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It's the most wonderful time of the year -- especially for cable networks

By Neal Justin Published: November 24, 2012

“It's formulaic, but it's like a good song,” he said. “You expect it, and if it's not there, you miss it.”

While cable channels are doubling down on Christmas, broadcast TV is doing fewer holiday specials.

When “A Charlie Brown Christmas” premiered in the pre-cable days of 1965, nearly half of all viewers tuned in. When it aired on ABC last December, it drew only 6.4 million viewers - falling well behind “The X Factor” and a rerun of ‘The Big Bang Theory.“

Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming for Hallmark, said it's easier for cable to do themed programming.

”The broadcast networks have less ability to brand themselves in a specific way, because they have so many factors to deal with - daytime, syndicated, sports, news,“ she said. ”We're in a unique position to take ownership of the holiday season.“

Plenty of familiar actors are more than willing to get in on the fun. Lifetime's ”Merry-In-Laws“ reunites George Wendt and Shelley Long for the first time since ”Cheers.“ Other big gets for the cable network: Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, Lea Thompson, Harry Hamlin and Marilu Henner. Hallmark's roster includes Tess Harper, Teri Polo and Jason Gedrick.

Lifetime's Lopez was surprised at how easy it has been to get top talent.

”I think they're nostalgic for the holiday films they watched when they were growing up,“ she said. ”Plus, a lot of them don't get an opportunity to do something that their entire family can watch.“

Count former ”Sister, Sister“ star Tia Mowry among those eager to be in her first holiday film.

”I have great memories of sitting down and watching all the ‘Home Alone' movies consecutively with my family,“ said Mowry, who's starring in the ABC Family musical ”Mistle-Tones“ while twin sister Tamera Mowry-Housley appears in ”Christmas Angel“ for the Christian-oriented GMC channel. ”It created a lot of bonding. Great films can really bring a family together.“

ABC Family must have had Mowry in mind when it announced its other big new film: ”Home Alone: The Holiday Heist.“

”It's Still a Wonderful Life“ can't be far behind.


)2012 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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