Worth Watching: 'Call the Midwife' Special, 'When Calls the Heart' Movie, 'Murdoch Mysteries'
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV (Merry Christmas Edition):
Call the Midwife Holiday Special (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): In what has become a holiday tradition, the popular period drama returns with a special Christmas episode, which sends some of the nurses and nuns of Nonnatus House to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland to set up a branch house and help with a nursing shortage. The lodgings (a freezing converted church) turn out to be almost as cold as the reception from suspicious locals. But in this show, hearts have a way of warming once they see the midwives work their magic.
When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas (8/7c, Hallmark): In case you need more warm TV fuzzies, the long-running romantic drama chimes in with its latest holiday special. The movie finds Elizabeth (Erin Krakow) preparing for Little Jack’s first Christmas and birthday, which only makes her miss the late Big Jack even more. But at least she has a few suitors making the yuletide interesting: saloon owner Lucas (Chris McNally), who’s holding a Christmas festival to bring some of his own family traditions to Hope Valley, and maybe impress Elizabeth along the way; and Mountie Nathan (Kevin McGarry), who’s weighing a job offer in Union City.
Murdoch Mysteries (streaming on Acorn TV): Amid the seasonal repeats, a gift from Acorn, with the 13th season of the period procedural, starring Yannick Busson as innovative 19th-century Toronto detective William Murdoch, kicking off with two episodes. (More new episodes follow on Mondays through April.) In the opener, Murdoch investigates a deadly explosion at a suffrage rally. In the second, titled “Bad Pennies,” an innocent man is arrested after a man’s murder, with the real killer ready to strike again.
Inside Wednesday TV: Gavin and Stacey, the British comedy that helped put James Corden (co-creator with Ruth Jones) on the map, is back with the first episode in nearly a decade. Mathew Horne and Joanna Page return as the title couple, with Corden and Jones reprising their roles as the star-crossed besties, Smithy and Nessa. … A bonanza for NBA fans, with five games planned through the day, starting at noon/11c on ESPN, with the Boston Celtics taking on the Toronto Raptors; and an ABC triple-header, including the Milwaukee Bucks vs. the Philly 76ers (2:30/1:30c), Houston Rockets vs. the Golden State Warriors (5/4c), and in prime time, an L.A. showdown between the Clippers and Lakers (8/7c). For an ESPN nightcap, the New Orleans Pelicans face the Nuggets in Denver (10:30/9:30c). … Go medieval on PBS with Lucy Worsley’s 12 Days of Tudor Christmas (8/7c, check local listings at pbs.org), in which the royal historian reveals how the holiday was lavishly celebrated back in the days of King Henry VIII. … Say goodbye to the classic Christmas specials for another year with one last look at the brilliant 1966 Chuck Jones classic cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas (8/7c, NBC), featuring the unforgettable voice work of Boris Karloff, followed by the considerably less revered live-action 2000 film (8:30/7:30c), starring Jim Carrey as the green fiend.