I’m Dreaming of a Trite Christmas
The best of the worst made-for-TV holiday movies, now streaming
By Meg Weichman | Dec. 1, 2018
The start of the holiday season is signaled by many different traditions. For some, it’s putting up a tree or decorating cookies. For others, singing Christmas carols. But when you’re a single adult woman with a cable package, the holidays begin with the arrival of the year’s slate of new and original Christmas movies!
Yes, those formulaic films that dominate certain pockets of the airwaves come November and December have garnered an extremely loyal following. And while objectively I know the acting isn’t very good, the dialogue is often stilted, and the stories insanely predictable, that’s not going to stop me from watching these disposable works of comfort and joy 24/7 through New Year’s Day. There’s just something so delightfully reassuring about celebrating the season with sentimental offerings of pure Christmas corn.
And 2018 is shaping up to be one of the best years yet for the original holiday film, with over 75 different made-for-TV (and made-for-streaming) films premiering. A full 37 are coming from the gold standards alone, Hallmark (home to merry romantic comedies) and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries (home to heartwarming, festive dramas), along with other notable contributions from Lifetime, #Freeform, and Netflix.
With so many unexpected romances to be found, old flames to reignite, family businesses to save, baking competitions to win, stranded travelers to embrace, and more people named Mary, Eve, Holly, or Joy than you ever thought possible — here is a primer to some of a Christmas-movie addict’s must-see yuletide flicks.
A VETERAN’S CHRISTMAS
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
The two leads of the fabulous Christmas with Hollyreunite for the story of an honorably discharged Marine (Eloise Mumford) who is headed home for the holidays when her car breaks down (oh no!), and a cutie of a local judge (Sean Faris) offers her a place to stay (oh yes!). A heartfelt story that brings genuine tears. Before her car gets fixed, she just might find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: Stuck for the holidays, small town Christmas festival, career crisis, DOG!
A CHRISTMAS PRINCE: THE ROYAL WEDDING
The surprise sensation of last year’s holiday season gets a highly anticipated sequel! Former undercover reporter Amber (Rose McIver, I Zombie), who unexpectedly wooed a playboy prince, experiences some major royal pains (will she have to quit blogging!?!?) as she prepares for her wedding to the Prince of Aldovia. As the big day approaches, will she break off her engagement, or will she marry her prince and remember the true meaning of Christmas?
Tropes Featured: fake royalty, event planner
THE PRINCESS SWITCH
Netflix is riding the successful wave of its royalty-themed festive fare, with this Roman Holidaymeets The Parent Trapswitcheroo. Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) plays a Chicago baker headed to a prestigious competition in the country of Belgravia. She switches places with a duchess (also played by Vanessa Hudgens, with a dubious British accent), and the two gals end up falling for the men in each other’s lives and remembering the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: magical happenstance, baking, single parent, fake royalty
A SHOE ADDICT’S CHRISTMAS
Candace Cameron Bure (Full House) is one of Hallmark’s most beloved stars, and as such, always seems to get dibs on one of the year’s primo productions. This year she’s playing a woman at a crossroads in her life who accidentally gets locked in a department store on Christmas Eve. There she’s visited by a guardian angel (Jean Smart) who has her revisit Christmas past, present, and future. As she reflects on her life, will she find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas?
Tropes Featured: A Christmas Carol reimagined, career crisis, magical happenstance
A GODWINK CHRISTMAS
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
With this one you get a real dream team of stars unrecognizable outside of Hallmark (maybe they’re Canadian?) as Kimberly Sustad (12 Lives of Christmas) and Paul Campbell (Once Upon a Holiday) join forces with a very recognizable Kathy Lee Gifford to bring us a true love story. A reluctantly engaged antiques appraiser heads to her aunt’s to clear her head. But on a side trip to Martha’s Vineyard, she finds herself stuck on the island and enjoying all the holiday festivities with a charming inn owner.Will she follow her heart to find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas?
Tropes Featured: Career crisis, stuck for the holidays, small-town Christmas festival
NO SLEEP ’TIL CHRISTMAS
#Freeform (Premieres Dec. 10)
The network formerly known as ABC Family made some all-time great contributions to the genre (12 Dates of Christmas, with local fav Amy Smart; The Mistle-Tones, etc.), so I’m excited to see they’re back in the game in a big way. Starring real life (and super adorable) couple Dave and Odette Annable and featuring a uniquely out-there premise, they play a bartender and an engaged go-getter who discover the only cure to the insomnia that’s plaguing both of them is to sleep next to each other. As they work their way through this unusual arrangement, they just might find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: Event planner
Hallmark (Premieres Dec. 15)
A fun (and considerably more low-rent) twist on the classic Christmas in Connecticut, Jodie Sweetin (yes, Full Housestars get a lot of play on Hallmark — see also Lori Laughlin’s Homegrown Christmason Dec. 8) stars as the daughter of a Martha Stewart-type who makes a case to inherit her mother’s brand. Only problem: She can’t cook, sew, or do any of the things her mother is known for. Amongst the heartwarming hilarity, she just might find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: Baking, career crisis, family business, lifestyle guru
CHRISTMAS ON HONEYSUCKLE LANE (Pictured above)
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
For me, Alicia Witt (A Very Merry Mix Up) is the queen of the Hallmark movie, and I never miss her annual entry. Based on a novel (Mary McDonough’s “The House on Honeysuckle Lane,” which you’ve never heard of, but that still equals prestige in the Hallmark-verse), Witt moves to the tear-jerking world of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries for the first time to play Emma, a woman who returns home after the recent passing of her parents. Along with uncovering some hidden holiday surprises among their belongings, she just might find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: Hometown visit, old flame
A VERY NUTTY CHRISTMAS
Lifetime is bringing some “star” power to this story of a brokenhearted bakery owner (Melissa Joan Hart, Holiday in Handcuffs, Sabrina the Teenage Witch) who meets a soldier (Barry Watson, 7th Heaven) who may or may not actually be Tchaikovsky’s nutcracker prince come to life! Together they just might find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: Magical happenstance, baking
PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND MISTLETOE
Pride and Prejudicehas been retold and remade many times (see also 2018’s Christmas at Pemberley Manor), but you’ve probably never seen it like this: gender-swapped and brimming with yuletide spirit! Another favorite Hallmark leading lady Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls, A Royal Christmas) plays the Darcy in this inventive scenario, reluctantly returning home at the holidays. When forced to plan a charity event with a rival restaurant owner, she just might find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: Hometown visit, career crisis, family business, event planner
Hallmark’s “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentation is always a highlight of the season (2017’s Christmas Traindoes notcome more highly recommended), and this year it’s the touching story of a lawyer (Tatiana Ali) brought home after the death of her sister with special needs to follow the terms of her sister’s eccentric will. When she gets a second chance at life, she just might find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: Hometown visit, career crisis, old flame
ROAD TO CHRISTMAS
One-time heartthrob Chad Michael Murray’s (One Tree Hill) first Hallmark holiday film is an occasion that must be marked. And that it also features a fun road-trip setup that widens the scope of the TV holiday film more than most is a bonus. Television producer Maggie (Jessy Schram) reluctantly joins forces with her boss’ son, Danny Wise (Murray), to produce the annual Julia Wise LifestyleChristmas special. And as Maggie scrambles to reunite Julia’s sons — the three Wise men (get it?) — in time for the live taping in Vermont, she just might find love and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Tropes Featured: Hometown visit, lifestyle guru
Set your DVR to the oldie but goodie A Bride for Christmas(2012) to catch a glimpse of a poorly photoshopped image stolen off the internet of TC’s own State Theatre!