The 20 Holiday TV Specials You Can’t Miss This Month
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Oh, let’s be honest. It’s probably you roasting in line waiting for your kids to meet Santa, and Jack Frost is nipping at your wallet. You need a TV break.
We are in full holiday mode this month, as most of the networks turn their programming over to Santa and his elves. We’ve combed through the programming and come up with the 20 specials—old, new, beloved, for kids and adults—that you can’t miss in December:
1. Freshly Baked: The Robot Chicken Santa Claus Pot Cookie Freakout Special: Special Edition
Premiere: December 10 at 11:30 p.m. on Adult Swim
When you think Christmas, clearly you think Robot Chicken, right? Well, maybe not, but the series kicks off its ninth season with a holiday special and the voices of Jason Alexander, Jemaine Clement and Breckin Meyer. In the special, Santa Claus gets to meet his idol—Jared Leto, of course.
2. Gwen Stefani’s You Make It Feel Like Christmas
Premiere: December 12 at 9 p.m. on NBC
Gwen Stefani hosts this variety special, which will include the No Doubt singer and The Voicejudge in sketches, as well as singing holiday classics including “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Baby.” Of course, the controversial sexiest man alive Blake Shelton will join his girlfriend and the two will sing their new single “You Make it Feel Like Christmas.” (Side Bar: I think if you openly cheated on your wife you’re not even the sexiest man on your street, but that’s not a topic for a holiday column). Chelsea Handler, Ken Jeong, Seth MacFarlane and NE-YO are also set to appear.
3. Greatest Holiday Commercials Countdown 2017
Premiere: December 12 at 9 p.m. on The CW
Besides the Super Bowl, the holidays may be the only other time of year we don’t fast forward through the commercials. Sure, they’re often emotionally manipulative and guaranteed to make you cry, but hey, we probably all need a good cathartic moment during the stress of the holidays. If you could use a good emotional release right now, check out the above iPhone commercial from 2013.
4. Taraji’s White Hot Holidays
Premiere: December 14 at 8 p.m. on Fox
Cookie is back! The star of Empire returns for a third year to spread the holiday joy. This year she’s joined by Chaka Khan, Ciara, Faith Evans, Fergie, Jussie Smollett, Leslie Odom, Jr., Salt-N-Pepa and the Ying Yang Twins.
5. Snowed-Inn Christmas
Premiere: December 16 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime
What was it that Louisa May Alcott said? “Christmas isn’t Christmas without a sappy holiday movie.” OK, maybe that’s not the exact quotation. But it certainly seems like it wouldn’t be the holiday season without a crop of delightfully cheesy movies. Bethany Joy Lenz and Andrew Walker star as two totally opposite reporters for an online magazine who, and I know this will come as a total shock, fall in love.
6. Christmas Next Door
Premiere: December 16 at 8 p.m. on Hallmark
Jesse Metcalfe is a confirmed bachelor who has to take in his niece and nephew at Christmas and enlists the help of his next-door neighbor to make the holiday magical. Um, Jesse, did you not see you were starring in a Hallmark movie? You won’t be a confirmed bachelor for long.
7. A Christmas Story Live!
Premiere: December 17 at 7 p.m. on Fox
Surprisingly, NBC isn’t doing a live musical this holiday season. But fret not: Fox has got you covered. The same people who brought you the terrific Grease Live! return with this beloved holiday classic. Maya Rudolph, Matthew Broderick, Jane Krakowski and Chris Diamantopoulos star, and I’m thinking there’s got to be a cameo by Peter Billingsley.
8. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Premiere: December 21 at 8 p.m. ABC
Given how incredibly commercial the entire Christmas season has become, it’s interesting that Charlie Brown was already worrying about it in this 1965 special. Linus and a sad little fir tree help teach Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a lesson we should all remember.
9. Decorating Disney: Holiday Magic
Premiere: December 18 at 8 p.m. on Freeform
In a bit of corporate synergy, Whoopi Goldberg hosts this special, which gives viewers an inside look at how Disneyland and Disney World get ready for the holiday season. But what my seven-year-old daughter really wants you to know is that Sofia Carson co-hosts: She plays Evie on The Descendants (shout out to more corporate synergy) and we loooove Evie and The Descendants is soooooo good.
