Raising Hope

Imagine a world without Hope. Hope Chance, that is, the adorable infant who somehow thrives amid the chaos of Fox's raucous but innately sweet family comedy Raising Hope (9:30/8:30c). The show's Christmas episode takes a page from It's a Wonderful Life — because, really, who hasn't? — when a drunken Jimmy (Lucas Neff) dreams of how things might have been if he hadn't knocked up a serial killer and been left with a baby to raise. The trigger for this alt-scenario is a hoot, as the Chance family goes to the movies, watching in dismay as a movie trailer teases a comedy based on their haphazard lives ("Dumb gets a new name," bellows the announcer about The Chances of Natesville).

If you think things couldn't get worse for this hard-luck family, wait until Dream Jimmy gets a look at the homestead without a baby on board to bond them all together. Virginia (a nearly unrecognizable Martha Plimpton) has gone grotesquely to seed, Maw Maw is acting like she's in another dimension — so what else is new — and Jimmy declares, "This is just like that movie Inception. I have absolutely no idea what's going on." We, of course, know how it will all turn out, but it's still a treat when Jimmy embraces his imbecilic heritage, without which there would be no Hope.

Hope caps a night of Fox holiday episodes, starting with a new Glee (8/7c) in which New Directions has to choose between two simultaneous gigs, and the return of Justin Long as Jess's endearingly awkward suitor on New Girl (9/8c), who freaks her out when he gets her an expensive Christmas gift. Meanwhile, there's Schmidt's office party to crash, which means another appearance by the terrific Michaela Watkins as his boss.

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Poised to crush the competition as usual: a new episode of CBS's NCIS (8/7c), in which Gibbs and the team rescue a very pregnant Marine from mystery attackers on Christmas Eve. And if you don't think there's going to be an emergency delivery just in time for Santa, let me introduce you to the way TV works. There's also a subplot for Ducky's morgue sidekick Jimmy (Brian Dietzen), who brings his future father-in-law (comic actor Larry Miller) to work. ... NCIS: LA (9/8c, CBS) gets in the holiday spirit as well, as Sam (LL Cool J) hunts down the season's hottest Christmas present for his daughter, but keeps being distracted by the search for a top-secret device that could destroy the entire city. Priorities, dude!

NBC continues its royal obsession with William & Kate: Inside the Royal Marriage (8/7c), a six-months-later rhapsody on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, including confidantes declaring how the couple is trying to keep some semblance of privacy — which specials like this seem hell-bent on destroying. Today's Natalie Morales is the host. ... Weighing less heavily on the schedule, NBC's The Biggest Loser (9/8c) crowns its latest winner to the music of Train, and then reveals a new twist for Season 13, which kicks off Jan. 3. We assume weight loss will still be involved (and never more necessary than after the holidays).

So what else is on? ... JAG-turned-Army Wife Catherine Bell returns to crime-fighting as FBI Special Agent Ana Gray in the latest TNT Mystery Movie Night offering Good Morning, Killer (9/8c), which is actually about a pervy serial kidnapper. Co-stars include Titus Welliver as her partner and Cole Hauser as the Santa Monica detective she's romancing off duty. William Devane plays her ex-cop grandfather. All are wasted in another thoroughly routine procedural. ... Because a week seemingly can't go by without some sort of country-music celebration, CMT names its 2011 Artists of the Year (9/8c) in a recent gala, honoring Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift. ... Who's that celebrating Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on PBS (check local schedules) in front of an audience of thousands? None other than American Idol finalist David Archuleta, who performs "Los Pastores a Belen" in Spanish, while Michael York narrates the famed choir's backstory. "Joy to the World," indeed.

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