Hope you received an extra-large stocking for Christmas last year, because you’re going to need it to hold all of this year’s Yuletide TV movies. There are about 80 new original holiday flicks sledding your way (with Hallmark alone gifting you 37 between its two networks). How to manage this much mistletoe, merriment, mostly rated-G mischief, and mix-ups? Let us pop down your chimney and help.
Let’s get baked
It’s not officially the holidays until the smell of [insert elderly relative]’s patented [calorie bomb] comes wafting from the kitchen, so the networks are cooking up a half-dozen appropriately themed movies: A big-city exec wants to streamline a quaint bakery in Christmas in Love (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 10); A Very Nutty Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 10) features Melissa Joan Hart as a freshly-single bakery owner who may find unlikely romance with the Nutcracker Prince; and A Christmas in Tennessee (Lifetime, Dec. 9) centers on a daughter, mother, and grandmother who run a bakery. Plus, it’s game — and oven — on with a Cookie Crawl cooking competition in Christmas Joy (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 16) and a gingerbread house-building contest in A Gingerbread Romance (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 16).
This year’s hottest destination is…freezing Vermont
Christmas TV movies often take place in generic wintry towns with names like Holiday Falls, but the Green Mountain State serves as the setting for four films this season: A plan to reunite three brothers with their mother on live TV goes haywire in Chad Michael Murray’s Road to Christmas (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 20), while a reunion of three sisters takes a twist in Last Vermont Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Dec. 11). A beloved bookstore may be sold in Christmas Around the Corner (Lifetime, Dec. 14), and a woman who is taking over her retiring mom’s lifestyle business helps a young girl in Vermont welcome home her deployed father in Entertaining Christmas (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 15). Pair these flicks with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, naturally. Oh, and better luck next year, Maine.
Toy companies and toy stores are ringing up drama all over the place. In Life-Size 2 (Freeform, Dec. 9), Tyra Banks reprises her Life-Size role as Eve, and this magical doll helps a misguided CEO of a toy company get on track. Then there’s The Truth About Christmas (Freeform, Dec. 18), which spotlights a political consultant who loses the ability to lie after a confrontation with a Santa in a toy store. Speaking of dustups, or at least mix-ups, two single parents who collide and accidentally wind up with each other’s toy gifts in A Twist of Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 6). And keep an eye out for the struggling actor who dons a plush suit to play a Christmas character and promote a new popular toy in POOKA! (Hulu, Dec. 7).
You can go home for the holidays
Lifetime will serve as Reunion Junction this year: My Christmas Inn (Dec. 20) features Sister, Sister alums Jackée Harry, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, and Tim Reid, while The Christmas Contract (Dec. 24) reconvenes One Tree Hill stars Hilarie Burton, Robert Buckley, Danneel Ackles, and Antwon Tanner, complete with a Tyler Hilton musical performance. Meanwhile, Jingle Belle (Dec. 25) offers up The Cosby Show‘s Keshia Knight Pulliam and Tempest Bledsoe, and The Christmas Pact (Dec. 7) reunites A Different World onscreen spouses Kadeem Hardison and Jasmine Guy. There’s also a Wonder-ful reunion on Hallmark Channel that’s been, well, Years in the making: Wonder Years alums Danica McKellar and Dan Lauria share the screen in Christmas at Grand Valley (Dec. 16, Hallmark M&M).
App-etite for holiday romance
‘Tis the season to hit the slopes — and the dating apps — as three movies swipe into romantic drama. In Christmas Cupid’s Arrow (ION Television, Dec. 22), an unlucky-in-love professor meets a handsome lawyer on a dating site, and his messages fall into Cyrano territory, while in Mingle All the Way (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 7), a networking-app founder becomes her own customer and gets matched with someone she previously met/disliked. There’s an old-school twist to Sarah Drew’s Christmas Pen Pals (Lifetime, Dec. 15), as the creator of a failing dating app, who’s trying to reinvent the courtship model, signs up for an anonymous pen-pal service and rights (writes?) some romantic wrongs in her own life.
It takes will power
A trusty staple of the Christmas TV movie is an inheritance — preferably a surprise — from a relative. A divorcee is bequeathed a home in Hope at Christmas (Hallmark M&M, Dec. 9), an ad exec receives an Alaskan hotel in My Christmas Inn, a corporate lawyer is given the family home with one condition in Christmas Everlasting (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 8), and an aspiring pilot inherits a reindeer farm in Northern Lights at Christmas (Hallmark M&M, Dec. 15). But wait — we’re not finished reading the will just yet! In Memories of Christmas (Hallmark M&M, Dec. 9), a daughter is left a house by her mother who had hired a decorator to gussy up the home for Christmas, and daughter plus decorator could equal desire. And in A Snow White Christmas (Ion, Dec. 9), Bianca Snow is set to inherit mad cash and her late’s father’s mansion, but a wicked stepmother stands in her way.
