Lifetime has started to name the leads and specials for the network’s upcoming It’s a Wonderful Lifetime programming block. The holiday event reached over 80.1M total viewers last year, and Lifetime emerged as the top holiday movie destination on network television. This year’s slate includes 30 new movies, and over 1200 hours of holiday programming that will run from mid-October through December.
The company added, “Because the holidays are for everyone, this year Lifetime dives deeper in the commitment for diverse storytelling with its storylines, talent and characters.”
Following last year’s “Twinkle All the Way” which featured an on screen, same sex kiss between couple Lex and Danny (Brian Sills and Mark Ghanimé), Lifetime has greenlighted “The Christmas Set Up,” the networks’ first movie with a LGBTQ romance as the lead story. Additionally, Lifetime has greenlighted its first holiday movie centered on a Chinese-American family in “A Sugar & Spice Holiday,” to be directed by Jennifer Liao and written by Eirene Donohue. Casting is currently underway on both movies, with production set to begin this month.
“We are thrilled to continue our legacy of creating a holiday destination that is welcoming to all at Lifetime,” said Amy Winter, EVP and Head of Programming, Lifetime and LMN. “With more new movies than any one cable network for streamer, I couldn’t be prouder of the incredible talent joining us in front of, and behind the camera, on these new holiday movies.”
Select cast members this year include Betty White, Kelly Rowland, Mario Lopez and Melissa Joan Hart. Tiffany Haddish will serve as executive producer on “Christmas Unwrapped,” which stars Amber Stevens West, Marco Grazzini, and Cheryl Ladd. Other projects include Jason Priestley, Robin Givens, Ed Begley Jr. and Faith Prince co-starring with Melissa Joan Hart in “Dear Christmas;” and Tony award-winning actress Ali Stroker leading “Christmas Ever After” alongside Daniel DiTomasso.
The full It’s a Wonderful Lifetime slate will be released in September, and descriptions for newly announced movies and stars can be found below, as described by the network.
CHRISTMAS EVER AFTER
Popular romance novelist Izzi Simmons (Tony winner Ali Stroker) spends every Christmas at her favorite snowy bed & breakfast, but this year, she’s faced with an impending deadline and a severe case of writer’s block. Luckily, inspiration strikes in the unlikely form of the B&B’s new owner Matt (Daniel DiTomasso), who bears an uncanny resemblance to the handsome hero from Izzi’s novels. As both partake in the lodge’s annual itinerary of Christmas activities, Izzi’s writer’s block is cured and the first pages of her and Matt’s own love story may just be beginning. Christmas Ever After is produced by Neshama Entertainment in Association with Marvista Entertainment and executive produced by Arnie Zipursky, Suzanne Berger, Julianna Hays, Larry Grimaldi, Hannah Pillemer and Fernando Szew. Pat Kiely directs from a script by Katrina Mathewson and Tanner Bean.
From executive producer Tiffany Haddish, Christmas Unwrapped follows Charity (Amber Stevens West), an ambitious reporter, who learns the true meaning of Christmas when she investigates Erik Gallagher (Marco Grazzini), a beloved member of the town who insists all the gifts he provides are from none-other than Santa himself. Cheryl Ladd also stars. Additional executive producers include Tracy “Twinkie” Bryd and Dominque Telson, Arnie Zipursky and Suzanne Berger for Neshama Entertainment and Larry Grimaldi, Hannah Pillemer and Fernando Szew for MarVista Entertainment. Bosede Williams directed from a script by Gary Hardwick.
Natalie Morgan (Melissa Joan Hart) is an author and host of a popular podcast, Holiday Love, which shares true stories of holiday romance with its listeners. While to the outside world and her listeners everywhere see Natalie is an expert on romance, she’s never truly experienced a romance of her own. As Natalie prepares to embark on a promotional tour for her new book, she stops back home to spend Christmas with her family and to celebrate her parent’s 50th anniversary where she unexpectedly begins to experience her own holiday romance as sparks ignite with local firefighter, Jack (Jason Priestley). Dear Christmas also stars Robin Givens, Ed Begley Jr and Faith Prince and is produced by Hartbreak Films, Paula Hart and Melissa Joan Hart. Emily Moss Wilson directs from a script by Juliet Giglio and Keith Giglio.
A SUGAR & SPICE HOLIDAY
Suzie, a rising young architect, returns to her small hometown in Maine for Christmas where, her Chinese American family runs the local Lobster Bar. Following the loss of her beloved grandmother who was a legendary baker in their community, Suzie is guilted into following in her grandmother’s footsteps by entering the local gingerbread house competition. Teaming up with an old high school friend Billy, who grew up to be a catch, Suzie must find the right recipes and mix of sugar and spice to win the competition and perhaps find some love in the process. A Sugar & Spice Holiday is produced by Lighthouse Pictures and executive produced by Nancy Bennett, Shawn Williamson and Jamie Goehring, directed by Jennifer Liao and written by Eirene Donohue.
THE CHRISTMAS SET UP
Hugo, a New York corporate lawyer and his best friend Madelyn head to Milwaukee to spend the holidays with his mom Kate, who is also in charge of the local Christmas celebrations. Ever the matchmaker, Kate arranges for Hugo to run into Patrick, Hugo’s high school friend and secret crush, who has recently returned after a successful stint in Silicon Valley. As they enjoy the local holiday festivities together, Hugo and Patrick’s attraction to each other is undeniable and it looks as though Kate’s well-intentioned Santa-style matchmaking is a success. But as Hugo receives word of a big promotion requiring a move to London, he must decide what is most important to him. The Christmas Set Up is produced by Neshama Entertainment in association with MarVista Entertainment and executive produced by Danielle von Zerneck, Larry Grimaldi, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Suzanne Berger and Arnie Zipursky. Script is written by Michael J. Murray.
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