Even Scrooge would love the heartwarming programming presented by the Hallmark Channel this season — and I should know, after catching the holiday spirit at a special pre-Thanksgiving holiday party and VIP screening of The Christmas Ornament at The Grove. It was no surprise that the family-friendly network captured big ratings with the sweet little film when it recently aired. At the party The Christmas Ornament stars Kellie Martin and Cameron Mathison were on hand, along with the Hallmark Channels’ proud president and CEO Bill Abbott, and executive vice president of programming Michelle Vicary, plus other celebrities who have become part of the Hallmark family.
For those who missed it, The Christmas Ornament will encore on Christmas Day, along with a marathon of holiday movies as part of the hugely popular and highly successful “Countdown to Christmas” programming schedule. Abbott rightfully bragged that the network has become the industry’s leader in original movies and specials for the holidays. They featured 12 new movies this season.
The upcoming line-up of Yuletide tales include, Santa Switch airing Saturday. Dec. 7. It explores the idea that even the real Santa Claus needs a break every so often. Ethan Erickson (Fashion House) stars as Dan, a divorcing dad facing unemployment at holiday time who can’t even land a mall Santa job. Then the real Kris Kringle (Donavan Scott) pays him a visit and leaves Dan in charge of the North Pole shop, guided by his elf assistant Eddie (Oscar-nominee Sean Astin). Now the fate of Christmas rests in Dan giving Santa a helping hand. Anne Dudek, Annie Thurman, and Griffin Cleveland costar.
Hats off to Christmas, airing Dec. 14, stars Haylie Duff and Antonio Cupo. The story follows Mia (Duff), a young widowed mom managing a small-town hat shop. When her boss asks her to train his NYC hotshot son Nick (Cupo) for a management post she covets, Mia finds training him frustrating – until Nick tries to be a buddy to Mia’s son Scotty (Sean Michael Kyer). As Nick considers giving up the big-city perks he once had in New York, Mia starts to realize that he may be the Christmas miracle she has been waiting for.
Finding Christmas, airing Dec. 15, is about the Christmas magic that greets four people unlucky in love. Ryan (Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame) is a single mom who has pretty much given up on men after her divorce. It all changes when her brother Owen (Country music star J.T. Hodges) swaps his home in their small North Carolina town with Sean (Mark Lutz), a New York City ad exec. Sparks fly for Owen in his new digs with Sean’s assistant Mia (Cristina Rosato) and Ryan feels an instant spark with her new neighbor. But now the clock is ticking down on both romances as the temporary holiday home swap nears the end.
The Christmas Blessing, airing Dec. 21, has Neil Patrick Harris (the former Doogie Howser MD) playing Nathan Andrews, a medical resident. When the young doctor loses a patient, he begins to rethink his career and moves back home with his father. Just as Nathan is settling in, his world begins to crumble when the lives of the woman (Rebecca Gayheart) he loves and an innocent young boy (Angus T. Jones) are in crisis. Nathan finds himself questioning fate and the fragility of life, all the while hoping for a Christmas Miracle. Rob Lowe also stars.
Also on the schedule, The 2013 Hollywood Christmas Parade airs Friday, Dec. 20, with Erik Estrada and Laura McKenzie hosting the Tinseltown tradition. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is the Grand Marshal for the parade featuring celebrities, marching bands, equestrian groups, and much more.
“The Twelve Gifts of Christmas” themed 24-hour marathon for the 12 new Hallmark Channel original movies, airs Dec. 25 and 26, with limited commercial interruption, all running back-to-back. For all the Scrooges out there, it will be an overindulgence of heartwarming merriment.