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. 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 ABC Family’s annual 25 Days of Christmas, we’ve put together this list, a celebration of the ridiculous plots that drive these movies, each their own little beautiful cinematic snowflake. All of them are available for streaming or download on a service of your choosing, while many of them will be airing on ABC Family this month (I’ll make a note of those for your DVR convenience). Now, without further ado, the most implausible ABC Family holiday movie plots, in increasing order of nuttiness.
Spoilers abound below. All times listed are ET.
11) 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 holiday, but it gives the whole thing a nice red and green hook.
Is it airing this month? Unfortunately, no.
10) 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) despite the fact 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 receives bonus points for casting Holly’s dad with the All-Time Great TV Father, Reginald VelJohnson.
Is it airing this month? Many times. December 7 at 12:00 a.m., December 8 at 1:00 p.m., December 18 at 12:00 p.m. and December 23 at 7:00 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 is among she may be the dumbest fictional character ever when it comes to understanding the rules of parallel universes.
Is it airing this month? Yes. December 17 at 12:00 a.m. and December 22 at 10:00 a.m.
8) Christmas Do-Over, paired with…
7) 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 December 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 breakdancing (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 for the festive purgatory.
In 12 Dates, it’s inconsiderate Kate (Amy Smart) who has fallen into a time loop on Christmas Eve, which thanks to some magical partridge in a pear tree jewelry being offered on a home shopping network on December 24. (Just go with it.) Her repetitive day includes a blind date with widower Miles (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and other various 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.
Are these airing this month? Negative on Christmas Do-Over, but 12 Dates will replay on December 9 at 7:00 a.m. and December 22 at 8:00 a.m.
6) 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 month? Nope.
5) 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 month? Yes. December 18 at 9:45 a.m. and December 22 at 12:00 p.m.
4) 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 month? You bet. December 11 at 11:00 a.m., December 19 at 12:00 a.m., December 22 at 12:00 a.m. and December 23 at 9:00 a.m.
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 will find. The title of Santa is passed on from father to son, a tradition that originated after a powerful wizard cursed a miserly ancestor. There are also 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 month? Yup. December 2 at 12:00 a.m., December 14 at 12:00 a.m., December 17 at 4:15 p.m.
2) 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 and only 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 month? Sadly, no.
The best and most insane ABC Family 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 snowglobe 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 snowglobe, 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 snowglobe where they love Christmas yet have no knowledge of the holiday’s origin and also have no idea they’re in a snowglobe. 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, everyone.
Is it airing this month? Yes, obviously. December 8 at 12 a.m., December 9 at 2:20 p.m. and December 21 at 4:30 p.m.