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Fox special offers tabloid expose of Santa’s secrets | Arts & Entertainment

Nothing quite says “Merry Christmas” like the notion of a “massive data breach.” But that’s the source of tonight’s spoof holiday exposé, “The Secrets of Christmas: Revealed” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

Based on leaked intelligence purloined from the North Pole, “Secrets” rips the mask off so many reindeer games.

We learn how armies of elf spies are enlisted in a global surveillance effort to make the fateful binary determination separating the naughty from the nice. Dossiers of leaked documents examine the systems and age-old philosophies determining the very fine lines between the two “N words.”

In an ever-changing world, is it still possible to be good for goodness’ sake?

Just how do reindeer fly? What’s the deal with Mrs. Claus anyway? Is she simply a plus-sized hausfrau or the real power behind the sleigh?

These and other sugarplum notions are explored and dissected in this parody tabloid news investigation, originally produced for Tubi, Fox’s free streaming platform.

It might seem a tad strange to associate Christmas, a joy-filled children’s holiday with the world of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, but it’s hardly the first Christmas movie or special to blend dark real-world concerns with all the ho-ho-ho.

From “A Christmas Carol” forward, tales of holiday spirit have been infused with awareness of Dickensian deprivation and poverty. The Great Depression of the 1930s offered a background for many holiday favorites, from parts of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “A Christmas Story” and “The Waltons: Homecoming.”

The more affluent 1960s created Christmas specials exploring notions of conformity versus individualism (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) and the depressing onslaught of commercialization (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”).

More recently, the “Disney Prep & Landing” cartoons turned the elves’ “magic” into a logistical concern with an emphasis on “just-in-time” inventory straight out of an Amazon warehouse.

In my mind, the oddest Christmas development is the Cold War-era tradition of having NORAD track Santa’s sleigh. Somehow, people found holiday cheer in having a Defense Department institution tasked with tracking the arrival of Soviet missiles bringing nuclear annihilation take a misty moment to monitor old St. Nick.

Christmas and its traditions long have been a mirror on our society, whatever we have made of it.

• NBC repeats the live musical productions with “Annie Live!” (7 p.m., r, TV-PG). Celina Smith plays the title role, and Harry Connick Jr. loses his locks to play Daddy Warbucks. Taraji P. Henson, of “Empire” fame, is Miss Hannigan.

• “One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga” (7 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) offers a bittersweet coda to Bennett’s career that stretches all the way back to “Because of You,” his first hit record, released in 1951. The 95-year-old singer has been diagnosed with dementia.

TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• The campaign continues as “Dynasty” (CW, 7 p.m., TV-PG, and 8 p.m., TV-14) enters its fifth season.

• A woman searches for the sender of an anonymous card in the 2021 romance “Open by Christmas” (7 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

• “Christmas at Belmont” (8 p.m., PBS, TV-G, check local listings) presents an evening of carols and holiday favorites from Nashville.

• A rapper and former addict returns to his faith in the holiday special “Miracles Across 125th Street” (8 p.m., VH1, TV-14), written, produced and starring Nick Cannon.

• “Reopening Night” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-14) recalls efforts to open New York’s traditional “Shakespeare in the Park” productions after a year of COVID lockdown.

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