From “CMA Country Christmas” to an angelic Willie Nelson.
It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, as country music superstars start to twinkle (and, in some cases, twang) in holiday-themed movies and TV specials. Here are three exceptional offerings available for viewing this week on broadcast and cable television.
CMA Country Christmas
Jennifer Nettles returns as host for this year’s edition of the annual Yuletide variety show, taped before a live audience at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Among the notables with whom she’ll be making merry during the two-hour extravaganza: Brad Paisley, Loretta Lynn, Trisha Yearwood, Kacey Musgraves, Rascal Flatts, Brett Eldredge, Kelly Clarkson, Andrea Day and Idina Menzel. (8 pm Monday)
Willie Nelson is perfectly cast in this pleasant comedy-drama as Nick, a cheery old fellow might really be Santa Claus, or even an angel — or, really, anything else that Austin college professor Michael Walker (Harry Connick Jr.) might need to jump-start his seasonal ho-ho-hoing. After a long and fruitless search to find an affordable home for himself, his wife (Connie Britton of Nashville) and their son (Chandler Canterbury), Michael is surprised and grateful when Nick offers to sell him a spacious and beautifully appointed house at a fraction of the going cost for such a prime property. But, of course, there’s a catch: After the purchase, Michael discovers his home is located in a neighborhood world-famous for spectacular Christmas decorating — endless lights, live Nativity scenes, tons of fake snow, etc. — by the holiday-happy residents. All of which annoys — and pains — Michael, who hasn’t celebrated Christmas since the accidental death of his brother (for which he feels partly responsible) on Dec. 25 many years ago. Devotees of the Austin music scene may be amused to see that, in addition to Nelson, performers ranging from Dale Watson and Marcia Ball to The Trishas and Charlie Sexton make cameo appearances. Texas music icon Lyle Lovett is quite funny in the somewhat larger role of a Christmas-spirited neighbor who’ll do anything, even lend Michael a decorated ladder, to spark his holiday spirit. (3 pm Tuesday, Hallmark Movie Channel)
Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love
In this family-friendly sequel to Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, last year’s top-rated TV movie based on Parton’s enduringly popular 1971 song, viewers are invited to return to the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, where young Dolly (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and her loved ones face new challenges and strengthen family ties. In the new film — directed by Stephen Herek (Mr. Holland’s Opus), who also helmed its predecessor — an unexpected blizzard threatens the Parton clan just as Dolly’s father (Ricky Schroder) and his children are making sacrifices to raise enough money to buy Dolly’s mom (hey — it's Jennifer Nettles again!) a very special gift. Meanwhile, an important person in little Dolly’s life recognizes that her amazing voice and musical talents might be gifts meant to share far from rural Tennessee. Dolly Parton herself appears in a cameo role as... well, let's just say you may have to explain her character to your kids. (9 pm Wednesday, NBC)