By Kate O’Hare
There is a staggering number of Christmas movies on TV this holiday season (actually, they’ve already started). Most are the standard romantic comedy, all candy canes, cocoa and glitter.
But a few chart a slightly different path, even touching on the normally avoided religious aspect of the holiday. We’ve gone through the rundown and picked out a few that look promising.
Then we’ll see if they live up to the billing (all dates are premieres; expect repeat airings on the cable channels).
Oh, and last but not least, there’s a beautiful film (if we do say so, ourselves) about faith, family and prayer, perfect for Advent, Christmas, Easter and all through the year.
Hallmark Channel: Countdown to Christmas
A Holiday Spectacular (Sunday, Nov. 27)
In 1958, Maggie puts her wedding plans on hold to sneak off to live a lifelong dream of dancing live onstage at the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.
I have seen this one. It does take liberties with the history of the Rockettes, as one of the dancers is African American (in reality, this didn’t happen until 1987).
But it’s charming and sparkly, and features real Radio City Rockettes, along with stars Eve Plumb and Ann-Margret.
Hallmark Movies and Mysteries: Miracles of Christmas
The Gift of Peace (Saturday, Dec. 10)
Artist Traci is a once-devout Christian who has stopped believing in God after her husband tragically died despite her prayers. As her second Christmas without him approaches, she tries going to a support group for inspiration and comfort
Nikki DeLoach, Brennan Ellliott and Princess Davis star.
Hallmark is developing projects branded to its card lines, including the faith-based DaySpring. This film represents a Christmas movie under the DaySpring banner. As Hallmark pursues diversity, let’s hope faithful Christians are more in the mix (and maybe also demand it).
Great American Family: Great American Christmas
Candace Cameron Bure Presents: A Christmas… Present (Sunday, Nov. 27)
Maggie and Eric, busy parents of teenagers, head to Maggie’s widowed brother to celebrate Christmas, but everyone seems to have different expectations of the holiday.
One of the stars who abandoned Hallmark Channel for its new rival, Great American Family (run by former Hallmark head Bill Abbott), openly Christian Bure also has an executive role within the network, giving her a chance to participate in programming and development.
In an interesting twist — especially since it’s premiering during Native American Heritage Month — Bure’s film became the first recipient of a Cherokee Film Incentive to film entirely within the Cherokee Nation Reservation in northeast Oklahoma.
BTW, Bure is also part of the voice cast for CBS’ Reindeer in Here (Tuesday, Nov. 29), a secular, sweet-natured, Santa-focused animated special based on author Adam Reed’s book of the same name, and the accompanying plush-toy set.
And a look at the full slate:
Discovery+ (no cute name yet)
On Friday, Nov. 11, the streamer launches four new scripted Christmas features, each featuring a star or stars from either HGTV or Food Network, including …
A Christmas Open House
Melissa, a property stager, works with David, a real estate agent and her high-school crush, to sell her mom’s house by Christmas, but their diverging goals seems to crush the idea of romance between the two.
The stars are Katie Stevens, Victor Rasuk and Bobbi Eakes. Dropping in to help are Christian home-makeover stars Ben and Erin Napier from HGTV’s Home Town, Home Town: Takeover and Home Town: Ben’s Workshop.
Lifetime: It’s a Wonderful Lifetime
Steppin’ Into the Holiday (Friday, Nov. 25)
After being fired from Celebrity Dance Off, Billy moves to his hometown, where he decides to help Rae, a local dance-studio owner, put on a Christmas Eve show that used to be a tradition in the town. Rae hopes to be able to fundraise enough money to take the kids to a Broadway show in New York.
Catholic actor Mario Lopez is executive producer and star, appearing with Jana Kramer, Cheri Oteri, Mario Cantone, Carla Jimenez and Courtney Lopez.
This marks Lopez’s second Christmas collaboration with the husband-and-wife writing team of Aliza and Peter Murietta. Peter Murietta has produced several shows, including Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, starring Selena Gomez and another Catholic actor, David Henrie.
Kirk Franklin’s The Night Before Christmas (Saturday, Dec. 10)
An estranged mother and daughter reconcile, with the help of a youth pastor and music teacher, while taking refuge in a church during a blizzard on Christmas Eve. They all ban together to help put on a show to keep up the parish’s tradition of a Christmas Eve concert, despite the storm.
Grammy-winning choir director, gospel singer and songwriter Franklin is among the executive producers. He also appears in the film, alongside Naturi Naughton, Luke James and Nijah Brenea.
A Tiny Home Christmas (Saturday, Nov. 12)
In order to save her family‘s contracting business, Blair reluctantly teams up with her ex-boyfriend and former co-star of a hit home design reality show to build a tiny home for the unsheltered in the community, rekindling old sparks in the process… and just in time for Christmas.
Kudos to UPtv for taking on the current issue of providing homes for the homeless (and I’m wondering why Discovery+ didn’t do an HGTV-themed movie on the topic).
And to Keep You Praying at Christmas and All Year Long
PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PEYTON
This documentary follows Peyton from his boyhood in Ireland to America, where he is miraculously healed of tuberculosis due to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
He spends the rest of his life preaching the value of family prayer, coining the term, “The family that prays together stays together.”
Father Peyton enlists the aid of the top stars in Hollywood, such as Bing Crosby and Lucille Ball, to preach his message, along with holding Rosary Rallies to millions worldwide.
PRAY can also be streamed on the subscription platform UP Faith & Family. DVD & Blu-ray versions are available from the HCFM online store for the new low price of $9.99 for DVD, and $12.99 for Blu-Ray.
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.
Image: Great American Family via Family Theater Productions