 p.m.), the "jolly, happy soul" keeps his promise and is back for more snowy celebration in this sequel to the classic cartoon.
Beauty and the Beast: a Concert on Ice (CBS, 9-10 p.m.): Viewers tuning in to see the entire of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" performed on ice will be disappointed. The story is told only partially through songs from the movie and musical. Skaters like Ekaterina Gordeeva (as Belle) and Victor Petrenko (as the Beast) perform flawlessly to each number. It has a few charming moments, but those not familiar with the story may be a bit lost.
The 10 Most Fascinating People of 1996 (ABC, 10-11 p.m.): Barbara Walters interviews talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell, author Michael Crichton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, gymnast Kerri Strug, astronaut Shannon Lucid, homemaking expert Martha Stewart, and more.