Every month that the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and continues to halt TV and film productions, the closer we get to running out of new things to watch. (If you’re unconvinced, check out the bleak and practically nonexistent network TV fall lineup.) But one company that seems to have an infinite supply of new programming is Netflix; the streamer is well positioned for the holiday season—emphasis on holiday. I mean, just look at this stacked slate that puts the Hallmark Channel to shame:
The holiday season is upon us!— Netflix Queue (@netflixqueue) October 7, 2020
Mark your calendars for these festive films and series ... and take a closer look at four... pic.twitter.com/dRpohaUm2o
This isn’t exactly breaking news: Netflix has spent the past few years cornering the cheesy Christmas content market and placing a priority on quantity over quality (with the exception of the perfect Christmas Prince trilogy, which is as thought-provoking as Mindhunter). But this year’s lineup feels like a flex: Pandemic be damned, Netflix will overwhelm you with holiday cheer. (Given the snowy locations of most of these shows and films, I would also assume they were filmed during the past winter, which explains why they’re still coming through in abundance.)
But unless you’re someone who’d willingly sit through each and every one of these new releases—perhaps the type of person to watch A Christmas Prince for 18 consecutive days?—the sheer volume of Christmas content is probably too overwhelming. So, to help you curate your Netflix Christmas binge, I’ll be poring through the premises of each holiday release that the streamer provided to pop culture bloggers, and, because I’m a blogger, I will rank them. For this highly scientific exercise, I’m excluding kids programming as well as returning shows; movie sequels are still fair game. I would also just like to add that it’s a travesty we aren’t getting a fourth Christmas Prince movie in 2020; a lump of coal for you, Ted Sarandos! Let’s get started.
12. The Holiday Movies That Made Us (coming to Netflix on December 1)
The premise: “This in-depth look at two iconic holiday movies (Elf, The Nightmare Before Christmas) uses behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interviews.”
Our verdict: Instead of watching a documentary about the making of Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas, I would rather rewatch Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m pretty sure Netflix already knows this is a half-assed piece of programming, because the premise itself is a half-assed single sentence.
11. Holidate (October 28)
The premise: “Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) hate the holidays. They constantly find themselves single, sitting at the kids’ table, or stuck with awkward dates. But when these two strangers meet one particularly bad Christmas, they make a pact to be each other’s ‘holidate’ for every festive occasion throughout the next year. With a mutual disdain for the holidays, and assuring themselves that they have no romantic interest in the other, they make the perfect team. However, as a year of absurd celebrations come to an end, Sloane and Jackson find that sharing everything they hate may just prove to be something they unexpectedly love.”
Our verdict: You can basically predict every single thing that will happen in Holidate—I wonder if Sloane and Jackson are gonna start dating when the credits roll!—which for some viewers is the film’s biggest selling point. I won’t complain about a cheesy holiday rom-com being predictable, but cynical single people hating the holidays is a tired cliché. If you want to enjoy Emma Roberts in a hokey romance, I cannot recommend Little Italy (costarring Hayden “I don’t like sand” Christensen) enough.
10. Operation Christmas Drop (November 5)
The premise: “Chasing a promotion, congressional aide Erica Miller forgoes family Christmas to travel across the Pacific at her boss’s behest. Upon landing at a beachside Air Force base, she clashes with her guide, Captain Andrew Jantz, who knows her assignment is finding reasons to defund the facility. The pilot’s pet project—Operation: Christmas Drop, a genuine, decades-old tradition where gifts and supplies are parachuted to residents of remote neighboring islands—has lawmakers wondering if his unit has too much spare energy. Despite their initial opposing goals, Erica softens once she experiences the customs and communal spirit of Andrew’s adopted home.”
Our verdict: First off, this is some top-notch CGI:
We have to award some points for creativity—without Googling anything, I will assume this is the first Christmas movie with a plot centering on the possible defunding of an army base because they use military supplies to drop presents in the Pacific around Christmas like they’re Call of Duty loot boxes. But I’m angry enough about the American government’s callous priorities in real life; I don’t need to watch a film in which Congress is actively trying to defund holiday cheer in Guam.
9. How to Ruin Christmas: The Wedding (Date TBD)
The premise: “When family rebel and disappointment, Tumi Sello, begrudgingly joins her dysfunctional family for the first Christmas holidays in years, it’s not the merry return of the prodigal daughter everyone was hoping for. She manages to ruin her younger sister’s Christmas wedding before it even takes place, and spends her next six days frantically trying to get things back on track.”
