(TNS)—With parents at their wits’ ends and kids crawling the walls, this is not exactly the white Christmas we’ve been dreaming of. But not to worry. There’s still time to get Aunt Clara’s teapot in the mail, and television has some treats to awake that Christmas spirit.
Lifetime is elbowing the Hallmark Channel and UpTV, with a whole month of feel-good Christmas movies. Jacky Lai stars in “A Sugar & Spice Holiday,” arriving Sunday . Lai, a Canadian whose mother is Vietnamese and father Chinese, says she’s thrilled to be part of a multicultural project though her family didn’t celebrate Christmas until she was 12.
“I just saw people in school celebrating it and I just thought how wonderful it would be if I just started planting gifts and getting my family to get in on the Christmas spirit,” she says.
“So I was the first to buy gifts and set up this whole Christmas tradition and now it’s gotten bigger and bigger every year. My parents actually hire a Mr. and Mrs. Claus to come into the house.”
AnnaLynn McCord plays a musician in Lifetime’s “Feliz NaviDAD,” arriving Dec. 21.
“Christmas is always really special growing up because we grew up with literally nothing, and what’s cool about growing up with nothing is ANYTHING is awesome,” she says.
“So we would do Dollar Tree Christmas presents…One year we all got these little Tootsie Roll banks and they’re full of Tootsie Rolls. I didn’t care about Tootsie Rolls, I like money. And my grandparents always gave us money and I actually, still to this day, I have that Tootsie Roll Bank and it is what I saved all my dollars that I ended up using to move out and follow my dream to be an actress.”
Carly Hughes portrays the savvy love interest in “The Christmas Edition” due Dec. 15.
“Being in the middle of a pandemic, I haven’t been able to see my mom in almost a year,” sighs Hughes. “She can’t fly. She got over breast cancer. I can’t fly, so I will not have seen her. But being able to be in a Christmas movie on Lifetime means I get to be in her living room in a Christmas movie doing something we always do together—while bringing joy to many other people because they know somebody will fall in love in this film.”
Besides Santa’s bag of Yuletide movies, viewers can witness the Battle of the Belters as both Mariah Carey and Carrie Underwood are decorating their own holiday specials.
Streaming on HBO Max is “My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood.” The little blonde features both traditional and new musical numbers, including a duet with the legendary John Legend.
Carey pulls out all the stops in reiterating all she wants for Christmas with “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special” streaming on Apple TV+. A phalanx of luminaries will reign on her parade, including Ariana Grande, Tiffany Haddish, Snoop Dogg and Jennifer Hudson.
PBS will squeeze in “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas with Vanessa Williams” Dec. 15. This is a new take on the 1960 album by Ella Fitzgerald, and will feature Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Norm Lewis and, of course, the talented Ms. Williams.
Not forgetting the kiddies, there’s “Elliot: the Littlest Reindeer,” streaming free on Crackle. Elliot, a tiny horse, hears that Santa’s short a reindeer and hopes to fill that spot. The animated special features the voices Jeff Dunham, Martin Short and John Cleese.
Charlie Brown and the gang will be decking the halls over at Apple TV+ for FREE from Friday-Sunday. And you’ll find the “Peanuts” kids in “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” airing on PBS and PBS Kids on Sunday (check local listings).
Dorothy and her little dog too from “The Wizard of Oz” will remind you twice you’re not in Kansas anymore when the classic airs on TNT at 8:30 p.m. and again at 10:48 p.m. Dec. 19. And TNT and TBS will root for Ralphie once more to get his Red Ryder air-rifle for Christmas on their 24-hour “A Christmas Story” marathon from Christmas Eve through Christmas day.
Disney+ is dizzy with colons as it offers “High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special” on Friday featuring Joshua Bassett, Sofia Wylie, Matt Cornett. Disney+ also twirled its magic wand and Poof! “Godmothered” appeared. This holiday comedy is about a fairy godmother in training who learns that these ladies of the night are becoming extinct and she’s determined to prove that’s not so.
Netflix is up and running with scores of Christmas films as well as originals including the very popular rom-com triad: “A Christmas Prince,” “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding” followed, naturally, by “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby,” starring Rose McIver and Ben Lamb.
Also on Santa’s list is “The Knight Before Christmas” in which a Medieval knight time-travels to modern day where he discovers he has a mission, and “Klaus,” last year’s animated treasure that earned an Academy Award nomination.
‘Crossing Lines’ Crosses Over to Ovation
“Crossing Lines,” a multination crime drama that was canceled too early by NBC, is back on the airwaves at Ovation TV. The series stars Donald Sutherland and William Fichtner, who plays a former New York policeman who’s hit the skids after an injury on the job. He is recruited by an International Court crime unit to help investigate offenses that leap Europe’s fragile borders.
Casting Fichtner as the cop was more than fortuitous for the filmmakers. He actually earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“I was seriously looking at something in the direction of federal law enforcement,” he says. “When I was in high school, I went to one of those college nights and met a gentleman named Don Harvey who was admissions counselor for SUNY in Long Island. I think I went to this school because of absolutely how cool this gentleman was.”
They remained friends and while in college, Fichtner attended an improv class just for fun. The class turned out to be pivotal.
“The expression of it was so great,” he recalls. “I grew up in a household with four sisters and my mother, so I was never around an atmosphere of repressed emotions. There were six women crying. The expression was so phenomenal; the feeling of it. I took this improv class and my senior year I took as many theater classes as I could—purely for kicks—really not thinking at this point that I would ever switch gears.”
But once he graduated he thought more about it and studied a book called “How to be a Working Actor.”
“I read that about four times and I said to my mother near the end of the summer, ‘I want to audition and go to New York.’ My mother, being the amazing woman she is, said, ‘All right, we’ve got to get towels and sheets.'”
Hollywood’s Home Movies on Display
If you slip on over to Oscars.org you can grab a glimpse of some of old-time Hollywood’s home movies. Here you’ll view the early stars without their makeup and often acting goofy for the camera. Hayley Mills will talk a little about her 1966 movie, “The Trouble with Angels,” and there are clips of Nat King Cole at a movie premiere, James Wong Howe on a road trip, and backstage peeks at Loretta Young, Celeste Holm and Elsa Lanchester. They talk a lot about female directors these days, but one of the first was Ida Lupino, and these archives catch her directing Rosalind Russell and Mills. There’s even some rare footage of Satchel Paige.
‘Seal Teams’ Seals the Deal
CBS’ “SEAL Team” is back for season four and looking as authentic as ever. That’s no accident says Mark Owen, an ex-SEAL himself and executive producer on the show.
“We’ve got veterans in the writers’ room and spend a huge amount of time with those writers making sure they’re telling the right stories and what’s important and getting all those nuances correct,” he says.
The first episode was directed by its star, David Boreanaz, and was written by a former SEAL. Tyler Grey, who plays Trent, says, “We have veterans in probably over 30 jobs—in the writers, on-set as actors, to advisers, to grips, to electric, to camera. We have veterans in every single department and having veterans in every single department instills that authenticity at every level.”
Luaine Lee is a California-based correspondent who covers entertainment for Tribune News Service.
2020© Luaine Lee
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