Must-watch 2020 Christmas specials to get in the holiday spirit

Must-watch 2020 Christmas specials to get in the holiday spirit

December is here, and that means a full platter of holiday viewing on your TV menu.

Whichever holiday you celebrate, there’s no shortage of festive programming across the broadcast, cable and streaming networks. And while things might be a bit different this year, with fewer opportunities for in-person celebrations, the small screen still has plenty of old favorites and new specials — including these holiday treats.

“Holiday Movies that Made Us”

Dec. 1 on Netflix

A spinoff of the 2017 series “Toys That Made Us,” this docuseries focuses on the behind-the-scenes stories of classic holiday films including “Elf” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” “Toys That Made Us” narrator Donald Ian Black returns for this followup.

“My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood”

Dec. 3 on HBO Max

The country superstar will perform classic Christmas songs as well as cuts from her recent album “My Gift.” The special will also include a duet with John Legend, as they sing “Hallelujah.”

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

"A Charlie Brown Christmas"
“A Charlie Brown Christmas”©United Features Syndicate

Dec. 4 on Apple TV+ and Dec. 13 on PBS

Good grief. The ’60s-era classic Peanuts movie featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and the gang will hit stream on Apple TV+ but don’t fret; if you’re not a subscriber, it will repeat nine days later on PBS and PBS Kids at 7:30 p.m.

“Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special”

"Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special"
“Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special”AP

Dec. 4 on AppleTV+

It’s all she wants for Christmas. The pop diva hosts her star-studded annual special, which this year includes Tiffany Haddish, Billy Eichner, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg, Jermaine Dupri and more.

“A Holly Dolly Christmas”

"A Holly Dolly Christmas"
“A Holly Dolly Christmas”CBS

Dec. 6 on CBS (8:30 p.m.)

Dolly Parton has had a busy 2020, between donating to the coronavirus vaccine, appearing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, having a Netflix musical (“Christmas on the Square”), putting out a book, and now hosting a CBS special. “Holly Dolly Christmas” will feature the 74-year-old superstar performing music from a candle-lit set.


Dec. 6 on HBO (9 p.m.)

Zendaya returns to her Emmy-winning role in the edgy HBO teen drama, which will have two specials ahead of a delayed Season 2 (which has no premiere date yet). The holiday special picks up after the tumultuous events of Season 1, when Rue (Zendaya) has been left by Jules (Hunter Schafer) and relapsed, as she celebrates Christmas.

“Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Musical”

Dec. 9 on NBC (8 p.m.)

“Glee” star Matthew Morrison will play the latest rendition of the classic grumpy Dr. Seuss character in NBC’s musical, broadcast from the Troubadour Theater in London and joining “Peter Pan” (Allison Williams) and “Jesus Christ Superstar” (John Legend) from years past. Co-starring Denis O’Hare and Booboo Stewart.

“High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special”

Dec. 11 on Disney+

This special holiday episode of the franchise finds the show’s main cast (Olivia Rodrigo, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Larry Saperstein, Julia Lester and more) discussing the holidays in-between performing classic songs. Series star Joshua Bassett will also perform his new song “The Perfect Gift.”

“The Christmas Setup”

"The Christmas Setup"
“The Christmas Setup”Lifetime

Dec. 12 on Lifetime (8 p.m.)

Lifetime’s first LGBTQ holiday movie stars real-life couple Ben Lewis (“Arrow”) and Blake Lee (“Fam). The plot follows New York lawyer Hugo (Lewis) who runs into Patrick (Lee), his high school crush when he returns home to Milwaukee for the holidays. Their romance is threatened when Hugo gets a work promotion that requires a move to London.

“The Walking Dead Holiday Special”

Dec 13 on AMC+

Yeah, we know: a zombie show is an odd contender for spreading cheer, but the pop-culture juggernaut is having its first-ever holiday special. It’s hosted by Chris Hardwick and will include cast members from all three shows in the ever-expanding franchise (“The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” and prequel series “The Walking Dead: World Beyond”).

“Love, Lights, Hanukkah!”

"Love, Lights, Hanukkah!"
“Love, Lights, Hanukkah!”Farah Nosh

Dec. 20 on Hallmark (8 p.m.)

Hallmark is known for its domination of Christmas TV movies, and 2020 is no different — but this year’s offerings also include a Hannukkah-themed movie celebrating the “Festival of Lights”(beginning Dec. 10) with stars Mira Kirshner (“The L Word”) and Ben Savage (“Boy Meets World”).