You know that thing people say about Taco Bell? That the whole menu is just five ingredients (tortillas, cheese, meat, beans, sauce) remixed and rearranged in infinite combinations? Made-for-TV Christmas is the Taco Bell of entertainment genres. Take the same haggard tropes — the struggling inns, the small towns, the career women who must be cured of their unladylike ambitions by falling in love with boring men — and just switch the names and actors around, and it’s a tradition that works year after year. Although this year, we have to ask: How did they do it in 2020? How did the powers that be manage to pull 82 new Christmas movies (and one Hanukkah film!) out of their proverbial gingerbread asses, amid all the lockdowns and quarantines and restrictions and malaise? One might call it a Christmas miracle. Or, they just used all the movies they’ve been sitting on that weren’t good enough for past years’ lineups, and now the B-team of Christmas B-roll is getting its year in the spotlight. But hey, if you sift through enough lumps of coal, though, you just might find some cubic zirconia. So come, sift with us, as we break down the year’s absolute deluge of holiday fare into relevant subcategories:
All the Networks Finally Agreed That Gay People Exist, Even at Christmas
The Christmas House (Hallmark, November 22 at 8 p.m.)
Hallmark has traditionally been the more conservative of the two major made-for-TV Christmas flick purveyors. It’s more likely to get all reason-y for the season-y, if you know what we mean (we mean Jesus). But this year, they’ve made a less-traumatic version of The Family Stone in which parents Sharon Lawrence and Treat Williams invite their adult kids home for a Very Ensemble Christmas, and one of those adult kids is Gay Who Jonathan Bennett (Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls) and his husband, Brad Harder.
Happiest Season (Hulu, November 25)
The facts are these: Mackenzie Davis is not out to her progressive-enough-seeming parents, played by Mary Steenburgen and — we have to laugh — Victor Garber. But Mackenzie Davis does not tell her partner Kristen Stewart that they will be engaging in an ongoing piece of performance art when they go visit her fam for Christmas. She springs it on her when they’re pulling up to the house, telling her that she’ll have to pretend to play her straight, orphaned roommate. So cold! Dan Levy plays a best friend who is also roped into the charade, while Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza round out the extremely stacked cast. Between Davis, Garber, and Levy, this film has queer Canadian excellence written all over it.
The Christmas Setup (Lifetime, December 12 at 8 p.m.)
Actual living goddess Fran Drescher trades leopard print for buffalo plaid in The Christmas Setup, in which she plays a meddling mother who tries to set up her workaholic big city lawyer son with his high-school crush Patrick when they’re all home in Milwaukee for the holidays. Guess they couldn’t get Drescher for the Hallmark Hanukkah movie (more on that below), but we’ll settle for her stealing scenes in the gay Lifetime movie.
Dashing in December (Paramount Network, December 13 at 7 p.m.)
Andie MacDowell is draped in so many shawls in this cinematic event. When her fancy-schmancy big-city son comes home to the beautiful family ranch for the holidays, he starts to fall for cowboy Heath, who is a Mark Ruffalo sound-alike. Based on the trailer, at one point MacDowell will give a moving Elio’s dad speech.
Who Needs The Crown When You Have Fake Royals?
One Royal Holiday (Hallmark, October 31 at 8 p.m.)
Broadway’s Laura Osnes plays Anna, a down-to-earth, small-town American gal. Broadway’s Aaron Tviet plays James, crown prince of Galwick, who gets stranded with his mother The Queen in said small town because, uh, the snow came and there’s simply too much of it. He’s a prince and she’s just a regular-degular Christmas-loving person. It’ll never work, right? Let’s just say if you’ve literally never seen a movie or read a book before, you will be in for a big surprise.
A Christmas Carousel (Hallmark, December 19 at 8 p.m.)
Lila (Rachel Boston) — who is a mechanic, so you just know she’s down-to-earth — is hired to repair a Very Important Carousel in the fictional nation of Ancadia, as you do. The one condition of the job is she must complete it … by Christmas. Luckily, the Prince (Neal Bledsoe) is there to help. Boy, they’re really running out of alliterations for “Christmas.”