10. I Love Lucy Christmas Special
Premiere: December 22 at 8 p.m. on CBS
In a now-colorized episode from December 24, 1956, Ricky and Lucy reminisce about what their lives were like before little Ricky was born. The special also features the episode “The Fashion Show” from February 28, 1955. Lucy spends more money than she should on a dress and is worried that Ricky will be mad at her. It’s an archaic plot, for sure, but we could all use a little Lucy in our lives right about now.
11. The Top 12 Greatest Christmas Movies Of All Time
Premiere: December 20 at 9 p.m. on The CW
12. It’s a Wonderful Life
Premiere: December 24 at 8 p.m. on NBC
If you don’t adore this 1946 movie starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, then perhaps, like the Grinch, your heart is two sizes too small. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) has a crisis on Christmas Eve and believes the world would be better without him. He’s wrong, of course, and this life-affirming movie always makes me happy. Remember: “No man is a failure who has friends.”
13. A Christmas Story Marathon
Premiere: December 24 at 8:00p.m. – Monday, Dec. 25 at 8:00p.m. on TNT
It’s the annual airing of this beloved 1983 film. All Ralphie (so wonderfully played by Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder B.B. gun. Will he get one? You’ll have 12 chances to find out. And also to learn never, ever to put your tongue on a frozen flagpole.
14. Christmas Eve with Fairfield University
Premiere: December 24 at 11:35 p.m. on CBS
The Fairfield University Glee Club, the jazz musicians and the alumni band Lionfish all come together to celebrate the night before Christmas. Viewers will get to see how the college students in Connecticut celebrate the season with tree lighting, volunteer work and student parties—and no, probably not like the ones you went to in college! (Photo courtesy of Fairfield University)
15. Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration
Premiere: December 25 at 10 am. on ABC
Julianne Hough and Nick Lachey host this Christmas Day special, which takes a look at how Mickey and the gang celebrate the day. Ciara, Darius Rucker, Fifth Harmony, Fitz and the Tantrums, Hanson, Jason Derulo, and Lea Michele all perform. Michele, who doesn’t do much singing on The Mayor, will be singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” The New Directions would be so proud.
16.Doctor Who: Twice Upon A Time
Premiere: December 25 at 5:30 p.m. on BBC America
Peter Capaldi departs the franchise after this annual holiday episode and Jodie Whittaker takes over as the 13th Doctor. The episode finds the 12th Doctor meeting with the first doctor (David Bradley). Viewers will get a sneak peek at Whittaker’s Doctor in the episode’s closing moments.
17. Call the Midwife Holiday Special
Premiere: December 25 at 9 p.m. on PBS
It’s the coldest winter in 300 years and the nurses in Poplar must deal with frozen pipes, blocked roads and power outages. Valerie (Jennifer Kirby) helps an unmarried couple deliver their baby, but she isn’t prepared for the complications. The special sets the stage for the seventh season, which begins this spring.
18. The 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors
Premiere: December 26 at 9 p .m. on CBS
Carmen de Lavallade, Gloria Estefan, LL COOL J, Norman Lear and Lionel Rich were all feted on December 3 for their lifetime contributions to the arts. Typically, the President and the First Lady attend the event and sit with the honorees. But we are not living in ordinary times. President Trump declined to attend, saying he would create a “political distraction.”
19. Pete the Cat: A Groovy New Year
Premiere: December 26 on Amazon Prime Video
Amazon is doing a great job at bringing beloved children’s books to life. Joining The Snowy Day, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Click Clack Moo comes the mischievous Pete the Cat (Jacob Tremblay), who is confused about New Year’s because he doesn’t even know what a resolution is. Keep an ear out for Atticus Shaffer (The Middle) as Grumpy Toad and KT Tunstall as Catalina.
20.The Snowy Day
Premiere: Currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video
I’ll admit I’m biased on this one. A Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, was my absolute favorite book as a child, and it’s one I now read to my children all the time. I was a bit nervous that this animated special, produced and narrated by Laurence Fishburne, might not capture the magical simplicity of the book. Thankfully, I was wrong. The animation brings the book’s signature drawings to life while fleshing out a very simple story about a boy who loves the snow. Angela Bassett, Regina King and Jamie-Lynn Sigler lend their voices to this soon-to-be classic.