This story was originally published on Dec. 1, 2015. It has been updated with airdates and streaming info.
One of our favorite December traditions is the annual deluge of original made-for-TV holiday movies. Many channels enter into the fray, but we’d like to propose no one pushes the boundaries of plot synopses quite like ABC Family (now known as Freeform). Generally their original holiday movies fall into one of three categories. The first is a movie that could easily just be a normal romantic comedy or family drama that is sprinkled with juuuust enough Christmas elements to qualify as a holiday movie. The second is taking a holiday classic and trying to put an original spin on it, either by replacing a plot point — or combining it with a second or even third film for a festive Frankenstein monster. The third category results from what we’d suspect is loading up on some hallucinogenics, blasting some Bing Crosby, and seeing what lands on the page.
To celebrate the kickoff of Freeform’s annual 25 Days of Christmas, we’ve put together this list, a celebration of the ridiculous plots that drive these movies, each its own little beautiful cinematic snowflake. They’re available on demand from most cable services and for streaming on the Freeform website if you log in with a cable provider account. You can also purchase them on Amazon Prime and the iTunes Store, while a few — but not enough — will be airing on Freeform this month (I’ll make a note of those for your DVR convenience). Now, without further ado, the most implausible Freeform holiday movie plots, in increasing order of nuttiness.
Warning: Holiday movie spoilers abound below. All times listed are ET.
12) Christmas Bounty
Let’s start with something relatively simple. Tory (Francia Raisa) is a former bounty hunter from a family of New Jersey bounty hunters. When a criminal from her past threatens her family, Tory’s temporarily pulled out of her life as a teacher in Manhattan and back into the fray along with her rich, upper-crust boyfriend, who’s not aware of her previous profession. Christmas Bounty also features former Real World housemate and WWE champion the Miz as Tory’s ex-boyfriend (nicknamed “Mikey Muscles,” obviously) and a Die Hard level of gunfire for a holiday film. There’s no particular reason this film has to be set during the holidays, but it gives the whole thing a nice red-and-green hook.
Is it airing this year? Unfortunately, no — but it’s available for purchase on YouTube.
11) The Mistle-Tones
Basically it’s Pitch Perfect, or any movie where a ragtag group of performers goes up against an established group — plus Christmas. Holly (Tia Mowry) is denied a spot in the Christmas pop music group the Snow Belles by the evil Marci (Tori Spelling), even though a) Holly is a great singer and b) Holly’s late mother founded the group. Holly decides to start her own ensemble to compete with the Belles, and is surprised to find that her uptight boss Nick is secretly a talented vocalist and a crowd favorite at the local bar (think Duke Silver). She blackmails him into joining the group with a video of his karaoke performance and the two eventually begin falling in love while whipping their group of singers into shape. This movie also features the common made-for-TV holiday movie trope of “Choosing between a big promotion at work and family/love,” but it receives bonus points for casting Holly’s dad with the All-Time Great TV Father, Reginald VelJohnson.
Is it airing this year? Twice to accompany your breakfast: Dec. 5 at 7:30 a.m., and Dec. 20 at 7:30 a.m.
Think It’s A Wonderful Life, if the point of that movie was to examine the age-old question Can women can really have it all? Mel (Jennie Garth) is a high-powered executive living the big city dream at box store company Save Now. (A line from Mel within the first five minutes of the movie: “I just don’t buy that women can have it all — I think they have to make a choice.” Sorry, ladies.) The evil corporation has plans to open their extremely important 100th store in Mel’s hometown of Streetsville (actual name) and destroy the community of small businesses there. Mel goes home to visit her family and ensure that the deal goes through, but encounters opposition from her ex-fiancé, Carter (Cameron Mathison). After a knock on the head (concussions play a bigger part in these movies than you would expect), Mel wakes up in an alternate universe where she stayed in Streetsville and married Carter.
Mel — the owner of a cafe in this alternate dreamverse — soon finds herself on the other side of the fight against Save Now, but just as soon as she adjusts to her new life, another head injury sends her back to Reality One. With a new perspective on things, she risks her job to save Carter’s inn, which would be demolished to build the Save Now. Our heroine discovers you can indeed have it all, although it should be noted she may be the dumbest fictional character ever when it comes to understanding the rules of parallel universes.
Is it airing this year? Nope — but it’s available for purchase on iTunes.
9) Christmas Do-Over, paired with…
8) 12 Dates of Christmas
Both films are your Groundhog Day-style time loops, only Christmasy. In Do-Over, Kevin (Jay Mohr) is our prickly protagonist who needs to learn some holiday spirit, so he’s forced to relive Christmas at his ex-wife’s parents’ celebration after his son wishes every day was Dec. 25. He uses the repetitions to: Abuse and embarrass his ex’s new doctor boyfriend (who bought her a Lexus and was planning on proposing), practice break dancing (there’s a reason!), attempt to hike a mountain (he’s trapped due to a boulder on the only road out of town, obviously), and eventually become a good enough person to free him from the festive purgatory.