The Princess Switch: Switched Again (Netflix, November 19)
Vanessa Hudgens and co-star Vanessa Hudgens are back with one of the less creatively named sequels we’ve seen. Now with 33 percent more Vanessa Hudgens.
Magic Exists (But Only at Christmas)
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix, November 13)
From the aesthetic that brought you Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and Mary Poppins Returns comes an adorable musical Christmas spectacular about a brilliant tinkerer named Jeronicus Jangle, played by Forest Whitaker, whose grandkids help him win his whimsical inventions back from the dastardly Keegan-Michael Key. A family holiday classic on sight.
A Timeless Christmas (Hallmark, November 15 at 8 p.m.)
Charles Whitley (Ryan Paevey) time travels from 1903 to present day where he falls in love with a modern woman named Megan (Erin Cahill) who is a historical tour guide at his manse, which is now a landmark. She tells him “you can’t let the past control your life,” which is a very normal thing to say in a rom-com but a very funny thing to say to a time traveler. Kate & Leopold deserves royalties.
A Nashville Christmas Carol (Hallmark, November 21 at 8 p.m.)
A workaholic (Jessy Schram) organizing a country music festival is visited by the magical spirit of Wynona Judd, who takes her through the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.
Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (Netflix, November 22)
From a plot and premise standpoint, this Christmas movie about a woman who returns to her hometown and saves it from a big bad mall developer sounds like its Hallmark/Lifetime compatriots. But this is a Dolly Parton production, a full-blown original musical with 14 original songs, choreography by Debbie Allen, and a lead performance from Christine Baranski. It’s in a class of its own.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 (Netflix, November 25)
I had to look up what The Christmas Chronicles 1 was because I had never heard of it, until I saw the poster and remembered that yeah, Kurt Russell definitely played Santa in something. Based on the trailer, he’s kind of an … action Santa? Who wears sunglasses and plays the sax? And Goldie Hawn is there too? Sure! A Jewish Mrs. Claus speaks to me on deep personal levels. Those CGI elves gotta go right to jail though.
Christmas Comes Twice (Hallmark, December 13 at 8 p.m.)
How dare they name this movie Christmas Comes Twice and have it star only one Mowry sister (Tamera, for the record). It should be about Tia and Tamera. Twinning. Twice! Instead, Tamera plays an astrophysicist who rides a magical Christmas carousel that rewinds time and transports her five years into the past. The fact that there are not one but two carousel-centric movies on this list so far, and we’re not even halfway through, really says a lot.
The Opposite of Christmas Is Land Developers
Christmas on Ice (Lifetime, October 23 at 8 p.m.)
She was a skater. He was a hockey player. Can I make it any more obvious? She (Abigail Klein) runs the city’s public skating rink, which the mayor wants to shut down for money reasons. So he (Ryan Cooper) helps her fight the injustice and also falls in love with her maybe-probably.
Christmas Tree Lane (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, October 24 at 10 p.m.)
Small-town music-store owner Meg (Alicia Witt) is trying to save the town’s historic shopping district, which is slated for demolition. Meanwhile, she falls in love with a guy (Andrew Walker) who’s secretly working for the developer! Will she save Christmas Tree Lane? Yes! Duh!
Christmas on the Vine (Lifetime, November 13 at 8 p.m.)
A young marketing executive (Julianna Guill) returns to her hometown and helps a hot winery owner (Jon Cor) fight off a big conglomerate. Meanwhile, she’ll “bring Christmas back to town” and charm the hot wine guy’s mom, Meredith Baxter.
Christmas by Starlight (Hallmark, November 26 at 8 p.m.)
Lady-lawyer Kimberley Sustad tries to save her beloved family restaurant The Starlight Cafe from demolition, and falls for playboy heir Paul Campbell along the way.
People Presents: Once Upon a Main Street (Lifetime, November 29 at 8 p.m.)
Vanessa Lachey wants to turn a small-town storefront into a year-round Christmas store, but she enters into a heated bidding war with a cutie named Vic Manning (Ryan McPartlin). They’ll have to convince the seller to give it over to one of them, and they do so with a Christmas decoration battle.
