Holiday TV: New specials, contests, films light up the season
Deck the halls and warm up the DVR. Television's annual blizzard of holiday-themed fare is about to hit with full force.
As usual, the networks and streamers are making merry with an onslaught of specials, schmaltzy movies and animated treats that celebrate the so-called most wonderful time of the year.
To help you keep up, we've made a list — and checked it twice — of notable new programs airing from Thanksgiving week through the end of the year.
Be aware that many of these shows will air multiple times. With a few exceptions, we have listed only the initial telecasts.
Music, laughter and good cheer: Here's a rundown of seasonal sitcoms, celebrations and harmony-filled variety specials:
"Merry Happy Whatever": This holiday sitcom follows a struggling musician who tries to win over his new girlfriend's gruff dad and tight-knit siblings on a 10-day Christmas visit to Philadelphia. Dennis Quaid heads the cast. (Netflix).
"The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show": The country music star and her celebrity pals perform both classic and original holiday songs. Guests include Fred Armisen, Leon Bridges, Camila Cabello, James Corden, Lana Del Rey and more. (Friday, Nov. 29, Amazon Prime).
"How to Train Your Dragon Homecoming": Spawned by three hit movies, this new animated special has Viking dragon trainers Hiccup and Astrid planning a grand holiday pageant at the Snoggletog Festival. (8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3; reairs 8 p.m. Dec. 14).
"CMA Country Christmas": Get your twang on as Trisha Yearwood hosts a musical special. Guests include Kristin Chenoweth, Chris Janson, Tori Kelly, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Runaway June, CeCe Winans and others. (9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, ABC).
"The Moodys": Denis Leary and Elizabeth Perkins star in a three-night miniseries as a cantankerous couple who reunite with their three adult children hoping to stage the perfect holiday. Of course, it won't be. (9 p.m. Fox, Wednesday, Dec. 4).
"A Legendary Christmas with John and Chrissy": The newly minted "Sexiest Man Alive" and Chrissy Teigen celebrate the season with the couple's family and celebrity friends. Legend performs a selection of songs from his recently released holiday album. (10 p.m. Dec. 12, NBC).
"The Christmas Caroler Challenge": A dozen amazing caroling groups compete to see who can hit the holiday high notes and bring some joy to the world. (8 p.m. Dec. 15, The CW).
"Holidays with the Houghs": Dancing siblings Derek and Julianne bust a few moves while trying to put their own spin on seasonal classics. (10 p.m. Dec. 16, NBC; reairs 8 p.m. Dec. 23).
It's a wonderful lifestyle: These shows are mainly aimed at festive food and home decor:
"Top Elf": Seven kid "Elf-testants" with crazy-good building and design skills take on a series of holiday-themed challenges to earn winnings for good causes in their hometowns. (8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, Nickelodeon).
"Holiday Gingerbread Showdown": Break out the candy canes and gumdrops. Top gingerbread artists are ready to throw down. (10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, Food Network).
"The Great Christmas Light Fight": Watch those power bills soar as Clark Griswold wannabes battle in an over-the-top home-decorating competition. (8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, ABC).
"The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition": Sugar rush! Ten talented bakers compete to see whose tasty treats reign supreme. Please resist the urge to lick your TV screen. (9 p.m. Dec. 12, ABC).
"Ultimate Hanukkah Challenge": Molly Yeh hosts this competition in which four chefs put their spin on holiday classics like crispy potato pancakes and fried jelly donuts. (9 p.m. Dec. 21, Food Network).
Festive flicks: As usual, The Hallmark Channel and Lifetime are airing a mind-boggling number of feel-good holiday films and they've been at it since before Halloween. For schedules, consult the network websites. Meanwhile, here are a few other original movies to check out:
"Holiday Rush": A widowed radio DJ (Romany Malco) and his four spoiled kids need to tighten their belts and pull together when their life of luxury turns lean just before Christmas. (Netflix).
"Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas": Can a film be both creepy and heartwarming? A young woman (Aisha Dee) goes on an awesome first date but inadvertently "ghosts" the guy when she dies in a car crash. So texting now becomes a problem. (9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, Freeform).
"Same Time, Next Christmas": Mele Kalikimaka. Lea Michele plays a woman who reunites with her childhood sweetheart during her family's annual Christmas visit to Hawaii. Will there still be sparks? Silly question. (9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, ABC; reairs 8 p.m. Dec. 11 on Freeform).
"Dear Santa, I Need a Date": In this romantic comedy, two ambitious siblings make a wager over who can land a significant other by Christmas. Let's hope that plenty of holiday hilarity ensues. (7 p.m. Dec. 8, TV One).
"A Christmas Carol": Here's yet another fresh take on the Dickens classic. This one has Guy Pearce going all hum-buggery as stingy Ebenezer Scrooge. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 19, FX).