Our verdict: I love how the title implies that there will be future installments about other ways to ruin Christmas. (Get ready for How to Ruin Christmas: The Racist Uncle in 2021.) This passive-aggressive log line was definitely written by Tumi Sello’s disapproving family. I disapprove of all this negative Christmas energy.
8. Dash & Lily (November 10)
The premise: “A whirlwind holiday romance builds as cynical Dash and optimistic Lily trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City, finding they have more in common with each other than they would have expected. The series is based on the young adult book series Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares from the New York Times bestselling authors Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.”
Our verdict: Two complete strangers passing messages and dares to each other in a notebook? I’m sorry, that’s a catfish waiting to happen. Sometimes, the YouTube comments on a trailer know what’s good:
7. Holiday Home Makeover With Mr. Christmas (November 18)
The premise: “Benjamin Bradley, best known as Mr. Christmas, is a veteran in the interior design industry with a healthy obsession with the holiday season. For Mr. Christmas, the holidays are all about celebrating love, life, family, and friends through meaningful traditions. In the new Netflix series Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas, Bradley takes you behind the scenes as he puts his design expertise and vast Christmas collection to good use. Equipped with lights, garlands, and enough tinsel to blanket the North Pole, he and his team of elves work around the clock to bring holiday cheer to families and communities deserving of a home makeover for the most joyous time of year. Mr. Christmas invites viewers along for the ride to kick off the holiday season and get inspired to take their own home decorating and traditions to the next level.”
Our verdict: If the first episode sees Mr. Christmas confronting human grinch Melania Trump and her dystopian White House decorations, this series is jumping to the top of the list. Otherwise, the show just looks primed to fill the home-improvement programming void in your life (with a holiday spin, of course). But if you’re not the type of person to inhale everything that’s airing on HGTV, Holiday Home Makeover is probably worth a pass.
6. Tudo Bem No Natal Que Vem/Just Another Christmas (December 3)
The premise: “After taking a very nasty fall on Christmas Eve, grinchy Jorge blacks out and wakes up one year later, with no memory of the year that has passed. He soon realizes that he’s doomed to keep waking up on Christmas Eve after Christmas Eve, having to deal with the aftermath of what his other self has done the other 364 days of the year.”
Our verdict: The trailer’s in Portuguese, but basically this movie feels like a twisted love child of Groundhog Day and Adam Sandler’s Click. Jorge is skipping through years of his life and getting updates only on Christmas Eve—eventually it appears he’s divorced, and he starts sporting an unflattering ’stache. I’m sure Jorge will find a way to get back to the original Christmas when he blacks out and will learn to love the holiday season and what it represents, but the time-hopping premise is undeniably intriguing. Just Another Christmas might be no. 6 on this ranking, but it’s already no. 1 in Christopher Nolan’s heart.
5. The Princess Switch: Switched Again (November 19)
The premise: “When Duchess Margaret unexpectedly inherits the throne to Montenaro and hits a rough patch with boyfriend Kevin, it’s up to her double Princess Stacy of Belgravia to get these star-crossed lovers back together ... but the course of true love is complicated by the appearance of a handsome royal who’s intent on stealing Margaret’s heart. Throw in the unexpected arrival of Margaret’s outrageous party girl cousin Fiona, a third look-alike who has ambitions of her own, and you have the recipe for Christmas triple trouble!”
Our verdict: What was once a festive spin on The Prince and the Pauper is now just the core material for a shameless exercise in sequel-making. Still, The Princess Switch was admittedly delightful and corny as hell. It might not be A Christmas Prince, but since these films apparently exist in the same cinematic universe (!), I’m holding out hope for a Queen Amber cameo in Switched Again. The prospect of three Vanessa Hudgenses running around would’ve been a lot more appealing if the actress hadn’t been … uh … wildly irresponsible in March, broadcasting a denunciation of COVID-19 prevention measures. I’m deducting points for that. Nevertheless, this sequel is begrudgingly making the watch list.
