Following last year’s premiere of “Candy Coated Christmas,” featuring Food Network star Ree Drummond, Discovery+ is getting even more into the scripted holiday spirit with two new Christmas movies from Food Network — and the first two ever from HGTV, Variety has learned exclusively.
The Warner Bros. Discovery-owned cable channels have just wrapped production on the four features, which include cameos from HGTV’s “Home Town” hosts Ben and Erin Napier and “Love It or List It’s” Hilary Farr, as well as Food Network stars Bobby Flay and Duff Goldman.
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Titled “One Delicious Christmas,” “A Gingerbread Christmas,” “A Christmas Open House” and “Designing Christmas,” the four movies will all launch Friday, Nov. 11 exclusively on Discovery+.
Here are the official descriptions for the four new movies, with casts led by Katie Stevens, Jessica Szohr, Tiya Sircar and Vanessa Marano:
“A Christmas Open House”
Melissa Norwood (Katie Stevens) is an ambitious Atlanta property stager who teams with her old high school crush, David Phelps (Victor Rasuk), to sell her newly married mom’s home in their small Georgia home town. The place is cozy but hasn’t been updated in decades, so the two join up to renovate the place before a couple of wealthy potential buyers are due to see the house on Christmas Eve. Melissa would love to spend a portion of her budget on a few custom projects created by a unique couple, Henry and Sarah Wright (Ben and Erin Napier), who are gifted at small town home restoration and appreciate the legacy of a family home. Henry is a master woodworker and custom furniture builder, and Sarah is an artist with an expertise in color and transformative design choices. As Christmas approaches and the tensions grow, so does a romantic relationship between Melissa and David, but the fact that Melissa intends to return to Atlanta and start her own business with the cash she will get from the property sale, while David has no intention of leaving his home town, could be a deal breaker for their new relationship.
Directed by Emily Moss Wilson and starring Katie Stevens, Victor Rasuk, Bobbi Eakes, with HGTV’s Erin and Ben Napier, “A Christmas Open House” is produced by MarVista Entertainment.
For the past six years, interior designer Stella (Jessica Szohr) and contractor Pablo (Marco Grazzini), have charmed homeowners and viewers alike as co-hosts of the renovation show “House Sweet Home” by relying on their expertise and palpable on-screen chemistry despite not being an actual couple. After the owners of the home slated for their upcoming holiday episode pull out, Pablo and the “HSH” team convince Stella to be their next client in hopes of saving the episode and the show itself. This has a trepidatious Stella not only agreeing to renovate her family’s Victorian home with Pablo (a.k.a. The Sledgehammer), but also moving her impending nuptials to fiancé Jack (Mykee Selkin) up several months in a bid to make this their biggest and best episode yet. As Stella and Pablo labor together more closely than ever before to bring her family’s beloved home back from a state of disrepair in time for the Christmas Eve ceremony, Stella confides in her mentor Freddy (Hilary Farr) about the complicated and unexplored feelings that could jeopardize everything.
Directed by Pat Mills and starring Jessica Szohr, Marco Grazzini, Mykee Selkin, Leighton Williams, Fiona Highet, Eugene Clark, Nicole Power, with HGTV’s Hilary Farr, “Designing Christmas” is produced by MarVista Entertainment in association with Neshama Entertainment.
“A Gingerbread Christmas”
After a devastating workplace development throws Hazel Stanley’s (Tiya Sircar) job prospects as a full-time architect into question, she leaves NYC to spend the holidays with her father Ted (Sugith Varughese) in her suburban Chicago home town. While there, she discovers that the family bakery is even worse off than she imagined, having been on the decline since the passing of her mother. And to add insult to injury, her former best friend Shelby (Kyana Teresa) has opened a trendy new bake shop across the street. When all seems to be lost, she gets the idea to enter a Gingerbread house competition led by homegrown food celebrity Mark Clemmons (Duff Goldman) offering a $100k prize — enough to get the ailing bakery back on track. While working on her magnificent cookie edifice, a romance begins to bloom with a local contractor, James Meadows (Marc Bendavid), who — along with his daughter — has been helping her father out by lending his baking prowess to the place while trying to fix it up in his spare time. A series of frustrations and misunderstandings threaten to tear them apart, but will the magic of the holiday lead everyone to have a Merry Christmas?
