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Dolly, Mariah, and Ralphie: Our Guide to 2022's Best Holiday Specials, Movies, and Shows

Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey, Pentatonix, and more bring joy to the world of TV.
  • Photos: HBO Max, NBC, Disney+, CBS, ABC (Primetimer graphic)
    Photos: HBO Max, NBC, Disney+, CBS, ABC (Primetimer graphic)

    Holiday lovers are in for a treat with this year’s lineup of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s specials and premieres. Nostalgia is on the menu as Tim Allen reprises his role as Scott Calvin a.k.a. Santa Claus in the Disney+ original series The Santa Clauses. Fans of A Christmas Story will be treated to the return of Peter Billingsley as Ralphie in HBO Max's A Christmas Story Christmas. Even the Walton family is back for a second holiday special on The CW.
     
    If holiday musicals are more up your alley, Pentatonix are traveling the globe, bringing Christmas cheer in the Disney+ musical, Pentatonix: Around the World for the Holidays. Country music legend Dolly Parton headlines the NBC holiday special Mountain Magic Christmas, while pop queen Mariah Carey belts out her favorite holiday hits in Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas to All! on CBS. And because the holidays aren’t complete without sweets and desserts, check out The Great British Baking Show: Holidays Season 5 on Netflix, as past competitors reunite to vie for the title of the best yuletide baker. 
     
    With holiday programming at an all-time high, Primetimer’s put together this guide to the merriest and brightest options.
     
    The Santa Clauses
    Premieres November 16 on Disney+

    Tim Allen returns in this new series from Jack Burditt (30 Rock, Frasier). After being Santa Claus for nearly 30 years, Scott Calvin (Allen) struggles to keep up with the demands of the job, and juggling responsibilities as a husband and father. When Scott discovers there’s a way to retire from his post, he considers stepping away from the role and finding someone worthy to step in his shoes, so he can spend more time with his family. The cast includes Elizabeth Mitchell, Kal Penn, Rupali Redd,  Devin Bright, and David Krumholtz. 
     
    A Christmas Story Christmas
    Premieres November 17 on HBO Max
    Peter Billingsley is back as a grown-up Ralphie in this long-awaited sequel to the classic 1983 holiday film, A Christmas Story. Ralphie, who now has his own family, must deal with Christmas and all the challenges that come with it. In addition to Billingsley, other actors reprising their roles from the original film are Ian Petrella as Ralphie’s younger brother Randy, Scott Schwartz as Flick, R.D. Robb as Schwartz and Zack Ward as Scut Farkus. New cast members include Erinn Hayes as Ralphie’s wife Sandy, River Drosche as son Mark, Julianna Layne as daughter Julie, and Julie Hagerty as Ralphie’s mother. 
     
    The Great British Baking Show: Holidays Season 5
    Premieres November 18 on Netflix

    Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith are back for another season of holiday-themed baking challenges, where they'll judge creations based on their techniques, flavor, and holiday spirit. Special guests — the cast of Russell T. Davies's It's a Sin will make an appearance— and familiar faces will stir up sweet holiday magic as the judges name the best Yuletide baker. 
     
    Spirited
    Premieres November 18 on Apple TV+

    Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell, and Octavia Spencer star in this holiday musical comedy, which offers a fresh take on A Christmas Carol by being told from the perspective of the ghosts in Charles Dickens's classic story.  Each Christmas Eve, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell)) selects one dark soul to be reformed by a visit from the three spirits. But Clint Briggs (Reynolds) turns the tables on his ghostly host until Present finds himself reexamining his own past, present, and future.
     
    The Waltons’ Thanksgiving
    Premieres November 20 at 8:00 PM ET on The CW

    In this follow-up to The Waltons’ Homecoming, the Walton family prepares for Thanksgiving 1934. John Walton (Teddy Sears) has found a way to provide for his family during the Depression by picking up odd jobs from the eccentric Baldwin Sisters. John Boy (Logan Shroyer) learns the true meaning of taking responsibility, Mary Ellen (Marcelle LeBlanc) comes to understand patience and collaboration, Grandma (Rebecca Koon) finds that winning can be complicated, and Olivia (Bellamy Young) shares her healing heart with every other Walton family member at a time when they need it most. 
     
    The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
    Premieres November 25 on Disney+

    The Guardians, who are on a mission to make Christmas unforgettable for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), head to Earth in search of the perfect present. The cast includes Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, and The Old 97’s, along with Michael Rooker and Kevin Bacon. The Guardians Holiday Special will also reportedly act as an epilogue to Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 
     
    The Hip Hop Nutcracker
    Premieres November 25 on Disney+

    The Nutcracker ballet gets a hip hop twist thanks to Run DMC’s Reverend Run. On the night of the annual New Year’s Eve Block Party, Maria-Clara’s mom and pop aren’t getting along and it’s bringing her down. Maria-Clara embarks on a holiday adventure to bring her parents back together. Will it be enough to rekindle their lost love before the clock strikes midnight?
     
    Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas
    Premieres December 1 at 8:00 PM ET on NBC

    The modern-day movie musical takes viewers backstage to see the making of a network TV special. Throughout the production numbers and rehearsal chaos, Dolly finds herself taking a private journey into her past, guided by the mysterious appearances of her personal Three Wise Mountain Men. A renewed and inspired Dolly goes rogue, showing the world that the real magic of Christmas lies in our inner child and how faith remains the common thread between Christmases past, present and future. Special guest appearances by Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jimmie Allen, Zach Williams, and Miley Cyrus. 
     
    Pentatonix: Around the World for the Holidays
    Premieres December 2 on Disney+

    The superstar a capella group is struggling to find inspiration for their holiday album. Even worse, their manager mistakenly locks them in a magic mailroom. But with the help of some Disney magic, they’re soon on a whirlwind tour around the world, discovering holiday traditions and inspiration from Pentatonix fans all around the globe: from Tokyo to Grenada, Ghana to Mexico and Iceland. The fun-filled journey leads the group to realize that wherever we find ourselves, the holidays offer the perfect opportunity to discover how much we have in common. 
     
    iHeart Radio Jingle Ball 2022
    Livestream December 9 on The CW app and CWTV.com
    Premieres December 17 at 8:00 PM ET on The CW

    Presented by Capital, this year’s iHeart Jingle Ball Tour has a star-studded lineup of today’s hottest artists, including Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Jack Harlow, Pitbull, Black Eyed Peas, Backstreet Boys, Sam Smith, Khalid, Lewis Capaldi, Charlie Puth, and more. Kicking off on November 29th in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, the annual tour will make stops in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Tampa, before wrapping up in Fort Lauderdale/Miami on December 18th.
     
    Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration
    Premieres December 15 at 8:00 PM ET on ABC, streams next day on Disney+

    This two-hour animated and live-action blended special will pay tribute to the original Disney Animation’s Beauty and the Beast and its legacy by showcasing the fan-favorite movie, along with new memorable musical performances, taking viewers on a magical adventure seen through the eyes of Belle. Grammy and Academy-award winning singer H.E.R. takes on the role of Belle and Josh Groban plays Beast. David Alan Grier, Rizwan Manji, Shania Twain, Rita Moreno, Jon Jon Briones, Joshua Henry, Leo Abelo Perry, and Elle Naomi round out the all-star cast. 
     
    Ghosts Christmas special
    Premieres December 15 at 8:00 PM ET on CBS

    The supernatural comedy will feature a special double holiday episode. When Jay’s (Utkarsh Ambudkar) sister Bela (Punam Patel) returns to Woodstone Mansion for a holiday visit with a platonic male friend in tow, Samantha (Rose McIver), inspired by the holiday rom-coms she adores, makes it her mission to spark a holiday romance between them. Meanwhile, the ghosts have conjured up a very different holiday plan which also involves Bela.
     
    Lego Masters: Celebrity Holiday Bricktacular
    Airing over three nights at 8:00 PM ET on Fox: December 19, 20, and 21

    Will Arnett hosts the three-night special, which features fan-favorite builders from past seasons who team up with celebrity guests, all working together to compete in jaw-dropping holiday-themed challenges for the $100,000 grand prize, the ultimate LEGO trophy, and title of Lego Masters. Special guests includeRobin Thicke, Cheryl Hines, Finesse Mitchell, and the late Leslie Jordan, all playing for the charities of their choice. 
     
    Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas to All!
    Premieres December 20 at 8:00 PM ET on CBS, streams next day on Paramount+

    Mariah Carey performs a repertoire of her festive hits, including "All I Want For Christmas Is You," at Madison Square Garden. Carey is the best-selling female artist of all time, with more than 200 million albums sold to date and 10 Billboard Hot 100 #1 singles.  The holiday special is a co-production of Sony Music Entertainment and Supply & Demand. Mariah Carey, Joseph Kahn, Charleen Manca, and Nicola Doring are executive producers.
     
    CMA Country Christmas
    Premieres December 8 at 9:00 PM ET on ABC

    This seasonal showcase rings in the holiday spirit with performances by first-time hosts Gabby Barrett and Carly Pearce. Jimmie Allen,  Louis York, The Shindellas, Breland, Brett Eldredge, Lady A, Pistol Annies, Carrie Underwood, and Lainey Wilson all come together for the finale — a special collaboration featuring two student musicians, supporting CMA’s commitment to support equity in music education. 
     
    Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 
    Airs December 31 at 8:00 PM and 11:30 PM ET on ABC

    Live from Times Square, host Ryan Seacreast will ring in the near year with co-host Liza Koshy, celebrating 2022's best in music with a night of superstar performances. Musical guests include Journey, Ja Rule and Ashanti, Avril Lavigne and Travis Barker, Big Boi with Sleepy Brown, Don Omar with Nio Garcia, French Montana, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with Windser, Polo G, Walker Hayes, and more. 

    Rebecca Theodore-Vachon is a tv and film critic whose work has been featured in Harpers Bazaar, Shondaland Magazine and Indiewire. Follow her on Twitter at FilmFatale_NYC.

    TOPICS: Holiday Programming, ABC, Apple TV+, CBS, FOX, Netflix, Paramount+, Beauty and the Beast, Ghosts, The Great British Baking Show, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Lego Masters (US), The Waltons, The Waltons' Thanksgiving, Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey, Pentatonix