Top TV picks for the holidays

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By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO

Although we’re in the midst of lockdown 2.0 and unable to enjoy the holidays with family and friends the way most of us are used to, there’s a lot of great content on TV and streaming to keep us in the holiday spirit. There will be plenty of content to choose from this holiday season when you hit the couch after all the eating, unwrapping and making (socially distant) toasts with family and friends. Here are some of our top picks:

L-R Justin Cornwell, Diaana Babnicova as Young Jeronicus Jangle and Young Jessica Jangle in Netflix’ original Christmas fairy tale “Jingle Jangle” (Photo Credit/Netflix)

Jingle Jangle (now streaming-Netflix)

Instead of reading her (very well behaved) grandkids “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve this year, Grandma played by Phylicia Rashad, grabs a different holiday tale off the bookshelf. Titled, “The Invention of Jeronicus Jangle,” it takes them (and us) into an enchanted, diverse 19th Century village where Jeronicus Jangle (Forrest Whitaker plays the older version, Justin Cornwell the younger) was once a brilliant inventor of sophisticated yet spectacular toys. Betrayal by a protege and loss of his wife have broken him and Jangle is now a deeply unhappy widower, estranged from his grown daughter. He  turns his once magical toyshop into a sad, dusty pawn shop. Can the appearance of Jeronicus’ equally misfit but brilliant granddaughter, Journey (Madalen Mills) make him smile and more importantly, invent toys again? In this modern Christmas tale, that promises to be a new classic, the dance numbers alone are worth tuning in and the wonderful costumes and gorgeously styled natural Black hair are holly jolly bonuses.

Debbie Allen, center, and students at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (Photo Credit/Netflix)

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker (Nov. 28, Netflix)

Actress, dancer, director Debbie Allen channels her iconic TV character Lydia Grant in this documentary that follows the students in her school, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA), as they attend classes to prepare to perform “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.” This number serves as your healthy dose of warm African-American culture that gives the classic Petipa ballet a soulful twist. Along the way, we learn more about Allen from her family and colleagues, and nod our heads as she and the rest of the teachers at DADA dole out plenty of guidance and wisdom along with plies and pirouettes.

L-R Kelly Rowland and Thomas Cadrot as Jacquie and Tyler in “Merry Liddle Christmas” (Photo Credit/Lifetime)

Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding (Nov. 30, Lifetime)

Among its veritable smorgasbord of holiday fare (30 total), Lifetime offers us singer Kelly Rowland reprising her role as successful business woman Jacquie Liddle. This time, super-organized Jacquie is forced to plan her perfect Christmas destination wedding after her hoity toity wedding planner quits in a huff. The busybodies in Jacquie’s family aren’t making things any easier though,  and her plans are continually thrown off track. Will she get the fam and the wedding as together as she is, in time?

Christmas Comes Twice (Dec. 13, Hallmark)

From the network that started Christmas movie marathoning, Hallmark brings us, among other things, Tamera Mowry-Housley (Sister, Sister) as Emily, a popular newscaster who is in deep regret over “the guy that got away” (Michael Xavier of “The Clark Sisters”). Lucky for her, Christmas is a magical season and she literally gets a second chance to do things right.

L-R Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha as Sylvie and Robert in “Sylvie’s Love” (Amazon Studios)

Sylvie’s Love (Christmas Day, Amazon Prime Video)

Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnorak) and Nnamdi Asomugha (Crown Heights) shimmer in the jazz-inflected, heart string puller Sylvie’s Love. He’s jaw-droppingly handsome Robert,  trying to be the next John Coltrane, and she is the stupendously gorgeous Sylvie, breaking down barriers in 1960s television production as a woman of color. They’re both as passionate about each other as they are their careers and it’s what pulls them together and- keeps them apart. They each start new lives and make other commitments. When they find each other again? Obligations? Love? Or ambition?

Bridgerton (Christmas Day, Netflix)

The holiday viewing piece de la resistance is Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix debut, the eight episode series (featuring an actual Black Queen to boot!), Bridgerton. Set in regency-era England, the Gossip Girl/Pride and Prejudice/Save The Last Dance drama features the heavily scrutinized love lives of the Bridgerton and Featherington families. Their romantic entanglements and political machinations with the rest of the British aristocracy occur under the fierce, fashionably adventurous, watchful gaze of Queen Charlotte, (based on the real life reportedly African-descended, mixed race wife of King George III) and a mysterious all-knowing insider Lady Whistledown, ever eager to air everyone’s dirty laundry. Debuting Christmas day, it’s sure to cause a huge stir both because of its creator and its surprising take on racial equality among the aristocracy.