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Holiday Arts Preview

10 TV specials for some merry holiday viewing

BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER OMG holiday letters! The bragging manages to be even worse than on Facebook. This movie takes on the perception of perfection people often try to promote. Every Christmas, Brandy Norwood’s Jackie sends out a glowing holiday newsletter that makes her old college friend, Heather Graham’s Charlotte, feel like her life is a drag. Then Charlotte spends Christmas with Jackie. Netflix, Nov. 16

EXMAS Robbie Amell’s Graham decides to surprise his family by coming back home for Christmas. But wait, who’s that lady they’re already celebrating with? Why it’s his ex-fiancée, Leighton Meester’s Ali. Complications and competition ensue, leading the movie’s marketing team to come up with this tagline: “‘Twas the fight before Christmas.” Freevee, Nov. 17


THE ELF ON THE SHELF SWEET SHOWDOWN I know you are dying to be named an Ambassador of Confectionery Concoctions. See how it’s done on this series, as six teams create desserts that bring the holiday season to life. Who’ll win over judges Kardea Brown and Ashley Holt? Cake master Duff Goldman hosts the players as they adopt a Scout Elf. Food Network, Nov. 19

Hannah Waddingham stars in her holiday special "Home for Christmas."APPLE TV+

HANNAH WADDINGHAM: HOME FOR CHRISTMAS She broke through in America thanks to her Emmy-winning work as Rebecca on “Ted Lasso.” But she has a background in musical theater, and she can sing. Now Waddingham has a holiday special recorded live at the London Coliseum, on which she performs seasonal classics with a big band. She sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on “Ted Lasso,” so I’m betting it’ll be on her setlist. Apple TV+, Nov. 22

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT This is an adaptation of the 1922 children’s book by Margery Williams that winds up in every college student’s bookshelf. As a Christmas gift, a 7-year-old boy receives an old-fashioned stuffed rabbit. Can the rabbit become “real”? The new 40-minute special is a live-action animated hybrid, and it features the voices of Helena Bonham Carter, Alex Lawther, Paterson Joseph, and Nicola Coughlan (“Bridgerton”). Apple TV+. Nov. 22


CHRISTMAS AT GRACELAND Elvis and his story live on — at the movies, on the radio, in the tabloids, and at Graceland, which remains a popular tourist attraction. Here’s another extension of his empire. This year, Graceland will host a holiday concert produced by Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, actress Riley Keough. The network is promising performances by “A-list musicians.” NBC and Peacock, Nov. 29

CANDY CANE LANE Eddie Murphy stars in this holiday comedy, which is directed by Reginald Hudlin (who directed Murphy in “Boomerang” in 1992). He plays a man who’s so driven to win his neighborhood’s home decoration contest that he makes a deal with a mischievous elf to better his chances. Things go awry, naturally. Tracee Ellis Ross, Jillian Bell, Ken Marino, Nick Offerman, Chris Redd, and Timothy Simons costar. Amazon, Dec. 1

LADIES OF THE ‘80s: A DIVAS CHRISTMAS Am I having a 1980s-style hallucination? Loni Anderson, Morgan Fairchild, Linda Gray, Donna Mills, and Nicollette Sheridan are all together in this meta movie, playing former soap stars who reunite for a special episode of their old show. Rivalries reemerge, of course, as the divas fall back into some toxic habits. Need more ‘80s? The film’s theme song is performed by pop singer Tiffany. Lifetime, Dec. 2

ROUND AND ROUND Hanukkah, which begins on Dec. 7, gets a holiday movie with this “Groundhog Day”-esque story. Rachael, played by Vic Michaelis, is stuck in a time loop on the night of her parents’ Hanukkah party. That’s a lotta latkes! Maybe she can get some help from the guy her grandmother’s fixing her up with? He’s played by Bryan Greenberg, so I’m thinking yes. Hallmark Channel, Dec. 10


A VERY BARRY CHRISTMAS He’s 80, and he holds the record as the longest-running resident artist in Las Vegas (formerly held by Elvis Presley). Now Barry Manilow’s doing a holiday special filmed in Vegas, and it will no doubt feature him singing some of his most famous songs such as “Mandy” and “I Write the Songs.” But there will also be plenty of seasonal classics in the air, such as “Jingle Bells,” as well as a few guests (who’ve not yet been announced). NBC, Dec. 11

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.