Time to put away the pumpkins and witches and bring out the snowmen and Santas.
Yes, it seems too early to sing “Welcome Christmas (da hoo dorais ...),” but turn on the Hallmark Channel right now and you’ll find Christmastime really is here – at least on television.
Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” is under way with two full days of original movies leading off 1,200 hours of holiday programming airing daily through the end of the year in either movie “blocks” or daylong marathons.
Still feel this is too early? Viewers are tuning in right from the start in record numbers. “Countdown to Christmas” programming is so popular – it drew more than 65 million “unduplicated” viewers in 2012 – the network added 100 hours this year with 12 new original movies and other programming culled from about 90 original films in the Hallmark library.
“We hear all the time that viewers say they turn on Hallmark when the ‘Countdown’ starts and keep it on through Jan. 1. It’s our highest-rated time of the year,” said Michelle Vicary, Hallmark’s executive vice president of programming, who added viewers have an “emotional connection with the word Hallmark.”
“The Hallmark brand is synonymous with holidays, particularly with Christmas,” Vicary said. “It isn’t just watching a show on Hallmark, it’s about creating special moments and making people feel good about themselves and life.”
Over at Lifetime, that network’s holiday programming, airing under the banner “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime,” returns next Saturday with “A Country Christmas Story,” the first of seven new holiday movies debuting each Saturday night through Dec. 14.
The ABC Family Channel even has a countdown to its big “countdown” – the 16th annual kid-friendly “25 Days of Christmas” programming. Part of “Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas,” airing from Nov. 20-30, is the premiere of “The Christmas Bounty” on Nov. 26, with perhaps the most unlikely holiday movie star, Mike “the Miz” Mizanin from the WWE. As part of 300 hours of holiday programming, ABC Family will host specials for “Melissa & Joey” and “Baby Daddy” on Dec. 11.
The Hallmark Movie Channel spotlights the classics this season, with a Thursday night series starting at 9 p.m. Nov. 14 with “Holiday Affair,” a 1949 movie starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. On Nov. 25, the network will debut the original film, “Christmas With Tucker.”
In all, more than 20 new original holiday-themed movies will premiere this season, along with an overflowing array of classics and returning favorites.
Here’s a look at the new original films with premiere dates (all air multiple times). All premiere at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
• Tonight, Hallmark Channel: “The Thanksgiving House.” A lawyer (Emily Rose) inherits a home in Plymouth, Mass., and learns it could be the site of the first Thanksgiving. When her greedy boyfriend wants her to sell, she is helped by some unlikely people.
• Nov. 8, Hallmark Channel: “Pete’s Christmas.” This Walden Theater presentation is about a neglected middle child (Zachary Gordon) who relives his worse Christmas ever. With Molly Parker and Bailee Madison.
• Nov. 9, Hallmark. “Snow Bride.” A tabloid reporter (Katrina Law) out for the big scoop on a marriage in a political family gets caught in a comedy of errors that puts her in the middle of her own story. With Jordan Belfi and Patricia Richardson.
• Nov. 9, Lifetime. “A Country Christmas Story.” An Appalachian mountain girl (Desiree Ross) travels to Dollywood to pursue her singing career against her mother’s wishes. With Brian McKnight and Dolly Parton.
• Nov. 10, Hallmark. “A Very Merry Mix-Up.” An engaged woman (Alicia Witt), traveling to meet her fiance’s family at the holidays, has a very bad day at the airport where she meets – and later falls for – her future brother-in-law (Mark Wiebe).
• Nov. 16, Hallmark. “The Christmas Ornament.” A Christmas shop owner (Cameron Mathison) helps a recent widow (Kellie Martin) regain the holiday spirit.
• Nov. 16, Lifetime. “Twelve Trees of Christmas.” A librarian (Lindy Booth) rallies neighbors to save her library with a tree decorating contest. With Mel B. and Robbin Dunn.