The Christmas Listing (Lifetime, November 30 at 8 p.m.)
“Julia Rogers is an uptight, hardworking realty owner who has lost her Christmas spirit,” but all that will change when she spends five days at a “Christmas inn” with her hunky business rival, whose name I-shit-you-not is Chad Everest. What is a Christmas inn?
Christmas on the Range (UPtv, December 6 at 7 p.m.)
Kendall (Erin Cahill) is going to spend Christmas saving the family ranch from “small-town scrooge Brick McCree,” which, what a name on that one! Glad to see the writers having a little fun. His son Clint is a total hottie who’s back in town though. Will he and Kendall have a “Montagues and McCree-pulets” sort of thing going? Yuh-doi.
Inn Love by Christmas (Lifetime, December 11 at 8 p.m.)
A hotel industry workaholic wants to buy up the quaint local inn of the small hometown she escaped to add to her hotel chain’s portfolio. But her high-school rival has their eye on the inn as well. What were they rivals at? The high-school Mock Hospitality club?
A Christmas Break (Lifetime, December 20 at 8 p.m.)
Small-town teacher Addison Tate (Cindy Sampson) is DAMN PISSED that the local school is going to shut down. Just kidding. She’s sad in a pretty and demure way. But after a chance meeting with Hollywood actor Danny (Steve Byers) on a Christmas tree lot, together they will devise a plan to save the school. Don’t you always feel a little sad for random D-list Lifetime actors who play famous A-list actors in this kind of thing? Or do you think they enjoy it?
Military Industrial Christmas
Operation Christmas Drop (Netflix, November 5)
No, this isn’t the same thing as a “turkey drop,” when you get dumped on Thanksgiving in college, nor is it my codename for going to the bathroom after having too much lactose-rich eggnog. It’s about Christmastime romance at an army base in Guam.
A Welcome Home Christmas (Lifetime, November 7 at 8 p.m.)
Hunky veteran Michael (Brandon Quinn) comes home to organize the local Army toy drive with Chloe (Jana Kramer) and they probably fall in love or something.
USS Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, November 28 at 10 p.m.)
Okay, so do you know what Tiger Cruises are? Maybe you’ll remember them from the 2004 Disney Channel Original Movie Tiger Cruise, starring Hayden Panettiere. It’s when Navy family members get to spend a week on a naval ship to see what that’s all about. Anyway. A lady-reporter goes on a Christmas Tiger Cruise where she meets a handsome naval officer, and together they uncover a “mystery in the ship’s archive room.” Nuclear codes, probably.
A Wedding? At Christmas?
Jingle Bell Bride (Hallmark, October 24 at 8 p.m.)
A wedding planner has to travel to a small town in Alaska to find an extremely rare flower for her client. While there, she falls in love with a handsome local. Will she be the titular jingle bell bride? We’re frankly obsessed with this extremely demanding bride. Making her wedding planner pluck a rare flower from a glacier because it’s “her special day”? She is within her rights.
A Ring for Christmas (UPtv, November 8 at 7 p.m.)
Not to be confused with this year’s other ring-based Christmas original movie The Christmas Ring, A Ring for Christmas is about a single girl who has to find a man to marry by Christmas to unlock her trust fund. You will want to watch this because Lorraine Bracco is in it.
Meet Me at Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, November 14 at 10 p.m.)
When Joan’s (Catherine Bell) son’s wedding planner quits before his Christmas Eve wedding, she teams up with the bride’s hunky unkie (Mark Deklin) to bring the wedding together. My running theory is this takes place in the same universe as, and simultaneously to, Jingle Bell Bride, and the wedding planner quit because the bride made her go get a rare flower in Alaska.
Christmas Waltz (Hallmark, November 28 at 8 p.m.)
Lacey Chabert’s Christmastime wedding is called off, but she keeps the preparatory ballroom lessons because she has chemistry with the dance instructor. This movie would be so much better if it was about Christoph Waltz.
Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding (Lifetime, November 28 at 8 p.m.)
Kelly Rowland’s sequel to her 2019 family comedy Merry Liddle Christmas returns to the boisterous Liddle family as they put together a Christmas wedding with the help of a snooty wedding planner.
Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing (Hallmark, December 5 at 8 p.m.)
One of the townsfolk of Evergreen is getting married to another Evergreen townsfolk, so a third Evergreen townsfolk pitches in to help launch the Evergreen town museum. But she (the third Evergreen townsfolk) is questioning her relationship with some other Evergreen person. This’ll be huge for fans of the last Christmas in Evergreen movie. It will be small for the rest of us.
Let’s Meet Again on Christmas Eve (Lifetime, December 5 at 8 p.m.)
Kyla Pratt and Brooks Darnell were college sweethearts who made an agreement to meet again two years after going their separate ways. One of them didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. But now, they both have to bring a Christmas Eve wedding together for … well for someone, the description isn’t super clear.
Scavenger Hunts Are Good Substitutions for Plots
A Crafty Christmas Romance (Lifetime, October 30 at 8 p.m.)
Most scavenger-hunt-based made-for-TV Christmas movies only have one enchanted object: this one’s got two. When the owner of a craft and hobby store (Nicola Posener) finds a special Christmas book with a special Christmas coin inside, she teams up with a hunky contractor (Bradford B. Johnson) on the Christmas scavenger hunt of a lifetime. Sorry. Of a Lifetime™.
On the 12th Date of Christmas (Hallmark, November 1 at 8 p.m.)
“Two seemingly incompatible game designers…” Say no more. Yes, I will watch two nerds fall in love while they put together a city-wide Christmas scavenger hunt.
The Christmas Aunt (Lifetime, November 1 at 8 p.m.)
This wins my personal “Favorite Title of 2020” award. The Christmas Aunt just sounds so much less magical than, say, The Christmas House or The Christmas Kid or something. The Christmas Aunt — Auntie Christmas if you’re on her good side — will sneak you extra cookies when your parents aren’t looking. The Christmas Aunt got you tickets to the Spice World tour. The Christmas Aunt is finally getting her life together.
The Christmas Ring (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, November 7 at 10 p.m.)
Yes, the other movie about a Yuletide ring. This one is about an antique ring and a reporter looking for the love story behind it.
A Little Christmas Charm (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, December 5 at 10 p.m.)
This one is also about an investigative reporter trying to find the story behind a mysterious piece of jewelry: It’s a charm bracelet. Because of the name? Get it? Oh, am I boring you? Too bad, we’ve got more Christmas to cover.
Unlocking Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, December 13 at 10 p.m.)
… Or unlock, rather. This entry in the Christmas scavenger hunt subgenre features a mysterious key and a “holiday riddle.”
A Very Special Christmas Object (Non-Scavenger Hunt Division)
Christmas on Wheels (Lifetime, November 14 at 8 p.m.)
Tiya Sircar from The Good Place returns to her small hometown to care for her uncle, but when she learns he sold her beloved Christmas convertible (sure, I’m too tired at this point to question it) she teams up with a hot attorney to get it back. Or maybe the uncle sold it to the hot attorney? Unclear.
Mistletoe Magic (UPtv, November 15 at 7 p.m.)
“When self-proclaimed ‘Christmas Grinch [as opposed to the other kind of Grinch] Harper realized that she accidentally donated her family’s beloved magic mistletoe to a charity,” she’ll have to get it back from hot thrift store owner Luke.
A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado (Hallmark, November 24 at 8 p.m.)
Erin is planning the town Christmas celebration and she’s going to look like a total fucking laughingstock if she can’t convince firefighter Kevin to fork over the beautiful spruce tree from his property. Don’t fuck this up, Erin! Secure the Spruce!
Swept Up by Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, December 19 at 10 p.m.)
An antique dealer and a cleaner clash when they work on restoring a reclusive old man’s huge estate, which is full of “treasures.” If this movie doesn’t end up featuring an ensemble of charming chimney sweeps doing “Step in Time,” I will bring a case in a court of law against Hallmark for marketing false goods.
