Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

UP TV  launches its annual mega-celebration of Christmas with a batch of uplifting holiday movies, specials. The special programming runs through Thursday, December 31, 2015. Highlights include new UP Premiere movies, a Holderness family special and a follow-up to Cop Stop, UP’s heartwarming viral video that lifted the spirits of over 44 million viewers last Christmas.

UP Programming SVP Sophia Kelley says “This year on UP, we’ve stuffed our holiday season full of premiere movies and specials, holiday episodes from hit series, and more than a few surprises along the way…With over 500 hours of programming for the whole family, filled with stories from heartwarming to romantic, inspiring to laugh out loud funny, UP really will bring you everything you love about Christmas.”

Here are some of the highlights (descriptions from UP’s press release):

RODEO & JULIET – UP Premiere Movie
Premiere: Friday, November 6 at 9 PM (ET)

All Juliet wants to do over Christmas break is hang out with her friends and enjoy big city life.  When her mother drags her to the family farm in the middle of nowhere, Juliet‘s visions of lattes and endless wifi are replaced with horses and spotty cell-phone service.  But then a very special horse and a handsome young cowboy enter her life, and Juliet just might forget about all the charms of the city and have a Christmas she’ll never forget!  Stars: Krista Allen (Anger Management, “Baywatch”), Nadine Crocker (“Hannah Montana,” High School), Buck Taylor (Wild Wild West, Cowboys & Aliens), Tim Abell (After Midnight, Hatfields & McCoys: Bad Blood). Directed by Thadd Turner.  Produced by Talmarc Productions and MarVista Entertainment. 

Premiere: Sunday, November 8 at 7 & 9 PM (ET)

A career-oriented single father and his 11-year-old son are forced to see their worlds through each other’s eyes when some Christmas magic switches their bodies. The pair find themselves growing closer as they scramble to figure out the secret of the magic that caused their predicament in time for Christmas.  Stars: William Baldwin (“Parenthood,” “Gossip Girl”), Denise Richards (Blonde and Blonder, Undercover Brother), Tom Arnold (Nine Months, Soul Plane).  Directed by Joel Souza.  Produced by Christmas Switch Productions, LLC.

Premiere: Sunday, November 15 at 7 & 9 PM (ET)

When spoiled, 21-year old college student Luce Lockhart is forced to take a job over the holidays walking a rich developer’s dog, she is thrilled to discover they are going to build a salon and spa over the quaint local dog park nearby. But when Luce meets Dean, an irritating yet handsome dog walker actively trying to stop them, Luce is forced to question what the park means to her newfound friends, and whether she can put aside her selfish ways to help save the park before Christmas.  Stars: Dina Meyer (Star-Trek: Nemesis, “Beverly Hills 90210”), Patrick Muldoon (“Days of Our Lives,” “Melrose Place”), Jonathan Bennett (Cheaper by the Dozen), Lexi Giovagnoli (12 Dog Days until Christmas), Timeca M. Seretti (Into the South).  Directed by Letia Clouston. Produced by G It’s Entertainment.

Premiere: Sunday, November 22 at 7 & 9 PM (ET)

Charles (Chris Potter) and Judith Montgomery (Kristy Swanson) have a strained marriage mostly due to Charles’ non-stop work schedule.  Their children, Alexander (Nick Purcha), Jennifer (Lizzie Boys) and Emily (Jaeda Lily Miller) sense the tension and fight among themselves, as well. They are headed to the lavish cabin that Charles built for his family in the hopes of having a special family holiday.  But the bickering continues until Joe (Colin Lawrence) and Marilyn Tucker (Catherine Lough Haggquist) and their children Lucie (Alexandra Siouras) and Robbie (Kolton Stewart) are forced to spend Christmas with them as they wait out a blizzard.  The love, respect and happiness exhibited by the Tuckers has a profound effect on the Montgomerys’ lives. Stars: Kristy Swanson (Dude Where’s My Car?, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”), Chris Potter (“Heartland,” “X-Men”). A MarVista Entertainment and Odyssey Media production.  Produced by Kirk Shaw and Devi Singh. Directed by George Erschbamer. Adapted screenplay by Julie Brazier, based on novel by Rexanne Becnel.

