As you fill the days and evenings with holiday traditions, take a fresh look at three films on broadcast television this weekend – showing, unfortunately, in the same time slot – that remind us what the season can mean.

It's A Wonderful Life.

It’s A Wonderful Life.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Suicide is not an easy topic for a film to address.

And, in 1946, for a country celebrating the first year without a world war to fight, it was a surprising topic for a major film to highlight, from a director who was known for creating “feel good” movies, and starring a beloved actor in his first role since returning from the war.

But director Frank Capra creates this potentially dark story with so much love and care that we always pull for George Bailey even when we may not be able to understand his feelings. Capra gives the film such inherent warmth that we fall in love with Bedford Falls and its residents even though such a town may not actually exist. Still, as the country basked in the glow of victory, Capra chose to make a film about suicide as a way to remind audiences of the meaning of life. Instead of basking in potential tragedy, he asked a few questions, “What would the world would be like if someone had never been born? What might have happened to all the friends and family if they had never known someone?”

The film inspires us to make the most of each moment we have the opportunity to live and share. As George learns, no one is alone who has family and friends. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

Saturday, December 3, 8 p.m., NBC

 

Finding Nemo (2003)

Adventure can be exhilarating until we become frightened.

Of course, as children, we never think we can be hurt. We believe we are invincible, that no degree of risk reaches beyond common sense. And, even though parents may tell children to be safe, something about the child mind believes nothing bad can happen. Even in the movies, under or above the water, children love to test the boundaries that parents.

This animated film about a fish that dares to be human helps us see, again, how scary it can be to face danger, how much we would miss home if we feared we might never see it again, and how there may be something to those potential dangers that parents try to warn us about. The film celebrates how children, and parents, in the effort to enjoy life, may take a few risks. And, in the movies, a bit of danger can make the story more interesting.

At its heart, Finding Nemo is all about how much a father loves his son. It doesn’t matter that they are fish; in Nemo, the father’s love is as real as the adventures his son pursues. What he experiences is as human as portrayed in any film. And the beauty of the animation makes father and child all too more appealing. As both try every possible way to reunite, you will be touched.

Saturday, December 3, 8 p.m., Disney

 

The Fault in the Stars (2014)

As parents, we try to protect our children from anything or anyone that can hurt. Of the fears we experience as parents, the thought of a child facing a serious illness frightens most. How helpless would we feel if we couldn’t make it all better?

Yes, it’s impossible to see this film without reflecting on our parental fears. While this moving adaptation of John Green’s novel may be about young people, Laura Dern’s thoughtful performance as a caring mother demonstrates the strength that any parent would hope to bring to such a situation. If the film reminds us that happy endings don’t always happen, even at the movies, it reinforces our belief that people with courage can navigate any experience.

With its focus on the joys of relationships, not just the tragedy of illness, Fault on film emerges as a character study of how people choose to live today when tomorrow is far from certain. Without letting the film become too maudlin – given the severity of its subject matter – the film focuses on the moments these young people do control, from how they spend time together, to how they stand up to their parents, to how they challenge the irreverent behavior of a once-famous author. By making the teenagers into real people trying to cope with real issues, the film avoids becoming a traditional tearjerker to delivering a portrayal of hope that can touch even a cynical moviegoer.

Saturday, December 3, 8 p.m., FX