Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” is almost here

When it comes to making TV a part of your holidays, there are a lot of options out there, but you have to give this at least to the folks at Hallmark Channel: commitment. As of Nov. 12, the network’s Countdown to Christmas begins, bringing more than 1,300 hours of holiday-themed programming to viewers over seven weeks. Each Saturday and Sunday, Hallmark Channel will premiere at least one new original movie, collectively featuring an impressive array of talent both familiar and unexpected for Hallmark viewers, including Billy Ray Cyrus, Vivica A. Fox, Melissa Gilbert and Sir Roger Moore. Daytime will be full of helpful holiday editions of The Martha Stewart Show, Mad Hungry With Lucinda Scala Quinn and Martha Bakes, in addition to primetime Christmas specials like The Holiday Christmas Parade. New to the lineup this year is the animated special Jingle All the Way, which should appeal to fans of the stop-motion animation classics of the Rankin/Bass variety.

More details will be available soon in our online 2011 holiday programming guide, but in the meantime, here’s a quick peek at some highlights that you can expect from this titan of tinsel-and-garland TV:

Lucky Christmas

Hallmark Channel, Nov. 12 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Elizabeth Berkley, Jason Gray-Stanford

A single mother who’s having to go back to waitressing during the holidays, Holly could use a bit of luck — and gets it when she wins the lottery, but loses it as quickly when her car containing the ticket is stolen. But when the thieves find the ticket, they devise a plan to get some of that prize money — but one of them is about to discover that there’s more to Holly than her lottery winnings.

Cancel Christmas
Hallmark Channel, Nov. 13 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Judd Nelson

In this unusual take on the St. Nick story, the Christmas Board of Directors issues an ultimatum to Santa, telling him that he has 30 days to render Christmas less commercial — or lose it forever.

A Christmas Wedding Tail
Hallmark Channel, Nov. 19 (6pm ET/PT)
Stars: Jennie Garth, Brad Rowe, Tom Arnold, voices of Jay Mohr and Nikki Cox

When two pooches fall in love, they conspire to get their owners to follow suit in this holiday story of canine matchmaking.

The Case for Christmas
Hallmark Channel, Nov. 19 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Dean Cain, Rachel Blanchard

Santa finds himself in hot water in this preposterous story of a sporting goods mogul who files litigation against the right jolly old elf for neglect, having been denied luxury loot like a yacht when he was a youngster.

A Christmas Wish
Hallmark Channel, Nov. 20 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Kristy Swanson, Edward Herrmann, Tess Harper

When the no-good husband of a struggling mother with two children leaves her for the last time and drains her bank account, leaving her homeless, she throws herself at the mercy of a new town full of strangers.

Debbie Macomber’s Trading Christmas
Hallmark Channel, Nov. 26 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Faith Ford, Tom Cavanagh, Gil Bellows, Gabrielle Miller

The third in Hallmark Channel’s Debbie Macomber series, this film tells the story of the unintended and potentially romantic consequences of a holiday house swap.

Holiday Engagement
Hallmark Channel, Nov. 27 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Bonnie Somerville, Shelley Long, Jason Bridges, Haylie Duff

Pressure from mom to marry is at the heart of this holiday comedy that has one woman’s daughter hiring a faux fiancé to bring home to mother at Christmastime.

A Princess for Christmas
Hallmark Channel, Dec. 3
Stars: Sir Roger Moore, Katie McGrath

When a young, single woman who’s down on her luck and caring for her orphaned niece and nephew gets an invitation to spend Christmas with a Duke at his castle in Europe, the magic of the season may not be all that’s just in time.

Annie Claus Is Coming to Town
Hallmark Channel, Dec. 10 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Vivica A. Fox, Vicki Lawrence

Santa’s daughter takes a trip to sunny Los Angeles in search of love and her possible future happiness, but one of Santa’s elves has plans of his own that may interfere.

The Christmas Pageant
Hallmark Channel, Dec. 11 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Melissa Gilbert, Rob Mailhouse

An uptight Broadway theater director loses job after job until the only work she can find brings her to direct a small upstate town’s Christmas pageant — where her ex-fiancé happens to live, and who recommended her for the job.

Christmas Comes Home to Canaan
Hallmark Channel, Dec. 17
Stars: Billy Ray Cyrus, Liam James, Rodney Freeman, Emily Tennant

Billy Ray Cyrus reprises his role — and premieres a new original song — in this sequel to last year’s popular original film about striving for racial equality in the ’60s-era American South.

Christmas Magic
Hallmark Channel, Dec. 18 (8pm ET/PT)
Stars: Lindy Booth, Paul McGillion

When an ambitious event planner receives a head injury in a car accident during a snowstorm, the powers that be charge her with the task of helping a struggling and desperate restaurant owner before she can pass over into heaven.


Photo: ©2011 Crown Media United States  Credit: Alexx Henry Studios