• Nov. 17, Hallmark. “Catch a Christmas Star.” A pop music superstar (Shannon Elizabeth) reunites with her high school sweetheart (Steve Byers), now a widower with a 10-year-old daughter.
• Nov. 23, Hallmark: “Window Wonderland.” An uptight woman (Chyler Leigh) and fun-loving guy (Paul Campbell) competing for the same job as a window dresser find that opposites attract – with the help of some holiday magic.
• Nov. 23, Lifetime: “Kristin’s Christmas Past.” Kristin (Shiri Appleby) relives her worst Christmas Day when she awakens to discover it’s Christmas morning 1996. With Judd Nelson and Elizabeth Mitchell.
• Nov. 24, Hallmark. “Fir Crazy.” Can a newly downsized marketing exec (Sarah Lancaster) who lacks the holiday spirit find the miracle needed to save her family’s tree lot – and her heart? With Eric Johnson, Colin Mochrie.
• Nov. 25 (9 p.m.), Hallmark Movie Channel. “Christmas with Tucker.” This prequel to “A Dog Named Christmas,” a teen forms a bond with a neighbor’s dog and learns important lessons along the way.
• Nov. 26 (7 p.m.), ABC Family. “Christmas Bounty.” An elementary school teacher (Francia Raisa) returns home to take care of an old enemy from her days as a bounty hunter and becomes torn between her new finance and her ex-boyfriend (Mike “The Miz” Mizanin).
• Nov. 30, Hallmark, “Let It Snow.” An Arizona executive (Candace Cameron Bure) who “doesn’t do winter,” changes after visiting a quaint ski lodge her father’s company acquires to turn into a resort.
• Nov. 30, Lifetime. “Dear Secret Santa.” A woman (Tatyana Ali) who moves back to the house she grew up in receives a Christmas card from a secret admirer and learns a surprising truth about an old friend. With Jordin Sparks, Della Reese and Ernie Hudson.
• Dec. 1, Hallmark, “The Christmas Spirit.” A journalist (Nicollette Sheridan) visiting her family fights to save her town from a greedy land developer in a unique way.
• Dec. 7, Hallmark, “Santa Switch.” Kris Kringle (Donovan Scott) takes a holiday off, leaving a divorced dad (Ethan Erickson) in charge at the North Pole. With Sean Astin.
• Dec. 7, Lifetime. “Christmas in the City.” After a move to the big city, a woman (Ashley Williams) tries to bring the meaning of Christmas back to a department store that has replaced Santa with a hunky male underwear model. With Ashanti.
• Dec. 8, ABC Family. “Holidaze.” An executive (Jennie Garth) trying to convince her hometown to allow her company to build a big discount store, wakes up in an alternate universe where she never left home. With Cameron Mathison.
• Dec. 14, Hallmark. “Hats Off to Christmas.” A young widowed mother (Haylie Duff) has to train her bosses’ son for a promotion she wants in a Christmas hat shop. With Antonio Cupo.
• Dec. 14 (8 p.m.), Lifetime, “Christmas on the Bayou.” A Manhattan executive takes her son to visit her mom for Christmas on the bayou, where she rekindles an old romance. Starring Hilarie Burton, Tyler Hilton and Ed Asner.
• Dec. 14 (10 p.m.), Lifetime, “A Snow Globe Christmas.” A TV executive (Alicia Witt) hits herself on the head with a snowglobe, and wakes in a picture-perfect world married to her ex. With Donald Faison.
• Dec. 15, Hallmark. “Finding Christmas.” Christmas magic helps four people who are unlucky in love. With Tricia Helfer, JT Hodges, Mark Lutz and Cristina Rosato.
• Dec. 25: Hallmark Movie Channel. Classic film marathon from 9 a.m .to 11 p.m. featuring “Holiday Affair,” “Babes in Toyland,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “Christmas in Connecticut” and “It Happened on Fifth Avenue.”