Holiday TV: Singing with Dolly Parton, decorating with 'Mr. Christmas' and more

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Dolly Parton speaks to the crowd as the honoree for MusiCares' Person of the Year in Los Angeles on February 8, 2019. - Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Yes, anxious viewers, there will be a network-television airing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” this year. Also, the 56-year-old “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And for all you wild and crazy youngsters out there, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” will be barreling your way, its unfathomable charms still a mystery after 20 years.

While it is true that all of us desperately need to get out of the house, most of us still want (need?) to take refuge in the holiday-TV bubble. And bless their pointy little heads if the TV elves aren’t doing everything they can to keep us swaddled in tinsel, twinkle lights and nostalgia until the calendar flips mercifully to 2021. Starting with two new offerings from Netflix and moving on to a curated list of what’s playing when, here is a peek inside the holiday-TV snow globe. The emotional weather outside is frightful, but inside the bubble, it is all comfort and joy all the time.

— “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square”

Given the delightful news that the promising COVID-19 experimental vaccine from Moderna was funded in part by a $1 million donation from Dolly Parton, I would love to say that “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” is the TV cure for your shutdown ills. Sadly, it is not.

Instead, this new musical is more of a placebo-effect proposition. Given its impressive list of active ingredients (co-stars Dolly Parton and Christine Baranski, director/choreographer Debbie Allen) and bright Netflix stamp of approval, “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” seems like something that should make you feel better, so you might convince yourself that it has. But that doesn’t mean it actually works.

Baranski stars as Regina Fuller, a cold-hearted businesswoman who returns to her small hometown for the Scrooge-like purpose of selling the whole adorable place to a mall developer. Do all of the nice townspeople have to vacate Main Street by Christmas? They do. Will they sing a bunch of wordy, not-at-all-memorable songs first? They will. Are there “It’s a Wonderful Life” references? Dogs in sweaters? Philosophical musings from a little girl who is wise beyond her years?

Yes, yes and — heavy sigh — yes.

Parton wrote the words and music for this song-packed production, and they do not represent her finest creative hour. If these bland, exposition-heavy little tunes stick in your head past the closing credits, you might need to lay off the eggnog lattes. Our beloved Dolly has better luck with on-screen duties, playing a glittery, wise-cracking angel with a 24-karat twinkle in her eye and that wonderful, woodsy twang in her voice.

Parton and Baranski are a very watchable team, as are Parton and Jeanine Mason, who plays a perky angel-in-training named Felicity. But pretty much everything else — the flimsy sets, Allen’s surprisingly rote choreography, Maria S. Schlatter’s scattershot script — has a bargain-bin feel that doesn’t scream “Holiday Magic!” so much as “Everything Must Go!”

Dolly Parton would be a national treasure even if she hadn’t donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University for coronavirus research, and she will remain a treasure despite “Christmas on the Square.” This is one holiday-TV gift that isn’t worth unwrapping. (Streaming now on Netflix.)

— “Holiday Home Makeover With Mr. Christmas”

If you need a little spirit right this very minute, “Holiday Home Makeover With Mr. Christmas” might just be your ticket to Escapetown, USA.

The “Mr. Christmas” of this new Netflix series is Benjamin Bradley, a Manhattan-based interior designer and Christmas fanatic who typically spends his Novembers and Decembers transforming people’s homes into showcases worthy of this most wonderfully obsessive time of the year. For this four-episode series, which was filmed in a bustling, people-packed 2019, the chipper Bradley and his team of decorating elves drop in on regular folks who have written to him with holiday-worthy challenges. And in the course of three days, Mr. Christmas works some surprisingly doable holiday miracles.

In the first episode, Bradley is tasked with helping Patrice and Kalvin from New Jersey transform their new home into a wonderland awesome enough to persuade Patrice’s mother, Angela, to let the couple host the family’s Christmas Day festivities. In the second episode, Bradley drives his vintage red truck to West Islip, New York, where he helps the members of the volunteer fire department continue the holiday traditions started by their Christmas-loving fire chief, who passed away earlier that year.

Part decorator and part therapist, Bradley juggles fraught human emotions and big design challenges with grace and snappy good humor. He breaks down even the biggest projects into manageable chunks, and many of the DIY decorating projects — handprint ornaments, a dessert tray made of oven-melted peppermints — are inventive and not at all intimidating. Sort of like Mr. Christmas himself. (Streaming now on Netflix.)

— Your holiday viewing guide

CLASSICS: “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”: Nov. 27 and Dec. 25 at 8 p.m., NBC. “Frosty the Snowman”: Nov. 27 at 8 p.m., CBS. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”: Nov. 27 at 9 p.m., the CW. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. “Radio City Christmas Spectacular”: Dec. 2 at 10 p.m., NBC. “A Charlie Brown Christmas”: Streaming for Apple TV+ subscribers beginning Dec. 4 and free for nonsubscribers Dec. 11-13. The 1965 classic also airs on Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m. on KPBS and at 7:30 p.m. on PBS Kids. “It’s a Wonderful Life”: Dec. 24 at 8 p.m., NBC.

FOOD: “Holiday Baking Championship”: Mondays at 9 p.m., the Food Network. “Christmas Cookie Challenge”: Mondays at 10 p.m., the Food Network. “Sugar Rush Christmas”: Streaming on Netflix beginning Nov. 27. “The Great British Baking Show: Holidays”: Streaming on Netflix beginning Dec. 4.

ORIGINAL MOVIES: There are more than 60 new holiday movies in circulation on the Hallmark, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, OWN and Lifetime cable channels, as well as on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and other streaming outlets. Check your holly-jolly on-screen guide for information.

SPECIALS: “The Disney Holiday Singalong”: Nov. 30 at 8 p.m., ABC. “CMA Country Christmas”: Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. ABC. “The Voice Holiday Celebration”: Dec. 3 at 8 p.m., NBC. Re-airs on Dec. 16 and 22. “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special”: Streaming on Apple TV+ beginning Dec. 4. “High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special”: Streaming on Disney+ beginning Dec. 11. “The Christmas Caroler Challenge”: Dec. 11 at 8 p.m., the CW. “NBC’s New Year’s Eve Special”: Dec. 31 at 10 p.m. (Part 1) and 11:30 p.m. (Part 2), NBC.

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