In 12 Dates, it’s inconsiderate Kate (Amy Smart) who has fallen into a time loop on Christmas Eve, thanks to some magical partridge in a pear tree jewelry being offered on a home shopping network on Dec. 24. (Just go with it.) Her repetitive day includes a blind date with widower Miles (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and various other Christmas obligations, which include attempting to win back her ex-boyfriend, helping her neighbor bake, and enduring dinner at her dad’s. Dates gets the edge in quality here because “Magic home-shopping network” is way crazier than “Child’s Christmas wish” as far as time loop initiators go.
7) Chasing Christmas
Another Christmas Carol adaptation with a few interesting twists. Our Scrooge is Jack (Tom Arnold), who loathes the holiday after his wife cheated on him during their daughter’s elementary school Christmas pageant. (Wow, nice work, Mom.) Instead of just witnessing Jack’s lack of Christmas spirit, we also see the inner workings of the Christmas specters as they prepare for their big night of soul saving, find out the origin of A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens was a 19th century target of the ghosts and chose to write about the experience), and establish the technical term for Marley’s role in the whole evening (“point of contact”).
Things take a turn when the Ghost of Christmas Past (Leslie Jordan) has a mental break and leaves Jack in 1965, which forces the Ghost of Christmas Present (Andrea Roth) to travel through time in an attempt to track Past down before all three are trapped. As far as I know, this is also the only Carol adaptation where the Scrooge attempts to seduce the Ghost of Christmas Present in a ski-lodge hot tub.
Is it airing this year? Nope — but it’s available for purchase on YouTube.
6) Christmas Cupid
Another A Christmas Carol, this time mixed with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and a little dash of Entourage. Sloane (Christina Milian) is our Scrooge, a Hollywood publicist and generally terrible person/friend/daughter, who’s happily sleeping her way to the top of her firm. When party girl client Caitlin (Ashley Benson) dies after choking on a martini olive (yep), she returns as the Marley of this story, intent on helping Sloane see the error of her ways before Christmas. (The premiere of Caitlin’s new movie and her memorial service are on Christmas Day, which leads me to believe that Sloane’s firm is perhaps not that good at its job.) The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come are all played by Sloane’s exes in an attempt to reunite her with college boyfriend/kindly doctor Patrick (Chad Michael Murray). Credit to both this and Chasing Christmas for acknowledging their source material, although this film’s original title, The Ex-Mas Carol, was probably more fitting. Note: This is only the second most insane movie starring Milian on this list.
Is it airing this year? Yes. Dec. 14 at 11:30 a.m.
5) Holiday In Handcuffs
Oh boy. Trudie Chandler (Melissa Joan Hart) is having a rough go of it, missing a job interview and getting dumped by her boyfriend right before Christmas. Naturally she responds as any normal person would, kidnapping David (Mario Lopez), a customer at the restaurant where she waitresses, with the plan of presenting him to her family as her boyfriend. (She snatches him with an antique pistol and the titular handcuffs.) How does this plan not immediately fall apart? Well, Trudie tells her family that David pretends he’s a kidnapping victim due to social anxiety, which is probably medically accurate. Trudie’s family is also big on gathering everyone’s keys and phones so as not to distract from the holiday bonding, leaving David no means of escape or contacting the outside world.
David and Trudie start to really fall for one another (over a game of chess), and he starts to really play along, kissing Trudie and even proposing to her in front of her family. (How did he plan to handle this once he returns to his real life and the Chandlers never see him again? Not really addressed; it’s the thought that counts.) Eventually he manages to contact his future mother-in-law (David is very successful and very engaged), and the police rescue him, but in reality it was Trudie who rescued his heart. After deciding not to press charges because he saw the amount of family pressure his abductor was under, the movie ends with David kidnapping Trudie in order to profess his love.
Is it airing this year? You bet. Dec. 21 at 12:35 p.m.
In a movie that’s a mix of The Santa Clause with a little dash of Prancer, Tom Cavanaugh portrays Old Saint Nick, going with the alias of Nick Snowden as he attempts to retrieve one of his reindeer, Buddy, from a California zoo. He tries to win the help (and love) of zoo employee Sandy (Ashley Williams) while battling big game hunter Buck (Patrick Fabian), who originally tranquilized Buddy, who has that name despite the fact this movie came out a year after Elf. (They never specify if Buck was hunting in the North Pole or if Buddy wandered all the way to California. Either option is confusing for its own reasons.) Santa and his reindeer have the ability to travel from any mirror in the world to any other mirror in the world, a power used for horror movie effect at one point when Nick sneaks into Sandy’s room while she’s sleeping to steal the key to the reindeer enclosure.
This movie also contains one of the darker Santa mythologies you’ll find. The title of Santa is passed on from father to son, a tradition that originated after a powerful wizard cursed a miserly ancestor. Also, there are no elves, and it seems like Nick lives alone at the North Pole with just his reindeer for companions. (He can communicate with them, so we suppose it’s not that lonely.) In the sequel, Snow 2: Brain Freeze, Nick gets amnesia just before Christmas and has to be reminded by Sandy and the magic of Christmas that he is Santa. So we guess she forgives him for that home invasion.