Directed by Pat Kiley, and starring Tiya Sircar, Marc Bendavid, Sugith Varughese, Kyana Teresa, Karen Glave, Fereshteh Samimi, Maja Vujicic, with Food Network’s Duff Goldman, “A Gingerbread Christmas” is produced by MarVista Entertainment in association with Neshama Entertainment.
“One Delicious Christmas”
The future of Vermont culinary destination, Haven Restaurant and Inn, rests squarely on the shoulders of Abby Richmond (Vanessa Marano), who inherited the property from her parents. Unfortunately, managing both the restaurant and the inn is a 24/7 commitment, leaving no time for Abby to have a personal life. Her best hope is to secure an investment from restaurant mogul Alexandra Grantham (Kathy Maloney), who would provide much needed resources and guidance. But to do so, she’ll have to navigate rough waters after top food critic Tom Kingsley (Bobby Flay) visits Haven and gives Alexandra his menu feedback. Hot shot chef Preston Weaver (Alex Mallari, Jr) is brought in by Alexandra to “shake up” the holiday menu after Abby unexpectedly loses her longtime chef. Unbeknownst to Preston, the menu was curated by Abby’s late father, and she’s having a tough time letting go of it. Despite their undeniable chemistry, will they be able to put aside their differences in time for Alexandra and Tom’s Christmas Eve dinner visit, which will determine whether she invests in Haven or not?
Directed by Stacy N. Harding, and starring Vanessa Marano, Alex Mallari Jr., Elana Dunkleman, and Food Network’s Bobby Flay, “One Delicious Christmas” is produced by MarVista Entertainment in association with Neshama Entertainment.
“The holidays are huge for HGTV and Food Network, which together attracted 90 million seasonal viewers last year,” Kathleen Finch, chairman and chief content officer of US Networks Group at Warner Bros. Discovery, told Variety. “So we expanded our offerings and produced four scripted holiday features for Discovery+, each showcasing some of the biggest personalities on Food Network and HGTV. We will promote them to approximately 35% of the available cable audience by running spots on HGTV, Food and the rest of the WBD portfolio of 25+ cable networks, exposing our great talent to even more potential fans.”
MarVista’s senior vice president of creative affairs Larry Grimaldi added: “We are thrilled to partner once again with Food Network, and now HGTV, along with their phenomenal fan-favorite talent on four holiday films. MarVista’s passion and expertise in creating festive feel-good holiday stories, along-side Food Network and HGTV’s entertaining lifestyle content provide the gift that will keep on giving this holiday season!”
All four new Discovery+ holiday films are executive produced by Larry Grimaldi, Hannah Pillemer and Fernando Szew for MarVista Entertainment, as well as Sheri Singer. Neshama Entertainment’s Suzanne Berger and Arnie Zipursky executive produce three of the four films, while Megan Ellstrom is EP on “A Christmas Open House” and “A Gingerbread Christmas,” and Danielle von Zerneck executive produces “Designing Christmas.”
See below for Variety‘s Q&A with Finch about growing Discovery+’s lineup of Food Network and HGTV-produced scripted holiday movies.
How was the decision made to continue as Discovery+ exclusives, like “Candy Coated Christmas,” versus air the new scripted Food Network and HGTV movies on the linear channels as well?
After seeing how incredibly well last year’s “Candy Coated Christmas” did at bringing Food Network fans to Discovery+, we decided to expand the slate with four more titles. We can promote the scripted features on HGTV and Food Network, strategically messaging to those huge and passionate audiences, and then drive them to the perfect platform to binge the titles or enjoy them whenever the holiday mood strikes.
Why bring HGTV into the mix this year?
Food Network and HGTV both feature talent who are adored by their fans, and home and food are two things everyone thinks about when planning Christmas celebrations. Ree’s Food Network fans flocked to Discovery+ to see her in her first movie, so we knew we should include more of our top lifestyle talent. After Ree’s success, it was clear to us that HGTV would be a perfect brand fit for scripted holiday stories.
How did you choose the Food Network and HGTV talent that would be appropriate for each of the movies?
As we developed the scripts for all four projects, there were some very obvious story details and plot lines that helped inform who would best fit for each title. Ben and Erin Napier told us how much they love Christmas and Christmas movies, and how excited they would be to participate, so we developed an opportunity for them. Long before HGTV fans met Hilary Farr, she was an actress, so stars aligned for her to return to something she loves. And just thinking about the titles “Gingerbread” and “Delicious,” our first thoughts were unanimously Duff Goldman and Bobby Flay. Luckily for us they were all game, and now their fans will have a chance to see each of them in a new and wonderful way.
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