The popular saying, "It's the most wonderful time of the year," spreads to television once again as cable TV networks bring on the holiday cheer with an abundance of heartwarming movies, shows, and holiday specials to choose from. While many channels started their rollouts as early as October, undoubtedly December is the month when those joyful and cozy storylines beckon viewers to the screen (and with their cup of hot cocoa in hand). Cable TV networks prepare year-round to bring Americans their beloved holiday programming, with many even filming in the heat of the summer.
Here are a few of the holiday lineups that viewers can catch as the joyous season continues this month:
BET's streaming service has rolled out eight new original holiday movies. The season kicked off with "A Rich Christmas" starring Tayler Abron. BET quadrupled its holiday production since last season. The network saw a substantial increase in viewership with its holiday programming in 2020, especially with the movies that were originated by BET, which inspired the programmer to up the ante this year. "So this is definitely a step up for us, and what we want to do is to continue to be judicious, thoughtful and responsible stewards, both of the business, and advocates for our audience and for our fans who are looking to get something that's really special and unique to BET+ from what we're offering," said BET General Manager and Executive Vice President Devin Griffin.
New to the mix this year is GAC Family, formerly known as Great American Country, and now part of GAC Media. GAC Family focuses on family-friendly programming and of course, the holidays. It debuted 12 Christmas movies this year that feature heartwarming and romantic storylines, with celebrities including Jennie Garth in "A Kindhearted Christmas," and Dewshane Williams and Rukiya Moore in "Christmas Time is Here." GAC Family already has two movies planned for even after the holiday season, as the new channel looks to expand and bring its own style of programming to the marketplace.
The beloved Hallmark Channel, known for its robust menu of holiday movie offerings every year, has 40 movies in the lineup, many of which center around diverse characters and plotlines as leads, including same-sex couples and one plot about Hanukkah, in “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah.” "The significant achievements made in the D&I space in 2020 laid the groundwork for us to branch out in our storytelling to approach the complexity of what it means to love and be a family in a more authentic, varied, and inclusive way," said Crown Media Family Networks President & CEO Wonya Lucas earlier this year. "We will continue to strive to defy common stereotypes and give our characters more depth and dimension; in short, to more broadly represent the human condition."
Lifetime's slate of holiday movies features big music celebrities like "The Queen of Country" Reba McEntire, music legend Smokey Robinson, and Vanessa Williams of "Soul Food" fame. The lineup is also very much focused on diversity and inclusivity. Smokey Robinson, who stars in Lifetime's "Miracle in Motor City," said, "They sent me the script. And it's a beautiful, warm, wonderful, warm story ... about Black people and about how they celebrate Christmas and what they do and all that ... So that got me right there." Corbin Bleu, one of the leads in a "Christmas Dance Reunion," also added that his movie, while it focuses on Black actors, steers clear of any stereotypes: "The storyline is a romance story. It has nothing to do with the fact that we're Black. And yet, you get to see all of this diversity and all of this representation in there."
UPtv is serving up viewers with holiday cheer this season with nine new Christmas movies and a new series. The show, "Small Town Christmas," is hosted by "Inside Edition" National Correspondent Megan Alexander, and takes viewers around small towns across the country, such as Branson, Mo., and Bethlehem, Pa., to give them a glimpse of how each community celebrates Christmas in their own unique way. The faith-based network's lineup includes more than 500 hours of Christmas programming and holiday romance tales, including "A Royal Christmas Engagement" and "Snowed in Weekend." UPtv also featured a "Gilmore Girls" marathon during the last week of November with 153 episodes of the popular series, which included a watch-and-win sweepstakes and exclusive behind-the-scenes content.