Christmas Under Wraps

Christmas is a time for giving thanks for all you have, honoring your loved ones and gathering together friends and family from near and far for traditions older than we can fathom.

It's also a time for movies. So many movies. Home AloneWhite ChristmasIt's a Wonderful Life...it's not the holidays if you're not parked on the couch, hot chocolate in hand, frying your brain with hours of entertainment that you've watched so much you can recite every line. Everyone has their favorite Christmas movie, most of which have gone on to become timeless classics. 

But we'd like to take this opportunity to give praise to a far less appreciated (and certainly far less acclaimed) genre of holiday entertainment: The made-for-TV Christmas movie. These low-budget films have been bravely filling our favorite channels Lifetime, Hallmark and ABC Family with content for years now, while their flashier counterparts receive all the attention. But made-for-TV movies will stand in the shadows no more! We're here to remind the public the value that these works of art to bring to our lives this holiday season. 

First, let's just refresh what exactly constitutes a made-for-TV Christmas movie. For starters, it's on TV. Duh. But true devotees will recognize that most films follow a standard recipe that makes the content easy to recognize, and that is as follows:
One successful businesswoman from the big city who is too busy being a successful businesswoman to find love and/or keep the Christmas spirit alive.
One man who is miraculously able to see through her hardened businesswoman exterior.
One Christmas holiday in danger. Help us save Christmas!
One trip to the North Pole/meeting of the Real Santa/view of Christmas magic to revive the spirit.
Several former '90s television stars trying to revive their careers.

Now that we're all on the same page, let's honor a few of the genre's most prolific films.

The Actually Kind of Good:

A Royal Christmas, Hallmark

This movie has it all! Lacey Chabert! A Prince masquerading as a commoner! A completely fake-sounding country! It's your classic common-woman-must-impress-mother-of-boyfriend-who-is-also-the-queen story. Sure, it has nothing to do with Christmas (other than the fact that it takes place during the holiday season), but it certainly is fun to watch Jane Seymour pretend to be Julie Andrews from The Princess Diaries.

Christmas Under Wraps, Hallmark

The premise here is that a big-city doctor gets sent to small town Alaska and must adjust to both life in a town where there's a single doctor and the fact that the town also casually doubles as, like, a portal to the North Pole. But in practice, the movie is mostly just Candace Cameron Buré going to coffee shops and condescending the locals. Win!

Snow, ABC Family

Watch as the guy from Ed and that actress who played one of Ted's girlfriends on How I Met Your Mother band together to save Christmas! In this particular instance, there are only three days until Christmas Eve and they need to train reindeer to fly Santa's sleigh. Cheesy, sure, but it's never not fun to laugh while actors pretend that CGI reindeer actually look like the real thing.

12 Dates of Christmas, ABC Family

We're here for any made-for-TV movie that stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, so it's really just a bonus that this movie is tolerable. Plus, Amy Smart! As a woman who is forced to relive Christmas Eve over and over again until she falls in love! It's kind of like that nightmare you have every year about not finding a boyfriend to bring home for the holidays, only with the addition of the musical stylings of Jordin Sparks' original Christmas song, "Angels Are Singing."

Holiday in Handcuffs, ABC Family

This is the film credited with turning us onto the phenomenon of made-for-TV Christmas movies in the first place. It stars Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez, which is already a recipe for ratings gold. Then you add in the fact that Melissa Joan Hart's character kidnaps Mario Lopez' character to force him to be her boyfriend for family Christmas and there's just no way to go wrong. We also love to watch as Melissa's terrible jerry curl turns into beautiful flowing locks once she falls in love.

The Truly Awesomely Bad:

The North Pole, Hallmark 

Bailee Madison's performance as an elf sent to save the North Pole is obnoxious enough to make us swear off the Christmas holiday forever. The only thing worse than watching her pretend to fly a sleigh is knowing that there's a sequel coming on November 21, also starring Lori Loughlin. The end is nigh.

Moonlight & Mistletoe, Hallmark

Tom Arnold should probably never have been cast to star in a Christmas movie, and especially not one in which he is supposed to be the one spreading cheer to the non-believers. He plays the mayor of a town called Santaville (seriously), who must rely on his estranged daughter to help him put the town's celebrations back together after he takes a bad fall. The true redeeming factor here is Candace Cameron Bure's Laguna Beach side-bangs.

The Mistle-Tones, ABC Family 

Tori Spelling, what have we done to deserve you? Sure we've been a bit naughty this year, but surely nothing that warrants the unleashing of a Christmas glee club sing-off between you and Tia Mowry. We'll never think of a partridge in a pear tree the same way again. 

Desperately Seeking Santa, ABC Family

A local mall runs a contest to find the hunkiest guy to play Santa, and things don't go according to plan. It's bad enough that you'll never want to visit a mall Santa again, but not so bad that you lose the Christmas spirit entirely.

12 Men of Christmas, Lifetime

Hold on tight, because this plot's a doozy. A high-powered publicist (Kristin Chenoweth, because that makes sense) loses her high-powered publicity job and her high-powered lawyer fiancée and is forced to move from Manhattan to small-town Montana in order to run the village's public relations campaign. Once there, she manages to discover what really matters in life...while organizing a naked Christmas calendar starring local firefighters. 

The Christmas Consultant, Lifetime

This movie stars David Hasselhoff. We repeat: This movie stars David Hasselhoff. He plays a holiday consultant called in by frazzled mother Caroline Rhea (of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch "fame"), but we know you've already stopped listening. Just know one thing: Hijinks ensue.

The Just Plain Bizarre:

Chasing Christmas, ABC Family

Tom Arnold again! But this time he's the grinch, so all is right in the world—until the ghost of Christmas past arrives to help him realize that his mom used to be hot. Then things get weird.

Snowglobe, ABC Family

Christina Milian, in one of her several made-for-TV movies, plays an unlucky-in-love woman who falls into a snowglobe, falls in love with a man who lives inside said snowglobe, and must choose between life in the real world and life in the snowglobe. If you're spending your holidays on an acid trip, this is the flick for you.

Christmas Cupid, ABC Family

This time around Christina Milian plays a hardened career woman who cares a briefcase through city streets and says things like "I'm gonna need everyone to work overtime." Luckily one of her clients dies and comes back as something called the Christmas Cupid, which apparently means she helps her find love with Chad Michael Murray. Just don't think about it too hard.

Dear Secret Santa, Lifetime

We're not sure what it is about made-for-TV Christmas movies that makes screenwriters decide to throw any semblance of logic out the door, but we're also not complaining. Because without that phenomenon, we wouldn't have this fine film about a woman who starts getting Christmas cards from a secret admirer who also happens to be the corpse of her recently-passed childhood friend. (And spoiler alert: They find love.)

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