One of the prime duties of a TV critic, you know, is to watch Christmas specials -- tons and tons of them, approximately.
This year, as usual, they've ranged afar. One new cartoon ("Jingle All the Way") is softly pleasant; two others -- "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas" and "Prep & Landing: Naughty or Nice" -- have been slick and funny.
And new movies? Hallmark has had plenty, ranging from the awful "Lucky Christmas" (rerunning at 10 p.m. Dec. 14) to the rather fun "Annie Claus is Coming to Town" (debuting at 8 and 10 p.m. today, Dec. 10).
Still, it's no surprise that ABC Family has the best one. The network crafts its films carefully, as part of its "25 Days of Christmas"; most are pleasant and some ("Snow," "Snowglobe") are superb.
This year, ABC Family's only film -- "12 Dates of Christmas," debuting Dec. 11 -- is terrific. Here's a Christmas overview timed to that one:
By MIKE HUGHES
Poor Kate feels like she's been through
this holiday adventure before. So do TV viewers.
Kate (played by Amy Smart) is the
heroine of a movie that debuts Sunday (Dec. 11), the centerpiece of
ABC Family's annual “25 Days of Christmas.” She's just been
dumped by her boyfriend and spritzed by a perfume saleswoman; next
comes a date with a stranger and a party with her dad's new lady.
Worse, this keeps happening over and
over. That's why the film is called “12 Dates of Christmas.”
Christmas films are like that
sometimes, repeating each other and repeating themselves. Still,
they're often crafted with warmth and skill.
Each year, ABC Family makes only one or
two new films for December, filling its “25 Days” with past
movies, cartoons and more. So “12 Dates” – the network's only
newcomer this year – seems to have been crafted with care.
James Hayman – who molded the lush
look of “Ugly Betty” – directed it. He added new songs from
Jordin Sparks and Michael Buble and got strong work from Smart,
Mark-Paul Gosselaar and more.
ABC Family doesn't have the holiday to
itself – especially this year. Hallmark has made a flood of new
Christmas movies; Disney, Ion, GMC and more have jumped in.
Then there are concerts, cartoons and
more. Here's a look at what's still coming:
– “12 Dates of Christmas” is 8
p.m. Dec. 11 on ABC Family. It repeats at 10 p.m., then 7 p.m.
– Hallmark has three new films left.
“The Christmas Pageant” (Melissa Gilbert as a stressed Broadway
director, reluctantly doing a community show) is Dec. 11, “Christmas
Comes Home to Canaan” (an earnest sequel, with Billy Ray Cyrus as a
farmer in 1970s Texas) is Dec. 17 , “Christmas Magic” (an
overstressed party planner becomes an underskilled angel) is Dec. 18.
Each is at 8 p.m., repeating at 10.
– Hallmark films rerun often.
Christmas Pageant” will be 8 p.m. Dec. 15, with “Annie Claus is
Coming to Town” – a pleasant-enough trifle, with Maria Thayer as
Santa's daughter – at 8 p.m. Dec. 16.
– Ion, the former Pax Net, is back in
the Christmas-movie business on Sundays. On Dec. 11, it reruns 'The
Christmas Clause” (2008) at 7 p.m. and “A Christmas Kiss”
(2011) at 9.
– “Christmas With the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir” has David Archuleta as its soloist. That's 8 p.m.
Dec. 13 on many PBS stations, Dec. 23 on WKAR.
– “Christmas in Washington” is a
lush event at 8 and 11:30 p.m. Dec. 16 on TNT. Conan O'Brien hosts,
with music by Jennifer Hudson, Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Victoria
Justice and The Band Perry.
– “CMA Country Christmas” reruns
at 9 p.m. Dec. 17 on ABC, with great females – Martina McBride,
Faith Hill, Jennifer Nettles (who hosts), Amy Grant and (with Grant's
husband, Vince Gill) Miss Piggy.
– Several new ones or almost-new ones
have reruns coming up.“I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown”
is 8 p.m. Dec. 12 on ABC, with “Ice Age: Mammoth Christmas” at 9
p.m. Dec. 16 on Fox, “Jingle All the Way” at 10 a.m. Dec. 18 on
Hallmark, “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs.Nice” at 8:30 p.m. Dec.
22 on ABC.
– The classics return. ABC has “A
Charlie Brown Christmas” at 8 p.m. Dec. 15; the Cartoon Network has
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at 8 p.m. Dec. 18, 11:30 a.m.
Dec. 19 and 8 p.m. Dec. 21.
– There will be much more in the
final stretch, Dec. 22-25. ABC has cartoons and a parade, NBC has “A
Wonderful Live,” TBS has its “Christmas Story”marathon.