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What to Watch Monday: Season’s first ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ airing tonight

For many of us, the Christmas season officially begins the first time we see “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on TV.

The 1964 stop-motion classic is the longest-running holiday special in television history — and without a doubt, one of the most popular.

If you somehow possibly don’t know the plot, it tells the story of a young reindeer born with a very shiny nose, who is ostracized and bullied by his peers (and honestly, even by Santa and his own father) because he’s different. But he becomes a hero when his shiny nose is needed to guide Santa’s sleigh through a bad storm on Christmas Eve. This Rankin & Bass production is narrated by Burl Ives, who takes the form of a vested and bespectacled snowman.

Rudolph’s story was actually first animated in 1948, in an 8-minute theatrical short directed by Max Fleischer and narrated by Paul Wing. It was based on a poem by Robert L. May, which was published by Montgomery Ward in 1939. (Note: That 1948 short will likely air on the Freeform cable channel at least a couple of times this season.) The following year, the hit song, written by Johnny Marks and sung by Gene Autry, became a No. 1 hit on the U.S. charts.

When to watch: “Rudolph” will air on television a few times over the season, but tonight’s airing is at 8 p.m. on CBS. To follow other airings and all the good holiday programming through the end of the year, check out our 2023 Holiday TV Guide at nando.com/WarmTV.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which debuted in 1964, is the longest-running holiday special in television history.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which debuted in 1964, is the longest-running holiday special in television history.

Other holiday programming on TV tonight:

“Miracle on 34th Street” (7 p.m, AMC) — In this 1947 classic, an adwoman’s (Maureen O’Hara) lawyer boyfriend (John Payne) tries to prove that Macy’s Santa Claus (Edmund Gwenn) is the real thing.

“Elf” (8 & 10 p.m., TNT) — Adopted as a baby by one of Santa’s elves (Bob Newhart), a man (Will Ferrell) leaves the workshop to search for his family in New York. Also stars James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner and Mary Steenburgen.

White Christmas” (9 p.m., AMC) — In this 1954 classic, former Army buddies (Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye) put on a show with a sister act to save their general’s hotel in Vermont.

“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the longest-running holiday special in television history, airs on CBS.
“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the longest-running holiday special in television history, airs on CBS.