A Taste of Christmas (Lifetime, November 20 at 8 p.m.)
All of these movies, but the ones about bustling restaurants in particular, take place in an alternate-reality 2020. Case in point: This one stars Nia Vardalos! When our heroine’s cousin Francesca (Nia, we presume) must cancel the Christmas Eve opening of her Italian restaurant, “Natalie learns that cooking, like Christmas, isn’t about perfection,” thanks to her bond with “the attractive but pessimistic Chef Stefano.” Scheduling your restaurant opening for one of, like, two nights of the year that people are guaranteed to be at home with their families is, well, it’s not great business.
Lonestar Christmas (Lifetime, December 14 at 8 p.m.)
A single mom visiting her father’s Texas ranch falls for local restaurateur Matteo. Did I screw up by not making a separate category for “visiting your family’s ranch”?
Christmas on the Menu (Lifetime, December 18 at 8 p.m.)
Fancy-pants chef Josie Jennings (Kim Shaw) is home at the quaint, magical hometown bed and breakfast her parents run. But, uh oh: Hot restaurant critic Tanner Rhodes (Clayton James) has the B&B’s restaurant in his crosshairs. This is basically if Ratatouille was a sexy rom-com between Remy and Anton Ego and also it was Christmas. Actually that’s a good idea please don’t steal it.
Love, Lights, Hanukkah! (Hallmark, December 20 at 8 p.m.)
Boy is Hallmark shaking things up this year! Not only is there an Aaron Samuels gay Christmas movie, they’re giving us something for the Jews, too! With Ben Savage from Boy Meets World, no less! “As Christina (Mia Kirshner) prepares her restaurant for its busiest time of year, she gets a DNA test back revealing that she’s Jewish.” I kind of have a problem with the “genetic essentialism” of this premise, and I think there are other Jews who would as well. But hey, you gotta admit naming this character — who goes on Ancestry.com and finds out she had one forced-convert great grandmother and is now gonna start appropriating Seders or whatever — Christina? That’s kind of a funny troll. Shame that this airs AFTER HANUKKAH IS OVER. You had eight nights, HALLMARK.
It’s Ironic That This Romance Writer Is Single
Dear Christmas (Lifetime, November 27 at 8 p.m.)
This is the NBA All-Stars team of Lifetime Christmas movie casts. You’ve got Melissa Joan Hart, Jason Priestley, and Ed Begley Jr. Hart plays the host of a “Christmas romance podcast,” which is absolutely a thing, but she has no Christmas romance to speak of until her book tour puts her in the romantic orbit of a hunky hometown firefighter, played by Priestley.
Christmas She Wrote (Hallmark, December 6 at 8 p.m.)
Just a really A+ name, first off. The amount of effort put in: Go girl, give us nothing. Jessica Fletcher is rolling her eyes in her … grave? Did Jessica Fletcher die or is she canonically alive? These questions are more interesting than the plot of Christmas She Wrote, about a romance writer who moves home after her column is canceled (ain’t that some Savage love? Eh? Eh?) but sparks fly when she’s visited by the editor who canceled her column. Because in the fantasy fairy world of Christmas She Wrote, negging works!
Christmas Ever After (Lifetime, December 6 at 8 p.m.)
The iconic, indelible, sensational Ali Stroker plays “popular romance novelist Izzi Simmons,” who “spends every Christmas at her favorite snowy bed & breakfast,” because I guess she has no family and terrible friends. Maybe she just Cain’t Say No to a really good off-season spa package. Anyway. This Christmas, the B&B has a hot new owner who reminds her of one of the characters from her books, so it’ll be kind of a Romancing the Stone dynamic without Danny De Vito.
This Musician Just Doesn’t Have Their Heart in it Anymore … Until Christmas
Chateau Christmas (Hallmark, October 25 at 8 p.m.)
World-renowned pianist Margot goes to a castle to spend the holidays with her family. Her ex-boyfriend slash ex-bandmate is staying at the same castle(???) and helps her rediscover her passion for music and maybe her passion for him as well.
