Advent Entertainment Calendar for You and Your Family — Week Two

muppet-christmas-carol-ffbThe second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 4, is upon us, as Catholics and other Christians prepare to celebrate the Nativity.

In addition to such traditional customs as the Advent Wreath and keeping an Advent Calendar, we’re adding in a viewing calendar of online and TV offerings to enjoy as a family over the holidays.

Take a look below at seven more days of festive fun …

December 4, Second Sunday of Advent:

“Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July” 10:05 a.m. ET/PT on Freeform and via the Freeform App – The ultimate Christmas crossover special featuring Rudolph and Frosty in stop-motion animation.

“Saving Santa” on Netflix – A lowly stable elf finds that he is the only one who can stop an invasion of the North Pole by using the secret of Santa’s Sleigh, a TimeGlobe, to travel back in time to Save Santa – twice.

“The Muppet Christmas Carol” on HBO Go and HBO Now, or on DVD from Netflix – The Muppets tell their version of the classic Dickens tale about a miser whose life is changed, all in one Christmas Eve.

December 6, Second Tuesday of Advent:

“A Fairly Odd Christmas” on Hulu – Timmy Turner’s been going overboard with his wish granting, and now that Christmas is just around the corner, there’s almost nothing left for Santa to do! Can he save Christmas and get off the naughty list too?

December 8, Second Thursday of Advent:

“Toy Story That Time Forgot” 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC (or below!) – It’s a post-Christmas play date, and the toys have to go up against the fearsome and aggressive new dino toys.

“Shrek the Halls” 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on ABC – This half-hour animated TV special features the Shrek characters putting their own spin on holiday traditions.

December 9, Second Friday of Advent:

“Albert” 7 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon and available on and the Nick AppThe network’s first original animated movie. based on the Big Golden Book about a tiny Douglas fir tree that goes on a journey to become the city’s most famous Christmas tree ever.



December 10, Second Saturday of Advent:

“Doc McStuffins: A Very McStuffins Christmas” on HuluDoc and her pals travel to Santa’s workshop in the North Pole.

Click here for part one.

Images: Courtesy Walt Disney Productions/Jim Henson Productions; Big Golden Book

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

NBC’s ‘Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love’ Airs Wednesday

dolly-christmas-many-colors-circle-loveOn Dec. 10, 2015, NBC had a hit with “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors,” drawing over 13 million viewers in its initial airing, then adding more from DVR and from a Christmas Day repeat. Unsurprisingly, the Peacock Network swung into action to capitalize on that success with a holiday-timed sequel.

Airing Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 9 p.m. ET/PT, “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” brings back the original cast from the first movie, drawn from Parton’s childhood experiences in rural Tennessee.

Here’s how NBC describes it:

Last December, just in time for Christmas, the amazing Dolly Parton delighted viewers and critics alike with her deeply heartwarming tale drawn straight from her inspiring real life and music. In an all-new holiday sequel, the Partons, a family of humble means living in the mountains of Tennessee, face a devastating event that challenges their will. But when they experience a bewildering Christmas miracle, the Partons are drawn closer together than ever — with deepened faith and love for one another.

And more info, from

The story picks up in late 1955, where a precocious young Dolly (reprised by Alyvia Alyn Lind) lands the coveted role of Mary in the school Christmas pageant—but must play opposite a gruff, bug-eating Joseph and a spotlight-shy pal. Coupled with an unlikely friendship with a town undesirable (played by none other than Dolly Parton herself), as well as a flighty Uncle Billy (Cameron Jones) who’s adamant about helping Dolly reach her goals of stardom, the punchy and playful Dolly faces turbulent times in her Tennessee town as she comes into her own as a budding starlet.

Meanwhile, parents Avie Lee and Robert Lee (Jennifer Nettles and Ricky Schroder) struggle to finance a meager Christmas for their large family, a challenge that eventually sends Papa Parton to the tumultuous Cumberland mines before a snowstorm hits their Smoky Mountain cabin.

Expect laughs, heartache, music and — rare even for Christmas season — an overtly Christian message.

The movie also begins streaming on Hulu starting on Thursday, Dec. 1.

Take a peek:

Image: Courtesy NBC

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

An Advent Entertainment Calendar for You and Your Family — Week One

rudolph-red-nosed-reindeerAdvent begins this Sunday, Nov. 27. For Catholics and many other Christians, it is the official start of the Christmas season, as we prepare for the birth of Jesus.

Of course, there are of many ways for families to observe this holy time with traditions like the Advent Wreath and keeping an Advent Calendar – we’d like to add some programming options to that calendar, so you and your kids can enjoy a little small-screen entertainment together throughout this next month.

So, week by week throughout the Advent season, we’ll be sharing a new calendar of family fun.

