10 holiday TV picks to watch, stream and enjoy

10 holiday TV picks to watch, stream and enjoy. “My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood,” HBO Max . “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special,” Apple TV+. “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” Netflix. “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special,” Disney+. “The Happiest Season,” Hulu

From Mariah Carey to Dolly Parton to Forest Whitaker, the options are plentiful.

Despite 2020 being a tough time for many, TV has been a bright spot. This year has not disappointed in providing ways to escape, sip on eggnog and absorb magical worlds of elves and Santa and redemption.

The old reliables, from “Home Alone” to “It’s a Wonderful World” to “Elf,” are always readily available. And UpTV, Lifetime and Hallmark have been pumping out dozens of original holiday films for weeks.

Here is a sampling of new programs available on both streaming services and broadcast TV that can warm even the most Grinch-like of hearts.

Carrie Underwood has both a new Christmas album "My Gift" and a companion HBO Max special. Photo Credit: HBO Max
Carrie Underwood has both a new Christmas album "My Gift" and a companion HBO Max special. Photo Credit: HBO Max

Credit: HBO Max

Credit: HBO Max

“My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood,” HBO Max (Dec. 3)

The popular country singer performs tunes from her new Christmas album “My Gift.” The special will feature a duet of “Hallelujah” with John Legend, who co-wrote the original song, while her 5-year-old son, Isaiah, joins in on “Little Drummer Boy.” “Just like the album, I hope this special will help bring some much-needed joy and become part of the soundtrack to people’s holiday festivities this year as it streams throughout the season and beyond,” Underwood said in a press release.

“Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special,Apple TV+ (Dec. 4)

Apple TV has not gotten much attention lately, but it’s highlighting the type of special that might have appeared on ABC or CBS just a few years ago. Mariah Carey, who has one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” is starring in a pre-taped special featuring a coterie of fellow celebrity friends such as Tiffany Haddish, Billy Eichner, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg and Atlanta’s Jermaine Dupri. Carey’s twins, Moroccan and Monroe, will appear as well. Carey will debut a new song “Oh Santa!” that will be an Apple Music exclusive at launch before going elsewhere.

“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” Netflix

This joyful, grandiose tale features Phylicia Rashad’s grandmother telling a tale of a spirited inventor whose apprentice stole his ideas and became rich, leaving him a broken man. Forest Whitaker plays the inventor in his later years, his once bright and cheery inventor shop now a drab pawn store. Then his tween granddaughter, Journey (Madalen Mills), comes to revive his dormant spirit. There’s a flying robot, a sentient matador toy voiced by Ricky Martin and show-stopping songs and dance numbers galore.

“12 Dates of Christmas,” HBO Max

This “Bachelor”-like set up is wrapped in holiday cheer and set in an Austrian castle. But there are three singles seeking love in time for Christmas: Faith, a woman seeking a man; Chad, a man hunting for a woman; and Garrett, a man wants to find another man. They each juggle dates in holiday settings, such as a masquerade ball, a karaoke carol session, and an ugly-sweater party. “Insecure” star Natasha Rothwell offers cheeky commentary.

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+ has been available on for subscribers since Nov. 17, 2020. Credit: Disney+
The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+ has been available on for subscribers since Nov. 17, 2020. Credit: Disney+

Credit: Disney+

Credit: Disney+

“The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special,” Disney+

By 1978, the original groundbreaking “Star Wars” film had broken all sorts of box-office records. In hopes of slaking the thirst for more “Star Wars” products and plush Chewbacca toys for Christmas, CBS and Lucasfilms created an ill-fated holiday music variety special. It featured Bea Arthur serenading a huge rat and Chewbacca’s dad seduced by a virtual reality image of Diahann Carroll. This particular comedic special is far more self-aware while spoofing these types of holiday specials. Rey and BB-8 visit a Jedi Temple and find a time-traveling portal which allows them to jump into various scenes from various “Star Wars” films over the past 43 years. Yoda narrates.

Abby (Kristen Stewart) learns that Harper (Mackenzie Davis) has kept their relationship a secret from her family, she begins to question the girlfriend she thought she knew. Credit: Hulu
Abby (Kristen Stewart) learns that Harper (Mackenzie Davis) has kept their relationship a secret from her family, she begins to question the girlfriend she thought she knew. Credit: Hulu

Credit: Hulu

Credit: Hulu

“The Happiest Season,” Hulu

The plotline sounds like something out of 1995, but here it goes: Kristen Stewart (Abby) and MacKenzie Davis (Harper) play a happy lesbian couple. Harper spontaneously asks Abby to join her family for Christmas but one problem: said family doesn’t know she’s gay, so Abby has to pretend their “just” friends. The film has no shortage of additional star power, including Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen as Harper’s conservative parents and the likes of Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie and Daniel Levy.

Austin Abrams as Dash and Midori Francis as Lily in "Dash & Lily" on Netflix.  Credit: ALISON COHEN ROSA/NETFLIX � 2020
Austin Abrams as Dash and Midori Francis as Lily in "Dash & Lily" on Netflix. Credit: ALISON COHEN ROSA/NETFLIX � 2020

Credit: ALISON COHEN ROSA/NETFLIX

Credit: ALISON COHEN ROSA/NETFLIX

“Dash & Lily,” Netflix

This charming, visually enchanting postcard to New York City is a rom-com series with a twist. Dash plays a disaffected Holden Caulfield-type teen who finds a red notebook in the J.D. Salinger section of New York City’s famous Strand bookstore planted there by Lily; and Lily is a self-proclaimed “weird” teen who has sheltered herself up to this point from her small world. At first, they don’t meet in person but use the notebook as a place to get to know and challenge each other in creative ways with one rule: no digital interaction allowed. So in a way, the interplay remains remarkably classic.

“Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” Netflix

Shonda Rhimes of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame recently joined Netflix, and among her first productions is a documentary focused on her frequent collaborator Debbie Allen, who broke it big in the 1980 film “Fame” and remains super busy to this day at age 70. This film embraces Allen’s storied career as a Broadway star, dancer, director and choreographer. It also directs a lens at young students preparing “The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” a modern reboot of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet, at the 20-year-old Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2019 file photo, Dolly Parton performs at the 53rd annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn. Parton's $1 million gift to Nashville's Vanderbilt University helped researchers develop Moderna's experimental coronavirus vaccine, announced this week. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2019 file photo, Dolly Parton performs at the 53rd annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn. Parton's $1 million gift to Nashville's Vanderbilt University helped researchers develop Moderna's experimental coronavirus vaccine, announced this week. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Credit: Mark J. Terrill

Credit: Mark J. Terrill

“A Holly Dolly Christmas,” CBS (Dec. 6)

Besides her delightful Netflix musical “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square,” Parton will air an old-fashioned holiday special on an old-fashioned broadcast network. On an intimate, candlelit set, Parton will sing a blend of faith-filled hymns and holiday classics. The country legend will also share Christmas stories and recollections from her own hardscrabble past.

“Dr. Seuss: The Grinch Musical,” NBC (Dec. 9)

Matthew Morrison of “Glee” fame will become the grumpy, mean one — the Grinch — in this stage production of the classic tale, broadcast from the Troubadour Theatre in London. “While the pandemic presents some challenges in bringing the stage musical to life, we are putting together a really special show with some crazy, fun, imaginative things going on,” Morrison said on the “Today” show recently.

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