It's the most wonderful time of the year — the time of the holiday TV marathons. These are the winter-based basic cable forerunners to the modern ability to stream entire seasons in one sitting. They've been a staple of end-of-the-year television for so long, it seems like the world was always this way. But this was a modern invention that began in the mid-1990s, with one channel's decision to do the unthinkable: Air the same movie 12 times in 24 hours on Christmas Day. Once again, TBS' Christmas Eve and Day 2020 schedule brings back the granddaddy of marathons, with 24 hours of A Christmas Story.
Initially, A Christmas Story was part of a series of films from the late 1970s and early 1980s that played into 1950s-era nostalgia. Driven by Grease's success, this subgenre of 1950s-set stories of childhoods from a simpler time was already filled with films like Back To the Future. A Christmas Story, released over the holidays in 1983, got merely moderate reviews and was mainly memorable for the scene in which a kid got his tongue frozen on a flagpole.
But a funny thing happened on the movie's presumed path to obscurity: With the growing number of cable channels looking for content, movies like A Christmas Story became staples of holiday programming. And, much like Disney's Hocus Pocus at Halloween, repetition turned it into tradition. By the early 1990s, TBS was airing it yearly, and then several times each year, and then multiple times a day each year.
It wasn't that big a leap to decide to air "24 Hours of A Christmas Story" when the channel finally did it in 1997. But it was the first to do it so unashamedly. Within only a couple of years, this marathon became a tradition as well, and two decades later, it is a yearly event.
That being said, TBS does have more than A Christmas Story to marathon for those looking for more than just endless Red Ryder BB guns. Over the years, the marathons have come to include Christmas Eve as well. Here's the full schedule starting on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 24:
- 5 a.m. - 7 a.m. ET: Family Matters Christmas episodes
- 7 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. ET: Everybody Loves Raymond Christmas episodes
- 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. ET: The George Lopez Show Christmas episodes
- 10:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. ET: Bob's Burgers Christmas episodes
- 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. ET: Friends Christmas episodes
- 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. ET: The Big Bang Theory Christmas episodes
Then, like clockwork, at 8 p.m. ET on Christmas Eve, the 24 hours of A Christmas Story marathon begins. It ends at 8 p.m. ET on Christmas Day. Happy watching.