TV & Movies

From Dolly to Charlie Brown, celebrate the holidays with these new and classic TV specials

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (again), and what better way to spend the holidays than curled up in front of the TV with friends and family?

The networks are pulling some classic shows from their vaults to match up with new musical specials and TV series for the season. They’ll be joined by streaming services adding new content to the calendar, including Amazon’s first holiday special. Celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Kasey Musgraves and Idina Menzel are sure to get fans excited about their seasonal fare. (And don’t forget the cable networks that are rolling out their holiday movies.)

So what should you watch this holiday season while eating cookies and wrapping gifts? Here are some highlights to whet your appetite. 

"The Simpsons" airs a special Thanksgiving edition of their "Treehouse of Horror." (Photo: Fox)

Thanksgiving TV feast

Respect the bird and give some Thanksgiving specials a little love.

Start out with Fox’s “The Simpsons” (Nov. 24, 8 EST/PST) and its first spooky “Thanksgiving of Horror” episode, twist to the holidays, sentient cranberry sauce included.

NBC celebrates a country legend with “Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Opry” (Nov. 26, 9 EST/PST). The singer performs for the two-hour special as well as Hank Williams Jr., Emmylou Harris and Dierks Bentley.

Spend the night before Thanksgiving with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (ABC, Nov. 27, 8 EST/PST) as the classic cartoon sees the Peanuts gang gather for a feast.

And before you watch football and get your turkey in the oven, tune in to NBC for another Thanksgiving tradition, “The 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” (Nov. 28, 9 a.m. EST/PST; repeats at 2 EST/PST). This year’s performers include Celine Dion, Black Eyed Peas, Debbie Gibson and a float dedicated to “Sesame Street,” which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Making music

One of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit is through music, and there are plenty of sing-along specials to choose from.

The musical spirit kicks off on Thanksgiving night (Nov. 28), with “The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration” (ABC, 8 EST/PST) hosted by Matthew Morrison, Emma Bunton and Jesse Palmer. The show’s performances from Disneyland and Walt Disney World include Sting, Shaggy, Pentatonix and former Spice Girl Bunton.

On Nov. 29, Amazon gets in the musical streaming spirit with its first holiday special, “The Kasey Musgraves Christmas Show.” The country singer and Grammy winner welcomes Fred Armisen, Camila Cabello, Zooey Deschanel and others to sing Christmas classics. Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”) serves as narrator.

Trisha Yearwood hosts the 10th annual "CMA Country Christmas" on ABC. (Photo: Martin DeBoer, ABC)

ABC is also celebrating a country Christmas with “CMA Country Christmas” (Dec. 3, 9 EST/PST). Singer Trisha Yearwood hosts her 10th special that features Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts.

Derek and Julianne Hough show off their family rivalry in NBC’s “Holidays with the Houghs” (Dec. 16, 10 EST/PST). The siblings put their own spin on holiday classics and share some of their family’s holiday traditions.

CBS has its own singing special on Dec. 22, with “Home for Holidays with Idina Menzel” (9 EST/PST). The Tony Award winner showcases songs from her new Christmas album, with performances by other artists including Adam Lambert and Kelly Rowland.

Holiday movies:Hallmark Christmas movies 2019 schedule

Seasonal series

Why enjoy just one special when you can have an entire series of holiday cheer?

Netflix gets into the spirit with “Merry Happy Whatever” (streaming Nov. 28), an eight-episode series starring Dennis Quaid as a father whose family is  upended when his daughter brings her boyfriend home for the holidays.

In “Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways” (NBC, Dec. 10-12, 8 EST/PST), Ellen DeGeneres gives life-changing gifts to unsuspecting people. The three-part special  also features appearances by Michelle Obama, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Aniston and Robert Downey Jr..

Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler are back for a second season of "Making It" on NBC. (Photo: Chris Haston, NBC)

If crafting is more your thing, there’s plenty of glitter and glue guns to go around. ABC brings back “The Great Christmas Light Fight” (starting Dec. 2, Mondays at 8 EST/PST) for a seventh season, as families compete to create the best outdoor decorations.

Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman are back with a second season of NBC’s “Making It” (Dec. 2-5 and 9-10, 10 EST/PST; two-hour finale, Dec. 11, 9 EST/PST). The time the “Parks and Rec” duo challenges  contestants to create holiday-themed crafts.

ABC’s “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition” (Dec. 12, Thursdays at 9 EST/PST) also returns with Paul Hollywood and Sherry Yard judging cakes, breads and cookies. The three-week season features 10 bakers from across the country.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" returns to CBS this season. (Photo: Classic Media)

Kids’ classics

Of course, the holidays wouldn’t be complete without Christmas classics.

“Frosty the Snowman” celebrates its 50th anniversary (CBS, Nov. 29, 8 EST/PST; Freeform, Dec. 6, 8 EST/PST) along with the modern classic “Frosty Returns,” starring John Goodman as the voice of the talking snowman.  Stop-motion classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” airs Dec. 2 (CBS, 8 EST/PST) and Dec. 6 (Freeform, 8:30 EST/PST). 

ABC has “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (Dec. 1, 8 EST/PST) with the voices of Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney. There’s also “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” featuring Charles M. Schultz’s Peanuts gang along with an anemic but well loved Christmas tree.

Don’t be a grinch about watching “How the GrinchStole Christmas”  (NBC, Dec. 3, 8 EST/PST), narrated by the legendary Boris Karloff. The live-action movie starring Jim Carrey airs on the network Christmas night (8:30 EST/PST).

"I Love Lucy Christmas Special" starring Vivian Vance, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and William Frawley. (Photo: CBS Entertainment)

More highlights

  • NBC once again airs “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed (Nov. 30 and Dec. 24, 8 EST/PST).
  • “Good Trouble” reunites the cast of “The Fosters” in a 2-hour Freeform special (Dec. 16, 9 EST/PST). 
  • The beloved “The Sound of Music,” starring Julie Andrews as the governess to a Naval official’s children, is on ABC this season (Dec. 15, 7 EST/PST).
  • “The I Love Lucy Christmas Special” colors CBS’s holiday calendar. The classic episode has aired as a colorized version on the network since 2015.

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