Is it airing this year? In a crime against the Christmas season, no. (It is available for purchase on iTunes, though.)
3) The Dog Who Saved Christmas
This movie answers the eternal question “What would happen if you remade Home Alone but replaced Macaulay Culkin with a dog voiced by Mario Lopez, and also cast Dean Cain as the burglar instead of Joe Pesci?” Lopez provides the inner monologue of Zeus, a former police dog who has lost his bark and his job on the force. He’s adopted by the Bannisters and left behind when they travel to grandma’s house for Christmas. Ted (Cain) and his partner plan on breaking into the Bannister home while they’re gone, but they’re thwarted by a mix of Zeus-designed booby traps and incompetence that helps give Zeus the confidence to bark again.
This is actually the first of six total The Dog Who Saved… movies, with Christmas, Christmas Vacation, Halloween, Easter, the Holidays, and Summer all being rescued by Zeus. The first sequel to air on ABC Family, The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation, features Paris Hilton as the voice of Bella, a romantic interest for Zeus. And yes, Dean Cain is the antagonist in all six Saved movies.
Is it airing this year? Sadly, no — but you can purchase it on YouTube.
2) Angry Angel
Please try to stick with me here as I attempt to explain 2017’s entry into the canon, because it is a doozy. In the world of Angry Angel, people who die who lived good lives but not the best lives serve time on earth as angels doing kind deeds until they get into heaven. (There is a system tracking points, like The Good Place, only on an app where you get updates and alerts for potential miracles.) Allison Pyke (Brenda Song) died of an unnamed disease in her early twenties and is working to gain enough points in New York City, where her heavenly adviser is Jason Biggs, who is playing… Jason Biggs. (Per Biggs, a lot of celebrities – Drake, Sandra Bullock, RuPaul — are actually angels.) Once you reach a certain number of points, you are allowed entry into heaven, which is depicted as an opulent country club reached by taking a bus to Schenectady, New York.
Our heroine gets her point total just before Christmas and is ready to head to heaven when she runs into Patrick, her widowed husband, and his new girlfriend. Here’s the thing in Angry Angel: When you die, you get a new body and head straight to earth to do your angel work, meaning you could technically reach out to your loved ones to let them know you’re okay, although that would be breaking the rules. (The only punishment? A loss of points. You’d think that letting humanity know the secrets of the afterlife would be more an eternal damnation-type of offense, but okay.) Things get incredibly dark as we delve into a love triangle between an innocent guy who’s attempting to move on from the death of his true love a decade prior, his innocent girlfriend who also is grieving a lost love, and a woman who died at a young age and now must watch her former husband attempt to move on with his life while she waits to ascend to heaven. Oh, also Allison is hooking up with the chef at the restaurant where she works. (Angels need jobs.)
I cannot overstate how quickly things get dark — it opens with Allison saving a plane full of people in an extended plane crash sequence, pounding drinks while distraught passengers make phone calls to loved ones to say what they think are their final goodbyes — while also casually raising a lot of potentially disturbing theological questions, such as who exactly picks the items that are alerted in the angel app as miracles? Many of the potential miracles involve saving lives, which means your fate could come down to a) Did someone put your impending death into an app? b) Did an angel take the time to save you? I’m not sure I would recommend this movie, but I can confidently tell you it’s going to haunt me for the rest of the month.
Is it airing this year? Yes, a whole bunch because it’s new. December 5 at 2:30 p.m., December 6 at noon, December 15 at midnight and 3 p.m. and December 20 at midnight and 10:30 a.m.
The best and most insane Freeform holiday movie, forever and always. Angie (Christina Milian again) is looking for love (at the insistence of her mother, played by Lorraine Bracco) and the perfect Christmas. When a mysterious mailman delivers a magical snow globe containing a holiday village, Angie finds herself transported there when she falls asleep. Everyone is extremely friendly (think of a more benign Pleasantville), and she finds the perfect guy in Douglas, kind snow shoveler and ice skater. (It also seems like there is no religion in the snow globe, as no one had heard the story of Mary and Joseph when Angie tells it at dinner.) Problems arise when Angie disturbs the natural order of things within the globe, wedging herself between Douglas and his girlfriend, Marie, and things escalate when both skaters find their way outside of their idyllic town and into Angie’s world of Brooklyn. Between magical adventures, Angie falls for her neighbor, good guy architect Eddie (Josh Goode).
So to recap, we have a love rhombus involving two people who live inside a snow globe where they love Christmas yet have no knowledge of the holiday’s origin and also have no idea they’re in a snow globe. This all plays out in front of Angie’s stereotypically New York extended family and is absolutely bonkers in every possible way. God bless us, every one.
Is it airing this year? Yes, but only once, which is a dang shame: Dec. 6 at 7:30 a.m. It’s also available to stream on Freeform.com.
Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas kicks off on Dec. 1. For the full schedule, click here.
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