Holiday movies, music specials arrive to light a bleak year

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Photo by Samira Rahi on Unsplash


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bring on the sentimental holiday rom-coms, the chorus of Christmas music specials and the nostalgia of last century’s animated charmers. We’ll take any and all feel-good moments in a year of scarcity.

Mariah and Dolly and Charlie Brown are among the comforts TV is offering this month, and not a moment too soon. Here’s a sampling from broadcast networks, cable and streaming services, all times Eastern unless noted.


— “My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood,” now streaming on HBO Max. The singer performs tunes from her new holiday album and traditional songs, backed by her band, a choir and an orchestra led by Ricky Minor.

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— “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special,” Dec. 4, Apple TV+. Music, dancing, animation and surprise guest stars help create what the streaming service promises to be a heartwarming journey with the pop star.

— “A Holly Dolly Christmas,” 8:30 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST) Dec. 6, CBS. Dolly Parton sings hymns, holiday pop classics and tunes from her new album, and shares personal and faith-based Christmas memories.

— “Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir,” 9 p.m. Dec. 14 (check local listings), PBS. Broadway musical star Kelli O’Hara and actor Richard Thomas are part of the annual program, taped before an audience last year in Salt Lake City.

— “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” 8 p.m. Dec. 15 (check local listings), PBS. Vanessa Williams hosts and performs on a celebration of Ella Fitzgerald’s 1960 album, with Dee Dee Bridgewater and Norm Lewis among those appearing.

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— “Garth & Trisha Live! A Holiday Concert Event,” 8:30 p.m. EST live (8 p.m. PST, taped), Dec. 20, CBS. Brooks and Yearwood will perform holiday songs chosen from among fan requests submitted beforehand via Brooks’ Facebook Watch show.


— “The Princess Switch: Switched Again,” now streaming on Netflix. The saga continues as look-a-likes Stacy, a Chicago baker, and Lady Margaret, heir to the Montenaro throne, swap lives once more. Vanessa Hudgens again conveniently fills both roles.

— “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” now streaming on Netflix. Forest Whitaker is one of the big names in this tale of a toymaker in need of a miracle, with Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose and Keegan-Michael Key in the cast.

— “Godmothered,” Dec. 4, Disney +. Novice fairy godmother Eleanor (Jillian Bell) tries to prove her profession is still valid and unexpectedly puts her gifts to work for a widowed mom (Isla Fisher) who has abandoned hope.

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— “Christmas Ever After,” 8 p.m. Dec. 6, Lifetime. Tony-winner Ali Stroker (“Oklahoma!”) plays Izzy, a romance novelist whose writer’s block may be overcome by a handsome bed-and-breakfast owner (Daniel di Tomasso).

__ “A Christmas for Mary,” 9 p.m. Dec. 8, OWN. Rising journalist Lena’s (Morgan Dixon) hoped-for promotion — and true love — may happen, with help from a portrait. Vivica A. Fox and Jackee Harry co-star.

— “Marry Me This Christmas,” 9 p.m. Dec. 9, Bounce. Brandon Jay McLaren stars as a pastor who’s helping a couple prepare for a wedding he’d rather see not happen — he’s in love with the bride-to-be (Gabrielle Graham).

— “The Christmas Setup,” 8 p.m. Dec. 12, Lifetime. New York lawyer Hugo (Ben Lewis) heads home to Milwaukee, where matchmaking mom Kate (Fran Drescher) sets him up with his high school crush, Patrick (Blake Lee).

— “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!”, 8 p.m. Dec. 12, Hallmark. Christina (Mia Kirshner) is readying her restaurant for Christmas, with a DNA surprise and unlikely romance on the menu. Ben Savage and Marilu Henner co-star.

— “Christmas She Wrote,” 8 p.m. Dec. 6, Hallmark. Writer Kayleigh (Danica McKellar) escapes home after her column is canceled, but there’s no hiding from the responsible, if very handsome, culprit (Dylan Neal).

— “It’s a Wonderful Life,” 8 p.m. Dec. 24, NBC. Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey is floundering amid self-doubt, but family, neighbors and Clarence the angel come to the rescue in filmmaker Frank Capra’s 1946 enduring favorite.


— “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 (check local listings), PBS. Protests followed the 1965 broadcast evergreen’s removal to Apple TV+ , with PBS’ telecast the compromise. Or see it on the streaming service during a free Dec. 11-13 window.

— “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical!” 8 p.m. Dec. 9, NBC. Matthew Morrison of Broadway and “Glee” fame stars in the adaptation of Theodor Geisel’s book, with “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” among the tunes in the London stage production.

— “Silent Night — A Song for the World,” 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and Dec. 23, CW. The origin and cultural influence of the 200-year-old carol is recounted in a musical documentary that includes Kelly Clarkson, Josh Groban and the Vienna Boys Choir.

— “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” 7:40 p.m. Dec. 5, Freeform. Looking different than everyone else is a burden that turns to joy for a heroic reindeer in the 1964 special narrated by Burl Ives, he of the mellifluous voice.

— “The Lights Before Christmas: Radiance by Rail,” Dec. 22, BritBox. Take a virtual trip through rural England aboard an eight-carriage, 1940s train cruising by illuminated station displays and through the landscape of Shropshire county.


Lynn Elber can be reached at and is on Twitter at