Meet the hardest working elves
Some actors get into the Christmas spirit. Others wrap themselves in it tightly and don’t let go. Lori Loughlin and Erin Krakow do their usual When Calls the Heart holiday stint — this year it’s When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 25) — while the former also stars in Homegrown Christmas (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 8) and the latter in Marrying Father Christmas (Hallmark M&M, Dec. 9). Don’t forget about Ashley Williams, who can be found in Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 8) as well as the previously mentioned Northern Lights of Christmas. Meanwhile, Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Tatyana Ali cross between competitive networks by starring in both Hallmark and Lifetime movies, with Mowry-Hardrict in A Gingerbread Romance and My Christmas Inn, and Ali in Christmas Everlasting and Jingle Belle. One actress even does double duty in the same film: Vanessa Hudgens plays a duchess and her commoner look-alike in The Princess Switch (Netflix, now streaming).
NEXT PAGE: More Christmas TV movie trends, including crowning achievements
In addition to The Princess Switch, a quartet of movies are getting the royal treatment. A Christmas Prince returns with noteworthy nuptials in A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (Netflix, now streaming), while a former pro skater falls for a king in Christmas at the Palace (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 20). That baker played by Melissa Joan Hart in A Very Nutty Christmas warms up to a Nutcracker Prince ornament that comes to life, and A Christmas in Royal Fashion (ION, Dec. 16) revolves around a fashion show, a dashing prince, a precocious assistant, and mistaken identity.
Pact-ing for the holidays
Here’s a deal that the networks can’t stop making, Christmas after Christmas: Two spirit-challenged single people entering some sort of agreement to pretend to be a couple just for the holidays…only to fall in love for real. Variations on this theme will be found in the aforementioned The Christmas Contract and Mingle all the Way, the latter of which claims the punniest title of the season. (Sorry, It’s Christmas, Eve.)
Christmas in bloom
Sometimes you’ve got to dig a little deeper under the soil to find a fresh plot, which is why a pair of movies this year will show some flower power. Rivals square off in a holiday floral show in a Christmas Arrangement (Lifetime, premiered Nov. 21), while Poinsettias for Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 8) offers up a daughter who returns home to the family’s poinsettia farm to help prepare for the town’s annual parade — and to fall for a botanist, as one does.
The stuck stop here
It is a grand holiday tradition for inclement weather or another misfortune to strand our in-transit, focused-on-all-the-wrong-things protagonist in a town that he/she (but probably she) ultimately discovers the true meaning of Christmas. There’s car trouble in A Veteran’s Christmas (Hallmark M&M, Dec. 13) — which follows a Cincinnati-bound, honorably-discharged Marine who connects with a small-town judge after her Jeep breaks down — and in Welcome to Christmas (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 9), where a resort developer connects with a small-town sheriff after an accident leaves her stranded. A country star bonds with a businesswoman as they try to make their way to Tulsa after weather-related flight cancellations in the Blake Shelton-produced Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas (Hallmark M&M, Dec. 15), while A Godwink Christmas (Hallmark M&M, Dec. 11) chronicles the adventures of an antique appraiser with a conflicted heart who winds up marooned on Martha’s Vineyard en route to Nantucket. But sometimes, say, on Christmas Eve, someone is going to get trapped in an even smaller place, say, a department store, and if it’s Hallmark, that person is going to be Candace Cameron Bure in A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 9).
The naughty list
This category isn’t so much of a trend, but perhaps it will become one. Christmas TV movies boast the occasional Scrooge — say, a big-city exec looking to buy out a beloved small-town business — but not too many felons. This year, though, Christmas is downright criminal in the Blumhouse film Pooka (Hulu, Dec. 7), which focuses on a struggling actor who gets a job as the plush-suited Christmas character Pooka, and well, Pooka possesses his soul and sends him on a murderous rampage. Everywhere else, it’s mostly good, clean fun, save for the detective who falls for a suspected diamond thief in Christmas Catch (UPtv, Dec. 7), and the tax-delinquent ex-husband who causes problems for a single mom in Coins for Christmas (TV One, Dec. 16).
There is no shortage of music-themed movies — there are at least 10 — and two include country singers in a good ol’ pickle: Country Christmas Album (ION, Dec. 15) centers on a fading country star who is forced to record a Christmas album with a former teen heartthrob/pop star, while the Blake Shelton-produced Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas (Hallmark M&M, Dec. 9) sends a writers-blocked country star on a trip with the owner of a handmade jam company after their flight is canceled. Fan of duos and duets? Check out Christmas at Graceland (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 9), which reunites a business exec played by Kellie Pickler and a music promoter, the previously mentioned Jingle Belle, which re-teams ex-high school sweethearts and Christmas pageant stars, and It’s Christmas, Eve (Hallmark Channel, Dec. 16), which showcases LeAnn Rimes, as a school superintendent, duetting with a student. Elsewhere, a singer named… Harmony has been ditched by her pop star boyfriend in Christmas Harmony (Lifetime, Dec. 16), and a scrappy singer and successful record exec swap bodies in A Christmas Switch (UPtv, Dec. 12). Coming this spring: Freaky Good Friday?
That’s hardly every new Christmas TV movie. To find out when all of them will air, head over here.