It seems so easy, making all these Christmas movies.
They almost have the same cheery backdrops, the same perky heroine. She’s often expected to return to her home town and/or to squabble with a handsome guy who turns out to be OK after all.
Still, these aren’t that easy to make … starting with the weather. “You always do a Christmas movie in July,” John Schneider said. “As you always do a beach movie in November or December.”
His movie – “Reba McEntire’s Christmas in Tune” (8 p.m. Friday on Lifetime), shown here – has more music than most, along with some of the brightest colors this side of animation. It was also a rare case of a holiday film shot in the South.
“The most challenging thing … was trying to film a Christmas movie in the heat and humidity of Nashville, Tennessee,” McEntire said. “That was the hardest part, but we endured.”
Most films are shot up North … which can still be tough. Tia Mowry’s biggest surprise when filming “Miracle in Motor City” (8 p.m. Nov. 28, Lifetime)? “How hot it was in Canada,” she said.
The cast of “The Holiday Fix-up” (8 p.m. Dec. 11, Lifetime) found the same thing in Connecticut. One day – ironically, during the filming of a snowall fight – was “excruciating,” said co-star Maria Menounos. And every day seemed rough on Ryan McPartlin, said Jana Kramer, who stars with him. “That man sweats so much …. We glisten; Ryan sweats.”
The stars of five movies had virtual press conferences with the Television Critics Association. The other films are the Corbin Bleu/Monique Coleman “A Christmas Dance Reunion” (Dec. 3) and Melissa Joan Hart’s “Mistletoe in Montana” (Dec. 17).
Each is at 8 p.m. and is on Lifetime, but similar films are on Hallmark, with somewhat quirkier ones on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and ones with less starpower on Ion and UPtv.
And there are plenty of them: Hallmark started new ones Oct. 22; Lifetime did the same on Nov. 12 …and will have a new one on 35 straight nights, starting with McEntire on Nov. 26. Others – streamers, CBS, Disney Channel – all jump in.
Most films were shot in the summer – partly to wait for COVID to diminish and partly because TV seems to always be last-minute. But there were exceptions.
“A Christmas Dance Reunion” was shot last October, as election-time rage peaked. “There was a lot of chaos at the time and in our minds,” Bleu said. “And all of a sudden, we go on this journey to Canada.”
After a two-week quarantine there, he was back to familiar ground – dancing (which he’s done for 30 of his 32 years) and working with Coleman (for the first time since the “High School Musical” films concluded, 13 years ago).
Others were also on comfortable ground. Smokey Robinson does a few Christmas classics in “Motor City”; McEntire and Schneider do several in “Christmas in Tune” and even close with an original by Trannie Anderson, a new songwriter who had 11 country-album cuts last year.
“It’s very difficult to write and perform a new, great Christmas song,” Schneider said, “because there are a lot of wonderful Christmas songs out there.”
Other films require people to step outside their comfort zones. Hart produced (with her mother) both “Christmas in Tune” and “Mistletoe in Montana”; starring in the latter required her to learn cowboy skills. “I worked all summer on lessons,” she said.
Then there’s McPartlin, whose “Holiday Fix Up” role has him playing a skilled handyman.
In real life? “I had to fix a doorknob last night,” he said. “I went to Home Depot and then Lowe’s – had three different people explain how to do it. And I was like, ‘I’m just going to hire somebody.’”