Forty-five days before the big holiday, Christmas is all over TV already. Hallmark Channel premiered two holiday movies last weekend, and is starting its round-the-clock “Countdown to Christmas” this weekend, while debuting two more new films.
Bet we’ve never had a TV Christmas so early before.
Um, take that bet. Turns out Hallmark started its nonstop “Countdown” the same time last year. And had a “Holiday Open House” festival of yule movies the weekend before that. They start early to make room for an upcoming 1,300 hours of holiday TV (counting both Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel).
“It’s starting early because the audience is asking for it,” says Hallmark TV program chief Michelle Vicary (who admits it’s also the time its parent company does its big Christmas kickoff in Hallmark stores).
This means Christmas festivity now starts less than a week after Halloween. Commercial pressures? Not only. “I go to the social networks to gauge if we’re doing things right,” says Vicary, and response there to last weekend’s “Holiday Open House” was wildly enthusiastic. “We’ve heard nothing but positive reaction, because they couldn’t wait to see the movies and be in the Christmas spirit.”
Well, who wouldn’t want to be? It’s warm and welcoming, full of family and traditions, cool decorations, lavish food, festive lights: sigh.
Must be true of the households watching ABC Family, too. That channel’s December event “25 Days of Christmas” is now traditionally preceded by November’s “Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas,” which starts Nov. 20.
You probably can guess why the yule now seems to air endlessly. “From mid-November through December,” says Hallmark’s Vicary, “75 million viewers come to our network. We see our audience spike by about 30 percent going into the holidays, and they stick with us all through the season.” Beyond, too: Hallmark stays all-Christmas through New Year’s, when Vicary says she thinks “a lot of people who’ve been busy with the meals and the decorating can sit down and see the movies they may have missed.”
So, yes, it’s commercial. But it’s only commercial because viewers want to watch all those heart-rending reunions and realizations. “A quality movie that is emotional, that connects people, that is about relationships, and that’s hopeful,” Vicary says. “It’s not good enough just to have a story set at Christmastime; we want to tell a true Christmas story.”
Early Christmas on TV
Today-Jan. 1: “Countdown to Christmas” (hallmarkchannel.com/christmas)
Nov. 20-Nov. 30: “Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas”
Dec. 1-25: “25 Days of Christmas”
New Hallmark movies
Sunday: “Cancel Christmas” with Judd Nelson (8 p.m.)
Nov. 19: “A Christmas Wedding Tail” with Jennie Garth (6 p.m.); “The Case for Christmas” with Dean Cain (8 p.m.)
Nov. 20: “A Christmas Wish” with Kristy Swanson (8 p.m.)
More holiday TV
Nov. 21: “2 Broke Girls” (CBS)
Nov. 22: “A Muppets Christmas” (CW)
Nov. 24: “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas” (Fox)
Nov. 24: “The Simpsons” (Fox)
Nov. 24: “Miracle on 34th Street” (TCM)
Nov. 25: Animated specials: “Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas” (CBS); “The Elf on the Shelf” (CBS); “Jingle All the Way” (Hallmark)