4. The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two (November 25)
The premise: “It’s been two years since siblings Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy Pierce (Judah Lewis) saved Christmas, and a lot has changed. Kate, now a cynical teenager, is reluctantly spending Christmas in Cancun with her mom’s new boyfriend and his son Jack (Jahzir Bruno). Unwilling to accept this new version of her family, Kate decides to run away. But when a mysterious, magical troublemaker named Belsnickel threatens to destroy the North Pole and end Christmas for good, Kate and Jack are unexpectedly pulled into a new adventure with Santa Claus (Kurt Russell). Written and directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter) and costarring Goldie Hawn, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is an action-packed adventure for the whole family that’s full of heart, humor, and holiday spirit.”
Our verdict: The Christmas Chronicles—or as I’d come to call it, the Hot Santa movie—feels like one long confirmation of Kurt Russell’s enduring sex appeal at age … 69. (You can’t make this stuff up.) His actual partner, Goldie Hawn, made a cameo at the end of the first film as Mrs. Claus, and it’s clear from the trailer that she’s a straight-up costar in this sequel. A full-on Christmas-themed blockbuster is one thing; that the movie is all to celebrate one of Hollywood’s famous couples is iconic. If Wyatt Russell doesn’t show up as Santa’s son, I’m deducting a star from my future review.
3. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (November 22)
The premise: “A rich and nasty woman, Regina Fuller, returns to her small hometown after her father’s death to evict everyone and sell the land to a mall developer—right before Christmas. However, after listening to stories of the local townsfolk, reconnecting with an old love, and accepting the guidance of an actual angel, Regina starts to have a change of heart. This is the story about family, love and how a small town’s Christmas spirit can warm the coldest of hearts. Featuring 14 original songs with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton.”
Our verdict: While the implication that Christine Baranski, who is playing Regina, would be a Scrooge-type person is insulting, there’s no way this will be the worst A Christmas Carol–inspired adaptation ever made—Steven Knight’s Gritty Scrooge will hold that title until further notice. Also, this movie comes with an album’s worth of new music from Dolly Parton, whose pivot to Christmas content is going to put Michael Bublé on notice. I haven’t been this excited for a Netflix soundtrack release since—and this is a real thing—Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
2. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (November 13)
The premise: “A musical adventure and a visual spectacle for the ages, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a wholly fresh and spirited family holiday event. Set in the gloriously vibrant town of Cobbleton, the film follows legendary toymaker Jeronicus Jangle (Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker) whose fanciful inventions burst with whimsy and wonder. But when his trusted apprentice (Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key) steals his most prized creation, it’s up to his equally bright and inventive granddaughter (newcomer Madalen Mills)—and a long-forgotten invention—to heal old wounds and reawaken the magic within. From the imagination of writer-director David E. Talbert and featuring original songs by John Legend, Philip Lawrence, Davy Nathan, and “This Day” performed by Usher and Kiana Ledé, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey reminds us of the strength of family and the power of possibility.”
Our verdict: Are you not already sold on a visual spectacle called Jingle Jangle featuring A-list collaborators providing performances and original songs? Here’s Forest Whitaker playing Jeronicus Jangle looking like a sentient quilt:
I rest my case.
1. Überweihnachten/Over Christmas (Date TBD)
The premise: “A three-part Christmas miniseries starring Luke Mockridge—one of Germany’s most popular comedians—as likable loser Bastian who travels home for Christmas only to be confronted with the fact that his brother is now dating his ex-girlfriend. As the brothers fight and bicker through the Christmas period Bastian fails to notice that the parents are hiding something … ”
Our verdict: Where to begin? If Luke Mockridge doesn’t sound to you like a very German name, that’s because he’s an Italian Canadian comedian who lives in Germany. (Does this mean the series is in English? No clue!) Then there’s the name Überweihnachten, which if you told me was the name of a Hefeweizen, I’d take your word for it. (Per Google, Über Weihnachten translates to “over Christmas,” and should be two separate words.) But most importantly: What the hell are “likable loser” Bastian’s parents hiding from him?! A secret sibling? An impending divorce? Bodies in their backyard? Did they run over a reindeer? Have they secretly been Mr. and Mrs. Claus his whole life and he never noticed? Why is this the only available photo for the miniseries?
The log line for Überweihnachten offers more questions than answers. That may be counterintuitive, but it’s worked like a charm. I am now fully invested in the holiday adventures of Bastian and the not-actually-German comedian who plays him. Prost!