John P. Fleenor/Fox; Ron Batzdorff/NBC; ABC/Ron Tom)
'Tis the season, and nothing says the holiday season is upon us more than what's on TV screens (and laptops, phones and tablets) in December. Here's how our favorite shows are doing the holidays, as well as a listing of movies and specials, including classic holiday fare that you've watched every year since you were a kid,
This Is Us Tuesday, Dec. 6, 9/8c, NBC
Considering This Is Us’s time-jumping style, it should come as no surprise that the dramedy’s holiday episode will feature emotional ghosts of Christmas past and present.
“We’ll be seeing Christmas Eve when the kids were 10, and now, when they’re 36 and everyone is at crossroads,” creator Dan Fogelman says. “The final act is where the family all comes together and the stories combine.” And the big red bow on top? Teases Fogelman, “There is going to be a surprise ending…which I can’t talk about.” Bah, humbug. —Ingela Ratledge
The Goldbergs Wednesday, Dec. 14, 8/7c, ABC,
Well, you certainly can’t accuse ’80s-era sitcom The Goldbergs of relying on tired seasonal clichés. To add flavor to the high school Christmas concert, Barry (Troy Gentile) “composes what might be the greatest holiday rap song ever written,” says creator Adam F. Goldberg. “It’s about Judah Maccabee, and it’s historically inaccurate and utterly absurd.” (To wit: the accompanying “Dreidel-Dactyl.”)
Meanwhile, younger bro Adam (Sean Giambrone) manages to score a bootleg copy of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. “It’s the geek Holy Grail,” says Goldberg. “But when he watches it and doesn’t fall in love with it, Adam has a true existential crisis.” —IR
American Housewife Tuesday, Dec. 13, 8:30/7:30c, ABC
It’s Christmas in tony Westport, Connecticut, and while her neighbors are polishing the Waterford crystal in preparation, harried Otto mama Katie (Katy Mixon) is determined to keep the festivities on a budget. She’s not even getting in a “tree guy”!
“For the Ottos, fitting in with the rest of Westport is an uphill battle,” exec producer Kenny Schwartz says. “Gluten-free, raw vegan muffins just aren’t the same as cookies.” We agree. —Aubry D’Arminio
John P Fleenor/FOX
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Tuesday, Dec. 13, 8/7c, Fox
Hark! The civil servants sing…as a citywide caroling contest pits the Nine-Niners against a Mass Transit Authority crew. Elsewhere, Jake (Andy Samberg) and Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) run afoul of the Latvian mob while tracking a sentimental gift for Boyle’s adopted son, who couldn’t celebrate Christmas growing up in an Eastern European orphanage.
Says exec producer Dan Goor with a laugh, “The holiday was canceled once for snow, once because of wolves and another time because of famine.” —Damian Holbrook
The Real O’Neals Tuesday, Dec. 13, 9:30/8:30c, ABC
Break out the mistletoe! ’Tis the season for romance on The Real O’Neals, when sparks fly between middle O’Neal kid Kenny (Noah Galvin) and his new choirmate Brett (Scream’s Sean Grandillo).
“It’s unexpected, heartening and real,” Galvin says of the duo’s budding relationship, Kenny’s first. “It may inspire a musical number—like only love and Christmas can do.” —Marisa Roffman
Movies And Specials
Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas Now through Dec. 25, Freeform
The network formerly known as ABC Family continues its holiday tradition with a marathon of Yuletide movies and specials through December. Highlights include everything from stop-motion classic The Little Drummer Boy to seasonal comedies like Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
The Great Christmas Light Fight Season premiere Dec. 5, 8/7c, ABC
The brightest competition on TV returns for its fourth season with families from across the country turning their homes into blinding winter wonderlands. The winning clan pockets $50,000—which is a lot of cash for stocking stuffers.
Taraji’s White Hot Holidays Dec. 8, 8/7c, Fox
Empire’s tough Cookie Taraji P. Henson hosts her second annual music and variety special with guests Pharrell Williams, Missy Elliott, Alicia Keys and others.
A Christmas Wedding Date Dec. 10, 8/7c, Lifetime
Lifetime is airing a slew of beloved Christmas movies this holiday season, including this 2012 romantic comedy about a career woman (Marla Sokoloff) who must attend a Christmas Eve wedding in her hometown right after she is fired from her high-powered job.
A Nutcracker Christmas Dec. 10, 8/7c, Hallmark
Person of Interest vet Amy Acker stars in this film about a former ballerina who gets a second chance at love—and dance!—when her niece (Dance Moms’ Sophia Lucia) is cast in The Nutcracker.
White House Christmas Special Dec. 11, 6/5c, HGTV
Volunteers and staffers give the inside scoop on the months of preparation that go into decorating America’s First Home, from the first lady’s choosing a theme to the lighting of the Christmas tree.
Holiday Baking Championship Dec. 18, 9/8c, Food Network
Bobby Deen hosts this festive cooking competition series in which nine renowned bakers face off for the chance to win a cool $50,000—plus all the glory that comes with knowing you made the best holiday fruitcake in the country.
Terry Crews Saves Christmas Dec. 20, 8/7c, The CW
Scrooges, begone—it’s Terry Crews to the rescue with a Yuletide intervention! In this new five-part series, the beefy Brooklyn Nine-Nine star helps hapless Christmas enthusiasts up their game. With input from top food, beverage and design experts, he’ll turn their hot messes into a holiday they’ll never forget.
Doctor Who Christmas Special Dec. 25, 9/8c, BBC America
He’s the biggest December 25 tradition we’ve stolen from Britain since figgy pudding! The Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) annual Christmas outing finds him teaming up with a superhero (Justin Chatwin) for the first time to combat an alien corporation hell-bent on taking over New York.
ClassicsThe Year Without a Santa Claus
12/5, 4/3c, Freeform
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
12/20, 4:30/3:30c, Freeform
A Charlie Brown Christmas
12/22, 8/7c, ABC
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
12/23, 8/7c, NBC
A Christmas Story 24-Hour Marathon
12/24, 8/7c, TBS
It’s a Wonderful Life
12/24, 8/7c, NBC
Miracle on 34th Street
12/25, 11am/10c, HBO
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year
12/26, 9/8c, ABC