On TV, it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas, and everyone wants to be a part of it. While legendary holiday specials such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are rerun every year, networks and streaming sites are churning out new programming in the hopes of capitalising on the holiday enthusiasm and establishing new viewing habits.
Inside the Mad Rush to Produce Holiday Programming on Television
Hallmark Channel is the most well-known name in holiday television, thanks to its original Christmas rom-coms. Work on this season’s 38 films, 22 of which will air on Hallmark Channel and 16 on its sister channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, began last year. “We were starting to go through all of the scripts that come in, of which we receive hundreds, and select those that we want to develop further,” said Michelle Vicary, Crown Media’s executive vice president of programming. “We began producing them in late 2017 and will continue to do so throughout the year.” You can imagine that when you film 38 Christmas movies, we refer to the studio as Santa’s Workshop all year. On our 2019 slate, we’ve started development and are in the early stages of production.” Hallmark also broadcasts the first Christmas programming of the season. In 2010, the network put a period of 24/7 festive programming on the air to test the audience’s appetite for early wassail, which provided immediate good results.
As a result, Hallmark began airing its Countdown to Christmas programming earlier and earlier each year, with the latest instalments airing just before Halloween. “There is such a thing as too early,” Vicary added, “but we haven’t struck it yet.” “On Oct. 27, we had our first premiere, ‘Christmas at Pemberley Manor.’ It had a No. 1 rating for Saturday night right out of the gate.” While Netflix has dabbled in the rom-com poinsettia pond with films like “The Princess Switch” and the sequel to “A Christmas Prince,” it has also pushed out content through its produced series. Despite the fact that the dark Archie Comics adaptation “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” – starring Kiernan Shipka – only premiered this past Halloween, a Christmas episode is now available to stream on December 14. “Sabrina” will be shot in two seasons, with the first season consisting of ten episodes. The idea for a Christmas episode came to series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa shortly after Season 1 wrapped. “We were actually breaking and writing what would have been the first episode back, which was the beginning of a new great tale for Sabrina, and we realised that we would have naturally skipped through Christmas,” he explained. “We made a Halloween show about Sabrina’s baptism and a Thanksgiving episode about the Feast of Feasts.”
We missed out on Christmas, which is a shame because there are so many fantastic ghost and horror stories set over the holiday season. ‘Oh, is this a standalone?’ Netflix said when I contacted to tell them we were doing this. ‘Would you like to make this a one-of-a-kind project?’ “A Midwinter’s Tale” is not a stand-alone episode. While there are some episodic elements – Sabrina has troubles while having a seance, and her companion Susie (Lachlan Watson) has a horrific journey while costumed as Jingles the Christmas Elf, an Archie Comics character – the plot follows the continuity between the two seasons. Because production had already begun, this made shooting difficult. As a result, they had to shoot out of sequence, with one episode of Season 2 being shot before the actors and crew began work on the Christmas episode. Making a horror-tinged Christmas episode was a natural fit for Aguirre-Sacasa. “I think there’s this perception that the holidays are when we’re safest and most together in our homes,” he remarked. “I believe that the thought of that being endangered or violated is primordial. The first thought was to do Krampus, but everyone has already done Krampus. Krampus has become a household name. However, there are several Christmas legends, and we particularly liked Gryla because she was a witch.
It’s a good thing we can do witches on our show whenever we can.” Because of the holiday setting, the episode was shot in July and took a few days longer to complete than the typical 11-day schedule. “The only thing we had to do in Greendale was to make winter.” “That was one of the most difficult problems,” Aguirre-Sacasa remarked. “We attempted to shift the heavens and the earth. We wrote the episode, prepped it, shot it, and then hurried to finish it in time for a December release. Because of the preparation process, you must provide episodes to Netflix 45 days before they are released. It wasn’t like they had a lot of time on their hands. It was a race to the finish.” The sixth season of “The Great Christmas Light Fight” premiered on ABC on Nov. 26. Four American families compete in the reality competition show to see who has the most magnificent and gaudy Christmas light displays.
The show’s first several seasons were set to air in October, which meant it needed to locate people willing to have their homes fully decorated and camera-ready months in advance, often while the weather was still pleasant. “We never actually faked anything,” executive producer Brady Connell stated. We’d show folks setting up their lights in their shorts out in the open. You could tell just by looking at the judges’ outfits. When we were shooting in southern California and Arizona, Carter [Oosterhouse] donned short-sleeved shirts a couple of times.” Those October shoots offered most of the contestants a good start on their holiday preparations. “I’m guessing everyone that put up the lights for us in October left them up for the season,” Connell added. “And since they’re so extravagant, maybe one out of every 20 or 30 now leaves their lights up all year.” They merely go in and fix things that have been damaged by the weather, replace lights, and so on.”
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