The Christmas Bow (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, November 8 at 10 p.m.)
A promising musician gets into an accident that dashes her dreams of playing in the “Rocky Mountain Philharmonic,” no relation to the Chocolate Factory. So while she’s home during the holidays, she rekindles an old relationship with family friend Michael Rady, who you know from various stuff and things, and who will teach her to believe in her ability to play a violin in a chocolate store, or whatever, despite the accident.
Christmas in Vienna (Hallmark, November 14 at 8 p.m.)
Jess, “a concert violinist whose heart just isn’t in it anymore” goes to Vienna where she meets some white guy who’s probably not even Austrian. He’s probably also American. What’s the point?
Feliz NaviDAD (Lifetime, November 21 at 8 p.m.)
Lifetime is killing it with the puns this year. Melissa Joan Hart directs her muse — Mario Lopez, obviously — in this story of a widower and single dad who has to moonlight as a delivery driver because he’s a high-school principal in Arizona and that don’t pay the bills. He meets a “witty musician” on his delivery route, so it’ll be a very feliz navi-dad indeed.
It’s Not Catfishing if Your Hidden Identity Is Santa
Christmas Unwrapped (Lifetime, October 24 at 8 p.m.)
“From executive producer Tiffany Haddish” comes the story of ambitious go-getter reporter Charity, who falls in love with her subject, because reporters in these movies are contractually mandated to be terrible at their jobs. The subject in question? A mysterious Christmas-loving hunk who insists all those gifts he gives out are aaaaaactually from Saaaaaanta.
Deliver by Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, October 25 at 10 p.m.)
Bakery owner Molly is charmed by a mysterious new client while also flirting with the hunky new widower/single dad in town. What she doesn’t know is that they’re the same person! Like You’ve Got Mail without the conflict.
Forever Christmas (Lifetime, October 25 at 8 p.m.)
Firstly, that title is what this list feels like. Chelsea Hobbs plays a workaholic reality-TV producer who profiles “Will, a wildly sexy guy who celebrates Christmas every day of the year.” But don’t let that anodyne description lull you into a false sense of trust. Oh, no. Because Forever Christmas is, get this, a regift. It was originally released in 2018 under the name Mr. 365 on romance streaming service Passionflix.com, but Lifetime doesn’t want you to know that. This leads me to question what else in my life is a lie. I feel like I’m in the last scene of Inception, only the top is a dreidel. Forever Christmas is in the “hidden identity” section because the hidden identity is the movie itself.
The Angel Tree (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, November 21 at 10 p.m.)
A writer (Jill Wagner) seeks to uncover the hidden identity of the person (Lucas Bryant) granting wishes placed upon the town’s “Angel Tree,” which is a special wish-granting tree, which surely every town has. Remember when all the Cheetah Girls except for Raven tied wish-ribbons on the special wishing tree in India in Cheetah Girls 3? Stupid question. Of course you do.
Five Star Christmas (Hallmark, November 27 at 8 p.m.)
An incognito travel critic (Victor Webster) shows up at Lucy Ralston’s (Bethany Joy Lenz) dad’s B&B just as she’s moving back to her hometown, so she gets the whole family in on a plot to pretend to be guests, because this will trick the critic for some reason? But while Lucy’s staying at the B&B pretending to be an unrelated guest, she falls in love with another guest named Jake who’s probably actually the incognito critic. Their relationship will be built on a mountain of lies!
Project Christmas Wish (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, December 20 at 10 p.m.)
“For years Lucy has played Santa to her small town’s community.” When an orphan wishes for “Christmas like it used to be,” she brings the orphan’s parents back to life. JK JK. She probably just strings up some fairy lights and finds herself a boyfriend.
Christmas Is the Time of Year When You Hook Up with Someone You Dated in High School
A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, November 22 at 10 p.m.)
“Godwink” isn’t the name of the small town in this three-quel. It’s Hallmark’s sexy Christian rebranding of the word “coincidence,” because what is a coincidence if not a wink from God? In this particular Godwink, Pat “ends up stuck in traffic next to his high-school sweetheart, Margie, at Christmas.” Maybe God just had something stuck in his eye with this one.
