Entertainment

Holiday TV: Scene-stealers and other highlights

Rudolph. Charlie Brown. The Grinch. They’re longtime favorites who always grab top billing when the networks roll out their holiday programs.

You have to wonder, though, if they would have become big TV stars, or if their shows would have earned “classic” status, if not for the extraordinary contributions of solid supporting players. After all, to achieve lasting pop-cultural shelf life, it usually takes teamwork.

With that in mind, we salute some of the top holiday scene-stealers — great characters who have the power to make us laugh, cry and sometimes wince, year after year after year:

‘Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ 7 p.m. Monday, ABC

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Character:

Max the dog

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Scene-stealing credentials:

We adore Cindy Lou Who, the sweet little tot who melts our heart. But no one tops the pitiful pooch who basically serves as slave to the abusive Grinch yet loves him unconditionally. The wild trek that has Max — with makeshift reindeer headgear — pulling an overloaded sleigh over treacherous mountain passes is pure slapstick brilliance.

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Quotable:

Seuss said it best when he described the cartoon canine as an “Everydog — all love and limpness and loyalty.”

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Random trivia:

Max was just a minor character in the Seuss book, but animator Chuck Jones wisely expanded his role for the TV adaptation.

‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ 7 p.m. Tuesday, CBS

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Character:

Yukon Cornelius (voiced by Larry D. Mann)

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Scene-stealing credentials:

Yes, the blustery prospector is full of himself, but he provides a jolt of comic relief. Not only does Yukon utter some of the show’s funniest lines, he is pivotal to its final resolution — outwitting the “Bumble” and paving the way for Rudolph’s heroics. All that, plus he has a prodigious beard that Chiefs coach Todd Haley would envy.

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Quotable:

“Even among misfits, you’re misfits.” (To Rudolph and Hermey when they’re denied residence on the Island of Misfit Toys).

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Random trivia:

A scene in which Yukon discovers a tasty peppermint mine was part of the original special but was deleted from subsequent airings before finally being restored in 1998.

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ 7 p.m. Dec. 5, ABC

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Character:

Linus van Pelt (voiced by Christopher Shea)

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Scene-stealing credentials:

The levelheaded Linus is the show’s voice of reason, helping to keep anxiety-ridden Charlie Brown from going berserk. His quietly eloquent reading from the Gospel of Luke packs an emotional wallop and remains one of the most memorable moments in any holiday program.

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Quotable:

“Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.”

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Random trivia:

Network executives argued against having Linus read from the Bible, but “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz was adamant that the scene remain. Shea was only 7 years old when he performed the part.

‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ 8 p.m. Dec. 7, ABC Family

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Character:

Cousin Eddie (played by Randy Quaid)

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Scene-stealing credentials:

The blissfully ignorant, beer-swilling, mooching relative of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) makes Homer Simpson look refined. In one day alone, he sets the stage for a massive sewer explosion and commits a kidnapping that brings out the SWAT team. Few characters are as repulsive as they are amusing.

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Quotable:

“They had to replace my metal plate with a plastic one. Every time Catherine would rev up the microwave, I’d (pee) my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour.”

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Random trivia:

Quaid reprised the role in the highly forgettable TV film, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.”

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ 7 p.m. Dec. 3 and 24, NBC

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Character:

Clarence, Angel Second Class (played by Henry Travers)

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Scene-stealing credentials:

He may seem cheerfully incompetent, but Clarence gets the job done — saving George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) from suicide and finally earning his wings (Listen for the bell). With the perfect blend of facial expressions, childlike wonder, voice and delivery, Clarence never fails to make us smile.

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Quotable:

(To a distraught George) — “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

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Random trivia:

The Clarence Hotel opened in 2009 in Seneca Falls, the upstate New York town that claims to have been the inspiration for the film’s Bedford Falls.

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