The Basics: Frank Griffin (Joe Mantegna) is oblivious. He lives in a world where the white picket fence surrounding his tidy suburban colonial protects him from having to deal with reality. He's got a wife and daughter and a job he likes, and everything is in its place. Then his wife (Jean Smart) goes and announces that she's unhappy. Sure, she's been dropping clues everywhere that she's having an affair, but Griffin, as everyone calls him, just hasn't noticed. Days before Christmas, his life is suddenly messier than it has ever been, and his only thought is to make it even messier.
The Catch: Griffin wants to go on a revenge tear, hooking up with the first available woman he meets. That happens to be the angelic (and, in this case, elfish) blonde signing up the mall Santas (Kari Matchett). Out of practice and a little bit of a nerd, Griffin's way of getting the girl is to suit up and ho-ho-ho his way into her heart. But he just can't pull it off. He's still in love with his wife, she's still in love with her husband and he's too nice a guy to break the hearts of their respective children, whose only wish for Christmas is for their families to get back together.
Why It's Good: This time of year, all the holiday specials on TV start to blend together. You're not going to find one that doesn't fit this mold of being about people in some sort of selfish emotional distress who find the true spirit of the season after some epiphany and make life better in some way for those around them. It's possible, however, to find a few shows that are actually enjoyable and don't bore you to tears while you're watching them, because they offer interesting character development or plain old good acting. Mantegna, who has finally found a decent place for himself as the father on Joan of Arcadia, is on his way to becoming the best dad on TV.
iVillage Mood Meter: Will make you want to hug your hubby
Stars: Joe Mantegna, Jean Smart, Kari Matchett Director: Tom McLoughlin
Screenwriter: Joyce Eliason, based on the novel
Say When by Elizabeth Berg
Air date: 9pm, December 5