Heart of the Holidays (Hallmark, November 23 at 8 p.m.)
The description on this one is generic to the point of rude. “Career-driven Sam returns to her hometown for the holidays where she comes face-to-face with her high-school boyfriend, Noah.” What career is she driven at, Hallmark? Cupcake baker? Sad romance writer? Some third job that women are allowed to have on your channel? It continues: “Together they rediscover what matters most in life.” Great. I’m in, if only to find out what job she abandons to return to her hometown and date her high-school boyfriend Noah.
Spotlight on Christmas (Lifetime, December 4 at 8 p.m.)
A famous actress moves back to her tiny hometown right as the local drama teacher goes on maternity leave, and her ex-high-school crush supports her as she helps put on the Christmas Eve play.
Cross Country Christmas (Hallmark, December 12 at 8 p.m.)
Rachael Leigh Cook and Greyston Holt (really top-notch stage name, old chap) are former classmates traveling home for the holidays, when a storm hits and really gucks up their plans.
A Sugar & Spice Holiday (Lifetime, December 13 at 8 p.m.)
A workaholic architect visits her small Maine hometown for Christmas, which will definitely be fun to watch because her Chinese-American family “runs the local lobster bar” and that just sounds like a treat. Suzi, which is the name of the architect — sorry I didn’t say that up front — wants to continue the family tradition her grandmother started: competing in the local gingerbread house competition. Adorable! She teams up with her old high school friend Billy, a very suspicious name for a full-grown adult. Tread carefully, Suzi.
Let’s Pretend-Date Until We for-Real-Date. At Christmas!
Holidate (Netflix, October 28)
Emma Roberts plays a terrible person who lives in fake-Chicago, as do her remarkably sex-positive mother and aunt, the latter of which is played by a scene-stealing Kristin Chenoweth. Like all young millennials in cities in the year 2020 do, she likes to hang out at the mall a lot, which is where she meets her Holidate: the no-strings-attached Aussie who accompanies her to all holidays with a “plus one” component. This begins and ends with Christmas, although we have to suffer through a deeply unfortunate Cinco de Mayo in the middle (I sincerely hope that white people are not still doing the sombrero-and-mustache thing and that Holidate got it wrong, because yikety-yikes). You know you’ve gone too far into the simulacrum when a rom-com rehashes a Crazy Stupid Love scene which itself was rehashing a Dirty Dancing scene. The thousand monkeys have tapped away at their thousand typewriters and we have run out of all further ideas.
Cranberry Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, October 31 at 10 p.m.)
Again with the alliteration! Yes I realize that complaint is also alliterative. A separated couple “feign marital bliss on national television to help their town’s Christmas festival — and their business.” Wow, I hate these people already!
Good Morning Christmas! (Hallmark, November 25 at 8 p.m.)
Great title. More titles should have exclamation points, like Oliver! And dancing sooty street urchins, like Oliver! Or like what I hope Swept Up by Christmas to be. Anyway, Riley from Buffy and Alison Sweeney are two squabbling TV hosts sent to a festive town to cover Christmas and while pretending to be a duo for the cameras and the townsfolk, they fall in love. This will hopefully lead to my favorite type of Morning Show acting: sunny news anchors spitting insults at each other through their smiles.
Have You Heard of This Thing Called Blogs
The Christmas Yule Blog (Lifetime, November 6 at 8 p.m.)
This is one of those Lifetime movies where you just know the title came first and they worked their way down from there. A “well-known social media travel writer” goes to a small town in New Mexico to cover its Christmas parade, but gets a whole different type of SEO (studly eligible operator) in the form of a hunky music teacher.
A Very Charming Christmas Town (Lifetime, November 8 at 8 p.m.)
