Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly

If you're the type that tries to keep track of those perplexing stop-and-start cable schedules, you'll know December tis NOT the season for summer's sci-fi larks Eureka and Warehouse 13 to be airing new episodes. But Syfy programmers are playing Santa Tuesday night, and their gift is a back-to-back package of holiday-themed special originals of the channel's whimsical hit series. It's a great idea, because these are Syfy's most festive series anyway, so why not bring them back to spread a little cheer.

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Eureka leads off (9/8c) with a tall tale — ironically involving miniaturization — told by Sheriff Carter to jaded kid prodigies in front of a roaring fire. The town is socked in by a blizzard, so Carter takes the opportunity to recall the hottest Christmas in Eureka history in a story that involves an unusually tasty fruitcake, a jet-powered sleigh (Rudolph 2.1), insistent hologram carolers and — here's the rub — a rapidly expanding hydrogen crystal that, as usual, could destroy the town if it isn't contained.

Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock vet Chris Parnell shows up as a scientist no one seems to remember — his name is Drummer, so could it be a holiday pun? — and keeping with the light comic theme, Matt Frewer returns as wacky Dr. Taggert, whose study of Santalogy goes predictably awry. Meanwhile, a very astute Secret Santa is keeping the holiday spirit alive, while the alluring Allison insists, "We could all use a little more magic in our lives."

There is magic and wonder in these special episodes of Eureka and Warehouse 13, and I was especially tickled by the way Warehouse sprinkles Christmas goodies throughout its credits and bumpers, using a storybook framework to spin its clever holiday fable (directed by executive producer Jack Kenny). The Santa in this story is, at first glance, a mean-spirited sprite, whooshing and twinkling in a blur of glitter, vandalizing and terrorizing a workaholic dad (Paul Blackthorne) who's ignoring his daughter while demolishing a block of mom-and-pop stores to build a new mall. Yes, it's Santa as Marley's ghost, but what's powering this mischievous apparition? An artifact, no doubt, but the back story behind this cursed object is a good one, grounded in historical yuletide lore.

While Pete and Mika investigate this Bad (or is he?) phantom Santa in a Los Angeles that isn't beginning to look a lot like Christmas, back at the warehouse Claudia is scheming to reunite crotchety boss Arnie with his estranged dad Isadore (a well-cast Judd Hirsch). In both episodes, the message is that family and home — even in the remote reaches of Eureka and the South Dakota warehouse — is where the heart is, and the night ends on an appropriately sentimental note.

All of this is recommended for watching in the glow of a properly lit tree with a mug of hot cider at your side. And if you're really good, Santa will bring you new seasons of Eureka and Warehouse 13 in 2011.

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