There is no war on Christmas. However, there is a war for Christmas—specifically, utter dominance over the campy Christmas movie. And this is not a game, do you hear me? THIS IS NOT A GAME!!!!
EW has revealed that this year, as part of their “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime” seasonal programming block, Lifetime will produce 28 original Christmas movies, a substantial increase over last year’s 18 original movies. But let’s put that development into its larger context—that of a vicious struggle for gingerbread-scented market territory.
Tensions among the various candy-cane factions have been mounting for a number of years. What we’d recognize as the modern basic-cable Christmas programming block, targeted largely to women, likely goes back to 1996, when “The Family Channel,” now Freeform, launched “25 Days of Christmas.” Eventually Lifetime built up its offerings in the space until unselfconsciously cheesy Christmas TV movies for women became, for a while, practically synonymous with the brand.
Then along came Hallmark.
The Hallmark Channel has spent the last few years pursuing utter triumph over Christmas with a focus and dedication reminiscent of a particularly hardcore Olympic athlete. Between their flagship channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, the brand churns out an enormous number of original movies—37 last year. They took a hit when they lost Lori Loughlin, but Hallmark quickly regrouped and is currently rolling out Christmas in July programming, which of course serves as a midyear reminder for seasonal fans. (Their Instagram recently announced that it’s a mere 23 weeks until Christmas.) In fact this year will be the tenth anniversary of their “Countdown to Christmas,” so expect a particularly frenzied promotional scheme.
Netflix, too, is heavily invested, after the unexpected success of the absolutely terrible A Christmas Prince. Their offerings this year include the return of Vanessa Hudgens, romancing a time-traveling medieval knight, and a musical starring Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville.
Hence, Lifetime’s dramatic expansion. They are developing their own recurring cast of characters, in the same style as Hallmark’s crew (Lacey Chabert, Candace Cameron Bure, Ali Sweeney, Holly Robinson Peete, etc.) They have Melissa Joan Hart and Tia Mowry-Hardrict returning:
(Hart stars as an event coordinator in Christmas Reservations, and a handsome widower factors into the wintry mix. Meanwhile, Mowry-Hardrict headlines A Very Vintage Christmas, which involves an antique shop and the search for the owner of a mysterious box filled with romantic souvenirs.)
Hallmark, however, is planning to roll out 40—FORTY!—original movies this year. Jezebel will be covering this heated battle in detail; if you have any juicy inside information about the deadly serious competition between all the various Christmas movie players, you know what to do: email@example.com, baby.