“City girl and travel and lifestyle blogger” may be a red-flaggy Hinge profile but it’s a very good character sheet for a Lifetime Christmas movie lead. A Very Charming Christmas Town follows Aubrey Lang (Natalie Hall) who goes to vlog the “Most Christmassy Town in the USA,” where of course she meets a hunky “community coordinator and chocolate shop owner,” which, for the record, is an excellent Hinge profile.
The Christmas Edition (Lifetime, November 15 at 8 p.m.)
Up-and-coming journalist Jackie (Carly Hughes) moves to Alaska to run a small town paper. “Using a series of Christmas articles,” she brings the paper back to profitability, which, oh how I wish media worked that way. She’s also falling in love with the handsome son of the paper’s former owner, so there’s that. But when a larger media company threatens takeover, can Jackie save it with the power of Christmas?
Harried Personal Assistants
Christmas With the Darlings (Hallmark, November 8 at 8 p.m.)
An assistant played by Katrina Law quits her bad bad job right before Christmas, but picks up a gig helping the wealthy brother of her former boss look after his charming orphaned nieces and nephews.
Homemade Christmas (Lifetime, November 22 at 8 p.m.)
An “ambitious young woman” (Michelle Argyris) is a Christmas assistant for hire, and has to choose between two men at a Christmas party. A searing examination of the failures of the gig economy. Kidding.
If I Only Had Christmas (Hallmark, November 29 at 8 p.m.)
Candace Cameron Bure plays a publicist for a playboy heir (Warren Christie) who of course she falls for while helping his vanity-project corporate charity put on a big Christmas gala.
The Santa Squad (Lifetime, December 7 at 8 p.m.)
“Allie (Rebecca Dalton), an out of work art teacher, has to accept a job with the Santa Squad,” which is kind of an app of Christmas-nannies, or something? This is another plot synopsis that reads as a damning condemnation of career options for educators and people in the arts. Lucky for Allie, she’s assigned to a wealthy widower father and probably Von-Trapps him.
Island of Misfit Tropes
Candy Cane Christmas (Lifetime, October 31 at 8 p.m.)
Beverly Mitchell — really, the thinking man’s favorite TV Christmas movie star — owns a little flower shop and searches for a new Christmas tradition to replace her beloved Candy Cane Lane. How embarrassing would it be if they couldn’t get the rights to the Sia song for this?
Holly & Ivy (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, November 1 at 10 p.m.)
Broadway’s Jeremy Jordan plays a hot contractor who helps Melody (Janel Parrish) renovate her house so that she can adopt her neighbor’s (Marisol Nichols) children before she dies of an illness. I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie about this once so DM me for spoilers.
A Very Country Christmas Homecoming (UPtv, November 1 at 7 p.m.)
A threequel to the A Very Country Christmas series, so if the phrase “Jeanette’s former father-in-law” means nothing to you, you can pass.
Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater (Hallmark, November 7 at 8 p.m.)
She will not follow the title’s advice.
The Christmas Doctor (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, November 15 at 10 p.m.)
What if there was a Christmas doctor? And the doctor … was a woman?
Dashing Home for Christmas (UPtv, November 22 at 7 p.m.)
She’s a workaholic business consultant. He’s a hot, laid back guy. They’re going to have to make it home for Christmas, together. It’s like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, if Steve Martin and John Candy hooked up.
Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, December 6 at 10 p.m.)
We love a title that’s just a full sentence! “From executive producer Blake Shelton” comes what sounds like a very festive Clue. Lacy Chabert is one of five guests “mysteriously invited to an inn to celebrate Christmas.” Either one of them is inheriting some treasure if they manage to stay the night or they’re going to all find out their biological dad was the same sperm donor.
A Glenbrooke Christmas (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, December 12 at 10 p.m.)
“Longing to be accepted for herself and not just her wealth, an heiress heads to the small town of Glenbrooke, where she discovers the joys of a simple Christmas” and hooks up with a fireman.
Ones That Are Just a Rip-Off of Nancy Meyers’s The Holiday
A Christmas Exchange (Lifetime, December 19 at 8 p.m.)
American Molly swaps her quaint farmhouse for Londoner Patrick’s posh apartment, and find themselves bonding while living each other’s lives through emails and texts.