As for the relative newcomers to this annual programming onslaught, streaming services — some of which didn’t even exist last Christmas — have also gotten into the act, with a lineup of original movies and series intended to woo subscribers.
The following is just a smattering of what’s on tap over the next few weeks, including a few mini-reviews to help separate naughty options from the nice ones, as programmers vie to find the next perennial “It’s a Wonderful Life” (again scheduled for Christmas eve on NBC) or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (Dec. 1 on CBS).
Given that those specials were just that — special — when they rolled around every year in the pre-DVR era, that’s unlikely. But appropriately for the holidays, hope springs eternal.
“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (Netflix): Recently launched on Netflix, this energetic original musical stars Forest Whitaker as a toy maker — robbed of his best ideas — who rediscovers the holiday spirit when his granddaughter enters the picture.
“Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” (Nov. 22, Netflix): Featuring original songs from Parton’s holiday album, the movie perhaps not surprisingly has an inordinately high sugar content, with Christine Baranski as the Scrooge-like figure who intends to evict the inhabitants of a small town, before finding holiday cheer (and a few other surprises). The songs aren’t especially memorable, so the movie — directed and choreographed by Debbie Allen — falls into the category of those you really have to be in the mood/spirit to watch.
“The Happiest Season” (Nov. 24, Hulu): A modern twist on the holiday movie, as Mackenzie Davis (“Irresistible”) brings Kristen Stewart home for the holidays, without having come out to her family or told them that they’re a couple. Messiness ensues, with a supporting cast that includes Mary Steenburgen, Aubrey Plaza and “Schitt’s Creek’s” Daniel Levy.
“12 Dates of Christmas” (Nov. 26, HBO Max): A dating show with a holiday twist, as singles look for love at a “fairytale castle” in Austria.
Godmothered (Dec. 4, Disney+): Jillian Bell is a fairy godmother-in-training in this movie set around the holidays, trying to assist the single mom who had actually reached out for help when she was a young girl.
“Illumination Presents Minions Holiday Special” (Nov. 27, NBC): An animated special featuring the strange-talking characters from the “Despicable Me” franchise, consisting of four new shorts.
“Dear Santa” (Dec. 4, on demand): A documentary look at Operation Santa, the 100-year-old program of the US Postal Service to take needy children’s letters to Santa and fulfill their wishes.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical!” (Dec. 9, ABC): “Glee’s” Matthew Morrison stars as the irascible Grinch in this stage version of the story, being performed in London.
“A Creepshow Holiday Special” (Dec. 18, Shudder): In the “something different” department, the horror anthology series is bringing its own spin to the Christmas-themed special with an episode written and directed by its producer, Greg Nicotero, on the AMC Networks streaming service.
Yes, in 2020, even the holidays come with a touch of horror.