Alexx Henry, Crown Media Holdings Inc.
The sugar on these Christmas stories is pretty heavy, but the themes are positive and if you don't mind an overdose of the kinds of scenes that bring you to tears, there's plenty from Hallmark and the ABC Family channels for viewing this holiday season.
There is even a contemporary movie on the History Channel about the origins of Christmas traditions.
With more than a dozen original movies lined up, Hallmark and ABC Family stand ready to take viewers to a variety of bittersweet situations — from "November Christmas" where a child is battling cancer to "Gift of the Magi" where a pair of newlyweds trade in what they love most to get meaningful gifts for one another, to a couple of lighter stories where Santa is a reformed corporate suit and one where his sleigh is taken down by Homeland Security.
Hallmark and family movies by definition are slower paced and packed with photo moments.
The actors hired for this series are fairly well known and good at their craft, and the movies are well-shot with plenty of artistic beauty and pretty music, thus easy to watch.
If the family is into mild fun and fare that feeds the soul without having to endure much stress, mark the calendar for these:
"The Town Christmas Forgot"
Just days before Christmas, Annie (Lauren Holly) and Charles (Rick Roberts) Benson hit the road for a holiday ski trip with their two children, the materialistic Trish (Torri Webster) and the quiet and introverted Nolan (Holly's real-life son Azer Greco). Together, yet separate, each lives in a world of digital communication, satellite radio and cell phones. But when the family takes a short cut through back roads, contact with the outside world is lost, and when their SUV breaks down, they end up stuck in the rural burg of Nowhere. The town is dying and Christmas is bleak for the locals who can only exchange inexpensive or homemade gifts. In spite of the town's depressed economy, Samantha "Sam," the owner of the local café, lifts the town's spirits by organizing a Christmas Eve pageant, and enlists the Bensons' help. The chain reaction of enthusiasm grows as Annie lends her dancing skills, Trish offers to help out with the rock band, and Nolan rounds up Santa Claus. The family learns that life "simply" is better. Hallmark, Nov. 25, 7 p.m.
"Call Me Mrs. Miracle"
Doris Roberts stars in the world premiere of Debbie Macomber's "Call Me Mrs. Miracle." The telefilm is based on Macomber's upcoming literary release and is the sequel to the highest-rated Hallmark Channel original movie of 2009. The film also stars Jewel Staite, Eric Johnson and Lauren Holly. No one celebrates the holidays like Emily Merkle (Roberts) or "Mrs. Miracle" as she is known by some — who is back to ensure that this Christmas is the most magical and meaningful of all. When Mrs. Miracle appears as a seasonal employee in the toy department at the financially troubled Finley's Department Store, neither the store's owners nor the customers have any idea of the saintly events that are about to unfold. None of them can even say who hired Mrs. Merkle or where exactly she came from, but her illustrious and angelic spirit will dispel gloom, drive away misery, and prove that miracles happen every day, especially on Christmas. Hallmark, Nov. 27, 7 p.m.
"The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation"
This sequel to last year's hit "The Dog Who Saved Christmas" marks Paris Hilton's first voice-over role as French poodle Bella and the return of Mario Lopez as lovable and loyal Zeus, the lovesick dog who must save his family's Christmas vacation. The Bannister family and their well-intentioned pooch plan for a nice, relaxing holiday vacation, but their ideal winter wonderland getaway goes awry when an obnoxious brother arrives with his son and their new poodle, proving there is such a thing as too much family togetherness.