For many, the holiday season is a time best spent with family and friends. For the rest of us, there's television.
For decades, TV has given us a treasure trove of holiday programming, from the true meaning of Christmas in A Charlie Brown Christmas to the delightful suicidal antics of Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life. But for every classic, there's sure to be several specials that might not be much better than awkward family tension. So without further adieu, here's Cultist's guide on what to expect when you're expecting holiday programming.
Christmas in Washington (Friday, December 16 at 8 p.m. on TNT)
Speaking of awkward family tension, there's probably no worse place we'd rather spend Christmas than in Washington. Lucky for us, this special won't involve Eric Cantor and Nancy Pelosi singing Christmas carols. Hosted by Conan O'Brien, the special's talented performers include Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, and Justin Bieber, all under the watchful eye of the President and First Lady.
Saturday Night Live Presents: A Very Gilly Christmas (Tuesday, December 20 at 9 p.m. on NBC)
Originally airing in 2009, we guess this special is now a holiday tradition with guest appearances from Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. If you're not like us, you'll enjoy Gilly's mischief and not be confused and annoyed in the slightest.
A Christmas Story Marathon (Saturday, December 24 on TBS)
You won't hear us criticize this tradition--24 hours of one of the greatest Christmas films ever made. That being said, because of this marathon we're not actually sure we've ever seen the film in one sitting. Each year we piece together all the parts we've caught throughout the day like our own festive version of Memento.
Disney Christmas Parade (Sunday, December 25 at noon on ABC)
There's no better place to celebrate Christmas than in California or Florida (really, who wants to shovel snow?), and both Disney parks will be broadcasting their annual parade with help from the Muppets, American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, the cast of Mary Poppins, and--we swear to God--Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, and Justin Bieber (are they all joined at the hip this season?), among others.
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Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas (every second of your life until Christmas is over)
Thoughtlessly preempting our 2 a.m. Cheers marathons, Hallmark has packed an entire month of inane Christmas specials into every waking (and non-waking) hour of your day. With powerhouse actors such as Dean Cain, Daniel Stern, and Judd Nelson, the marathon gives us original movies with fresh premises such as Christmas being canceled, Santa being put on trial (this is a completely separate movie from Miracle on 34th Street, by the way), and everybody learning the true meaning of the holidays.
Hallmark's also instituted a bizarre ratings system: films can be rated "S" for Santa, "J" for Joy, and "T" for tree-trimming. You'll know exactly what kind of holiday traditions are represented just in case you're desperate to watch a movie with tree-trimming. Just give ur Frasier Crane back, Hallmark, and we'll have a jolly, holly Christmas.