Holiday specials on TV in 2021: how to watch your favorites this year
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Supply-chain woes are this year’s Grinch, threatening to steal gifts and good cheer. But holiday specials on TV can’t be stolen, only missed. So make a date with the Food Network’s first movie and the rebranded GAC Family channel’s Christmas debut.
Or how about old favorites such as 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” may require a measure of strategy to watch. The TV holiday Peanuts special will air on PBS and, for a three-day window, be available free on Apple TV+.
The twist for the Food Network’s film is its debut on corporate sibling discovery+ which, as with other streaming services, offers a free-trial option. Like Santa Claus scoring courtesy cookies, enjoy the gift while it lasts.
Here’s a sampling of what to watch while sipping nog and nibbling on roasted chestnuts — if available on store shelves. All air times are Eastern.
Classic holiday specials on TV for Christmas
“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” now on Apple TV+ (free from Dec. 11-13) and on PBS, Sunday, Dec. 19 (check local listings for time). Is Christmas all about the goods or good-heartedness? The question unsettles Charlie Brown and makes for “must-see” viewing for holiday specials on TV.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” CBS, 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22. A reindeer finds that being different is worthwhile in this 1964 special that’s based on the Johnny Marks song and narrated by Burl Ives.
“Mary McCartney Serves It Up,” discovery+, Tuesday, Nov. 23. In four new holiday episodes, the British cookbook author enjoys meatless meals with guests including her famous dad, Paul McCartney, and Oprah Winfrey.
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” NBC, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26 and Saturday, Dec. 25. Horror movie king Boris Karloff provided the voice for Dr. Seuss’ infamous Grinch for the enduring 1966 cartoon.
“‘Twas the Fight Before Christmas,” Apple TV+, Friday, Nov. 26. A documentary about an Idaho neighborhood that became a battleground for a man with a large-scale holiday obsession and his foes, aka other homeowners.
“A Home for the Holidays,” CBS, 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5. In the special’s 23rd annual broadcast, inspiring stories of youngsters adopted from foster care are joined with performances by pop artists.
Holiday specials from the movies
“A Rich Christmas,” streaming now on BET+. A self-absorbed socialite gets a new perspective on life when she’s forced to work at a family homeless shelter. Bill Bellamy and Tyler Abron star.
“Candy Coated Christmas,” discovery+, Friday, Nov. 19. Molly McCook plays an executive whose life takes a detour when she visits the town of Peppermint Hollow. Ree Drummond (Food Network’s “The Pioneer Woman”) plays the local baker.
“A Kindhearted Christmas,” GAC Family (formerly Great American Country), Saturday, Nov. 20. A woman wants to emulate her late husband’s generosity, bringing joy to others and maybe to herself. Jennie Garth stars.
“A Kiss Before Christmas,” Hallmark Channel, Sunday, Nov. 21. James Denton, Teri Hatcher and Marilu Henner star in the tale of a man who gets the alternate life he wished for, and tries to give it back.
“Who Is Christmas Eve?” Bounce, 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21. A young woman (Paige Hurd) abandoned as an infant delves into her past with help from her boyfriend (Romeo Miller) and an investigative genealogist.
“Romance in the Wilds,” Fox Nation, Thursday, Nov. 25. A forest ranger and geologist (Kaitlyn Leeb, Victor Zinck Jr.) join ranks to flee a wildfire. Does love ignite? The actors also star in Fox Nation’s “Christmas in the Wilds,” out the same day.
“Reba McEntire’s Christmas in Tune,” Lifetime, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26. Georgia (McEntire) and Joe (John Schneider) broke up as a couple and a singing duo years ago, but their daughter wants a reunion for charity.
“Christmas Again,” Disney Channel, Friday, Dec. 3. Teenager Rowena is caught living the holiday over and over again after wishing that she could reclaim her life before her parents’ divorce. Scarlett Estevez stars.
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” NBC, 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, and Friday, Dec. 24. Jimmy Stewart stars as a despairing man who finds value in his life with the help of an aspiring angel, Clarence.
“Our Christmas Journey,” Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, 10:01 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4. Holly Robinson Peete stars as a single mom who faces an independent new chapter for her teenage son with autism and herself. Peete and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, are parents of a son with autism. The actor said on Twitter that “I have wanted to make a movie about an #autism family making transitions at #Christmas for a while.”
“The Christmas Thief,” ION Television, 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5. A novice private eye, home for the holidays and trying to solve burglaries blamed on Santa Claus, clashes with a local detective. Michelle Borth and Vivica A. Fox co-star.
Musical Christmas and holiday specials
“CMA Country Christmas,” ABC, 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30. Performers and songs include Kelsea Ballerini (“Santa Baby”), Gabby Barrett (“The First Noel”), Lady A (“Wonderful Christmastime”) and Little Big Town (“Christmas Time Is Here”).
“Kelly Clarkson Presents When Christmas Comes Around,” NBC, 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1. Clarkson hosts a special that offers music, celebrates tradition, and gives to those in need.
“Christmas Under the Stars,” BYUtv, 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, and on the BYUtv app. The a cappella group Pentatonix mixes favorite tunes and carols with songs from its new holiday album, “Evergreen.”
“Michael Bublé’s Christmas in the City,” NBC, 10 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, and Wednesday, Dec. 22. The pop singer marks the 10th anniversary of his album “Christmas” with music and comedy. Of all of the holiday specials on TV, this one is a can’t miss!
“20 Years of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir,” PBS, Monday, Dec. 13, and Friday, Dec. 24 (check local listing for times). Brian Stokes Mitchell narrates a retrospective of performances by Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald and dozens more artists.
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