The Holderness Family Christmas Jammy Jam Special – UP Original Special
Premiere: Friday, November 27 at 9 PM (ET)

It’s the most wonderful time of their year – Christmas – but the Holderness family is having trouble getting in the spirit. With their next “Christmas Jammies” video looming, Penn and Kim are feeling uninspired so the office throws them a Christmas Party — with a video surprise present — to help get them in the spirit of the season. A Figure 8 Films and Greenroom Communications production.  Executive Producers are Bill Hayes, Deanie Wilcher and Kirk Streb.  Director and Producer is Jen Stocks. 

Premiere: Sunday, November 29 at 7 & 9 PM (ET)

The real-life story of Jackie Turner (Amber Riley) a straight-A college student who was abused, abandoned and starved as a child.  Although she has resolutely turned her life around, the holidays are still very painful for her.  Facing another lonely holiday break on campus, Jackie decides to put an ad on craigslist – and even offers to pay $8 an hour.  To her surprise, responses flood in.  Among the numerous heartfelt invitations and letters of support, she also hears from struggling individuals that empathize with the overwhelming emptiness that comes with spending the holidays without loved ones.  Moved and inspired, Jackie decides to throw a big Christmas party – with the last-minute help of her advisor, friends and support group – to find families for all those troubled folks who emailed her, and finds one for herself as well. Stars: Amber Riley (“Glee”), Matreya Fedor (UP’s My Mother’s Future Husband, “Cedar Cove”), Priscilla Faia (“Rookie Blue,” “Psych”), Ali Skovbye (Further Adventures in Babysitting, The Gourmet Detective), Ken Tremblett (My Life as a Dead Girl, “The Whispers”) and Jarod Joseph (“The 100,” “Wayward Pines”). An Entertainment One Television production.  Produced by Jonathan Schwartz and Robert Lee.  Directed by James Head.  Screenplay by Spyder Dobrofsky.

Premiere: Sunday, December 6 at 7 & 9 p.m. PM (ET)

With help from a guardian angel, a spoiled and very materialistic teenage girl learns that true value is found in assisting others and not in material things. Stars: Dean Cain (Small Town Santa, “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”), Donna Spangler (Matilda, Space Girls in Beverly Hills), John Savage (The Deer Hunter), Vincent DePaul (“The Bay,” Silver Case). Produced by Salvatore V. Zannino, Donna Spangler and Simona Fusco.  Directed by Brian Skiba.

Premieres Sunday, December 13 at 7 & 9 PM (ET)

In this the third installment of UP’s popular Chandler family Christmas movies, Marci (Malinda Williams) and Blair (Karon Riley) are expecting a baby right before Christmas.  This holiday, the Chandlers, except Elizabeth, feel they need to get back to the true meaning of Christmas by giving back.  Eventually, even Elizabeth gets on board and the Chandlers have the most meaningful Christmas ever.  Stars: Malinda Williams (Marry Me for Christmas, “Soul Food,” ASPiRE’s “exhale”), Karon Riley (Marry US for Christmas), Victoria Rowell (Marry Me for Christmas, “Diagnosis Murder”), DeEtta West (Marry US for Christmas, Marry Me for Christmas), Kristoff St. John (20 Ft. Below:  The Darkness Descending, “The Young and the Restless”), Chrystale Wilson (Marry US for Christmas), GregAlan Williams (“Necessary Roughness,” “The West Wing”) and Clifton Powell (Ray, Norbitt). A Swirl Films Production.  Executive produced by Malinda Williams, Victoria Rowell. Produced by Eric Tomosunas and Keith Neal.  Directed and written by Rhonda Freeman-Baraka.  


Running through Saturday, December 26, UP’s music blocks will feature all genres of Christmas music, including K-Love Music City Christmas, A Very Special Christmas: 25 Years of Bringing Joy to the World and specials with Mary Mary, Ann Nesby, Chris Tomlin and Ernie Haase.

UP can be seen in 70 million homes on cable systems and satellite providers across the United States.

John W. Kennedy is a writer/development consultant specializing in teleplays, screenplays and novelizations. He can be reached at

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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