ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* With its fifth annual airing, can you now call "A Garfield Christmas" a holiday tradition? It's on CBS at 8 tonight (Channel 11). Cartoonist Jim Davis' cartoon creation dreads a boring visit to the home of Jon's grandmother, but he discovers a fine feline friend after all.
Following Garfield on CBS at 8:30 is another well-liked special of equal vintage, "A Claymation Christmas Celebra-tion."
* In a sly holiday scheduling, cable's MTV network is screening at 9 a.m. tomorrow "Pee-wee's Christmas Playhouse." It's a repeat of the holiday show done when the Saturday morning kids' show starring Pee-wee Herman (a.k.a. Paul Reubens) was a solid hit on CBS.
You may recall that while the network had canceled Pee-wee's program in April, it yanked all repeats off the air last summer after Reubens' arrest in Florida. (In November, the performer agreed to make an anti-drug commercial and pay a $50 fine in a settlement of indecent exposure charges lodged after his arrest at an adult movie theater.)
And how is this for odd parallels with figures in the news? The show's guest is Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the basketball star who recently retired because of his affliction with the HIV virus.
* Isn't Vice President Dan Quayle a post-war baby boomer? Regardless, he is scheduled to join Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley and survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack tonight on "The Les Kinsolving Show," at 7 p.m. on WBM-AM 680.
* Is there any broadcast show that has been on the air as long as radio's "Texaco-Metropolitan Opera?"
Tomorrow marks the debut of the 52nd consecutive season. The Met's performance of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" can be heard at 1:30 p.m. on WBJC-FM 91.5.
It is the first of three performances commemorating the bicentennial of the composer's death. On Dec. 14, the opera will be "The Abduction From the Seraglio" and on Dec. 21 it is "Idomeneo."
* Write anything you want but spell the name right, politicians used to say. But what about radio comedians?
"Spelling specialist" George N. Lucas writes from Phoenix to point out that Media Monitor's preview of "The New Stan Freberg Show!" on National Public Radio last week inexplicably spelled the funny man's last name incorrectly. (Remember: "e" before "r" and no "u"). Must have been laughing too hard from the interview to type correctly.