Holy holly! Did you guys just see that? Santa whizzing by on a sleigh packed with Barbies and basketballs? A man and a woman falling into a snowbank and sharing an unexpected kiss? Formerly estranged family members getting all huggy-feely and crooning “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” as the credits roll?

Oh, wait—I think I know what’s happening. I’m having another post-traumatic hallucination, a result of a recent work assignment. For the fourth year in a row, I, loyal Entertainment Weekly servant, have taken on the ridiculous challenge of watching all of the networks’ original holiday TV-movies. Why? So I can create the Holiday Movie Cliché Checklist. The chart, which is found in EW’s Dec. 4 issue, illustrates which Christmas-flick cliches (Stranded by blizzard! Toy thief!) are found in which films, so you can know exactly what you’re getting into. Yes, my pain is totally your gain.

While the class of 2009 appeared promising, offering up competing canine projects (A Dog Named Christmas and The Dog Who Saved Christmas air tonight!), on the whole, this year’s movies didn’t seem to be filled with quite as much goof-n-gouda as in Christmases past (not one villain slipping on ice? Come on!). Not that there weren’t corny moments of corny goodness to savor, like when one orphan said to another in The Three Gifts, “Eat your turkey, turkey!” Or when Doris Roberts rocked her magical Christmas powers in Debbie Macomber’s Mrs. Miracle. I’m not ashamed to admit that I misted up one or two times while screening these flicks. Actually, I am totally ashamed to admit that. Pretend that sentence never happened.

One thing I will not take away from you: The 2nd Annual Yulies, the only awards that honor absurd achievements in the holiday TV-movie genre. So slap on a Santa hat and meet the nominees:

The National Tree (Hallmark, Nov. 29)

<a href=” 12 Men of Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 5)

Now, before I hand out the first Yulie log, I must issue a SPOILER ALERT to those of you who wish to tune into these movies joyously oblivious. The last sleigh out of here leaves NOW. (Feel free, of course, to return after your viewing sessions to weigh in on the Yulies and hand out your own awards.)


Santa Baby 2 features Paul Sorvino as an offbeat St. Nick who anchors a jazz combo and winds up in jail after scrapping with a surly mall Santa. And Mario Lopez—who spent a Holiday in Handcuffs in 2007—gets props for voicing Zeus, the wise-cracking pooch with a barking disorder in The Dog Who Saved Christmas. (Loved that belch after you drank from the toilet.) But two other stars in that movie—Dean Cain and Joey Diaz—are suckers for silliness: As a pair of bumbling criminals who try to rob the Bannister family, they get sidetracked by everything from a bologna sandwich to bad gas while matching (dim)wits with Lopez’s doggie.


Four movies feature an adorable dog in their story. The golden retriever in A Golden Christmas seems to be trying to bring together two adults who once shared a deep connection as kids. A wounded yellow lab in Christmas in Canaan helps to bridge the racial divide between two boys in Texas during the Civil Rights Movement. Another yellow lab, in A Dog Named Christmas, defends his new digs against a cougar (where were you when Kim needed you on 24?). Meanwhile, a third yellow lab—Zeus from The Dog Who Saved Christmas—engages in a heroic battle with those two home-invading thieves. Tough call here. The lab in Christmas in Canaan is certainly the most important canine of the bunch, but the one in The Dog Who Saved Christmas proves to be a more integral part of his movie—plus he does more tricks. Hey Zeus, wanna play fetch with your new Yulie log?


In both The Christmas Hope and The Three Gifts, parents do a good deed by giving an orphan (or three) a home just for Christmas, but a question soon looms: Could a more permanent stay be in these kids’ futures? A Dog Named Christmas also happens to boast the same premise—but with a canine, natch.


Not one but two holiday movies call Superman to duty. In The Three Gifts, he plays a decent if slightly immature toymaker who winds up with three trouble-making orphans for the holidays. But The Dog Who Saved Christmas snags the Yulie for casting Cain as a thickheaded thief who must deal with his even thicker partner while taking on Zeus. Never work with children or animals? Ha! Dean Cain laughs in the face of your acting rules!


Last year, A Very Merry Daughter of the Bride took home a Yulie for casting both Luke Perry and Jason Priestley. None of this year’s movies can match such an accomplishment. A Golden Christmas offers up 90210 guest-star Elisa Donovan; as we mentioned, The Three Gifts and The Dog Who Saved Christmas feature Brenda’s short-term beau, Dean Cain; and Santa Baby 2 stars Tori Spelling……….’s husband, Dean McDermott. But all of those nominees can suck on a candy cane, because The Christmas Hope is the one movie that dares to place you under the care of a full-time original cast member: Ian Ziering. Or should we say, Dr. Ian Ziering? (We should, because he’s playing a doctor.)


There’s not a lot of competition in this category, as nine of the ten movies don’t even mention the menorah-lighting set. (Someone in The Christmas Hope does bust out the Yiddish word “schmuck.”) Only Yulie-darling The Dog Who Saved Christmas tries to reach an interfaith hand (paw?) across the aisle… although it’s only for a 30-second scene involving a delivery man from Goldberg’s Chinese Food. Soy veh, indeed!


Given to any flick that shows a character staring wistfully at an old photo of himself/herself/a beloved dead relative/etc. And the winner is: The National Tree. And A Dog Named Christmas. And Debbie Macomber’s Mrs. Miracle. And The Christmas Hope. And A Golden Christmas. Okay, that’s got to be every—oh, and The Three Gifts. And Christmas in Canaan. Congrats to all seven of you, but hurry off the stage because now we’re running behind schedule….


Andrea Roth, A Golden Christmas: “…if you’re gonna shoot a bear’s melon off, shotgun’s the way to go.”


Three movies try to milk a laugh out of the traditional artery-clogging drink. In The Dog Who Saved Christmas, the dad attempts to distract his kids from seeing their gifts by feigning a back injury and saying, “Why don’t you kids, you know, go make some egg nog or something, okay? You know where the stuff is, right? For the, uh, egg nog?” In 12 Men of Christmas, a person interrupts a kissing couple by ahem-ing: “More egg nog, or are you two just going to get a room?” And in Santa Baby 2, Jenny McCarthy’s assistant asks her to make this decision about their holiday party: “Would you prefer flaming rum punch or egg nog martinis?” So which movie earns a trophy? Call me a grinch—and I don’t mean to leave egg (nog) on these nominees’ faces—but I just don’t think any of these quips are quite Yulie log-worthy. Better luck next year, guys!

PopWatchers, are you excited to watch this flurry of holiday movies, or are you about to run screaming from the living room? What’s the best holiday TV-movie cliché? What’s the lamest one? And what stands as the all-time greatest holiday TV-movie?

Oh, one other thing: Happy Holidays!