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