Holiday movies, music specials arrive to light a bleak year

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This combination photo shows key art for holiday specials, from left, "Dr. Seuss The Grinch Musical," airing Dec. 9 on NBC, "Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special," streaming Dec. 4 on Apple TV+, "My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood," premiering Thursday, Dec. 3 on HBO Max, "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey," streaming on Netflix and "Lego Star Wars Holiday Special," streaming on Disney+. (NBC/Apple/HBO Max/Netflix/Disney + via AP)

LOS ANGELES – Bring on the sentimental holiday rom-coms, the chorus of Christmas music specials and the nostalgia of last century’s animated charmers. We’ll take any and all feel-good moments in a year of scarcity.

Mariah and Dolly and Charlie Brown are among the comforts TV is offering this month, and not a moment too soon. Here’s a sampling from broadcast networks, cable and streaming services, all times Eastern unless noted.

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— “My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood,” now streaming on HBO Max. The singer performs tunes from her new holiday album and traditional songs, backed by her band, a choir and an orchestra led by Ricky Minor.

— “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special,” Dec. 4, Apple TV+. Music, dancing, animation and surprise guest stars help create what the streaming service promises to be a heartwarming journey with the pop star.

— “A Holly Dolly Christmas,” 8:30 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST) Dec. 6, CBS. Dolly Parton sings hymns, holiday pop classics and tunes from her new album, and shares personal and faith-based Christmas memories.

— “Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir,” 9 p.m. Dec. 14 (check local listings), PBS. Broadway musical star Kelli O’Hara and actor Richard Thomas are part of the annual program, taped before an audience last year in Salt Lake City.

— “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” 8 p.m. Dec. 15 (check local listings), PBS. Vanessa Williams hosts and performs on a celebration of Ella Fitzgerald’s 1960 album, with Dee Dee Bridgewater and Norm Lewis among those appearing.

— “Garth & Trisha Live! A Holiday Concert Event,” 8:30 p.m. EST live (8 p.m. PST, taped), Dec. 20, CBS. Brooks and Yearwood will perform holiday songs chosen from among fan requests submitted beforehand via Brooks’ Facebook Watch show.


— “The Princess Switch: Switched Again,” now streaming on Netflix. The saga continues as look-a-likes Stacy, a Chicago baker, and Lady Margaret, heir to the Montenaro throne, swap lives once more. Vanessa Hudgens again conveniently fills both roles.

— “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” now streaming on Netflix. Forest Whitaker is one of the big names in this tale of a toymaker in need of a miracle, with Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose and Keegan-Michael Key in the cast.

— “Godmothered,” Dec. 4, Disney +. Novice fairy godmother Eleanor (Jillian Bell) tries to prove her profession is still valid and unexpectedly puts her gifts to work for a widowed mom (Isla Fisher) who has abandoned hope.

— “Christmas Ever After,” 8 p.m. Dec. 6, Lifetime. Tony-winner Ali Stroker (“Oklahoma!”) plays Izzy, a romance novelist whose writer’s block may be overcome by a handsome bed-and-breakfast owner (Daniel di Tomasso).

__ “A Christmas for Mary,” 9 p.m. Dec. 8, OWN. Rising journalist Lena’s (Morgan Dixon) hoped-for promotion — and true love — may happen, with help from a portrait. Vivica A. Fox and Jackee Harry co-star.

— “Marry Me This Christmas,” 9 p.m. Dec. 6, Bounce. Brandon Jay McLaren stars as a pastor who’s helping a couple prepare for a wedding he’d rather see not happen — he’s in love with the bride-to-be (Gabrielle Graham).

— “The Christmas Setup,” 8 p.m. Dec. 12, Lifetime. New York lawyer Hugo (Ben Lewis) heads home to Milwaukee, where matchmaking mom Kate (Fran Drescher) sets him up with his high school crush, Patrick (Blake Lee).

— “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!”, 8 p.m. Dec. 12, Hallmark. Christina (Mia Kirshner) is readying her restaurant for Christmas, with a DNA surprise and unlikely romance on the menu. Ben Savage and Marilu Henner co-star.

— “Christmas She Wrote,” 8 p.m. Dec. 6, Hallmark. Writer Kayleigh (Danica McKellar) escapes home after her column is canceled, but there’s no hiding from the responsible, if very handsome, culprit (Dylan Neal).

— “It’s a Wonderful Life,” 8 p.m. Dec. 24, NBC. Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey is floundering amid self-doubt, but family, neighbors and Clarence the angel come to the rescue in filmmaker Frank Capra’s 1946 enduring favorite.


— “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 (check local listings), PBS. Protests followed the 1965 broadcast evergreen’s removal to Apple TV+ , with PBS’ telecast the compromise. Or see it on the streaming service during a free Dec. 11-13 window.

— “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical!” 8 p.m. Dec. 9, NBC. Matthew Morrison of Broadway and “Glee” fame stars in the adaptation of Theodor Geisel's book, with “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” among the tunes in the London stage production.

— “Silent Night — A Song for the World,” 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and Dec. 23, CW. The origin and cultural influence of the 200-year-old carol is recounted in a musical documentary that includes Kelly Clarkson, Josh Groban and the Vienna Boys Choir.

— “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” 7:40 p.m. Dec. 5, Freeform. Looking different than everyone else is a burden that turns to joy for a heroic reindeer in the 1964 special narrated by Burl Ives, he of the mellifluous voice.

— “The Lights Before Christmas: Radiance by Rail,” Dec. 22, BritBox. Take a virtual trip through rural England aboard an eight-carriage, 1940s train cruising by illuminated station displays and through the landscape of Shropshire county.


Lynn Elber can be reached at and is on Twitter at


This story corrects the airdate for "Marry Me This Christmas'' to December 6.

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