Take a look below and set your DVR or watch online…

November 27, First Sunday of Advent:

“The Snowy Day” on Amazon Prime – An animated special based on the award-winning children’s book about a little boy and his Christmas Eve walk to Grandma’s house.

“The Legend of Frosty the Snowman” on Netflix – Frosty the Snowman goes where he is needed most, and the town of Evergreen sure needs a visit.

November 29, First Tuesday of Advent:

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS – The navigational prowess of the most famous reindeer of all will save Christmas once again in this classic special.

November 30, First Wednesday of Advent:

“Christmas in Rockefeller Center” 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC – The big tree lights up the big city and celebrates the season with performances by Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Josh Groban and more.

December 1, First Thursday of Advent:

“The Year Without a Santa Claus” 6 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform and via the Freeform App (or below!) – When a weary and discouraged Santa Claus considers skipping his Christmas Eve run, Mrs. Claus and his Elves set out to change his mind.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC – A classic that never gets old, Charlie Brown complains about the materialism of the season and learns the true meaning of Christmas.

And here’s Linus’ famous speech about the true meaning of Christmas:

December 3, First Saturday of Advent:

“Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas” 7 a.m. ET/PT on Freeform and on Netflix (or below!) – an animated Christmas anthology film featuring all your kids’ favorite Disney characters.

“Arthur Christmas” 6:45 p.m. ET on Freeform and via the Freeform AppSanta’s father and his clumsy grandson, Arthur, are on a mission to give a misplaced present to a young girl in less than 2 hours.

Stay tuned for more as we count down to Christmas!

Click here for part two.

Image: Courtesy CBS

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.


‘Mouse’ to ‘Snowy’ to ‘Maryellen': Amazon Original Kids Productions Start the Season of Christmas Specials

amazon-give-mouse-cookieIf you and your little ones are looking for original programming to help welcome the Christmas spirit this weekend, Amazon Prime Video has a few new options for family movie night.

“If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie,” “The Snowy Day” and “An American Girl Story – Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas” launch online this Friday, November 25.

If you have very young children (age two or three), I would suggest starting with “The Snowy Day,” which is based on an award-winning childrens book by Ezra Jack Keats — one of the first picture books to feature an African-American main character (click here for an animated read-aloud version).

The producers of this special have truly done a lovely job bringing the sweet story to life, following little Peter on his Christmas Eve walk to his grandmother’s house to get their traditional mac-and-cheese dinner. Along the way, Peter runs into all his neighborhood friends … and into some trouble, too. The animated action will keep your kids interested.

Plus, without being too preachy, “Snowy Day” sends clear messages about embracing traditions — ours and our neighbors’ — dealing with disappointments, and valuing the people in our lives over gifts or other material goods. My two-year-old twins sat captivated through the entire 38-minute runtime, and I honestly enjoyed it too.


Children slightly older will like the faster-paced “If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie,” adapted from the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” book series by Laura Numeroff. The story follows Mouse and his animal friends as they work together to fix the set of the school Christmas pageant — after accidentally destroying it.

Young ladies and their moms are most likely the target audience for “An American Girl Story – Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas.” Set in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1955, the special centers around 10-year-old Maryellen Larkin, who struggles to stand out as the middle child in a family with five kids.

Maryellen wants to wear pants in public and paint the front door red. She also dreams of going to spend Christmas in the snow – with her grandparents all to herself. As the story unfolds, Maryellen learns the value of listening to the needs of others—without losing her spunky little spirit. The movie illustrates selflessness in a way that young girls can appreciate, and features fun ‘50s fashion and an underlying theme that women who work hard and ask good questions are capable of accomplishing whatever they want.

Though none of the specials includes an explanation of — or even alludes to — the true meaning of Christmas being the birth of Christ, they are entertaining and each fit nicely into the family-friendly category. After watching, perhaps you can use them as an opportunity to start a discussion with your kids about what Christmas means to your family.

Take a peek:

Image: Courtesy Amazon Prime Video

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

Catholic Actor Neal McDonough on Keeping the Faith in Hollywood

neal_mcdonough_2015_2In my former life as a syndicated entertainment journalist, I got to know actor Neal McDonough, whose TV work includes HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” NBC’s “Boomtown,” FX’s “Justified” and TNT’s “Mob City” and “Public Morals.”

Currently located with wife Ruve and their five children in Vancouver, Canada, Massachusetts native McDonough has been working on such Canada-based shows as USA Network’s “Suits,” and The CW’s “Legends of Tomrrow,” “Arrow” and “The Flash” (all produced by Greg Berlanti), in which he plays Damien Darhk.

He also recently co-starred in, and was a producer for, the faith-based film “Greater.” We talked over the summer. Click here to read what he had to say about “Greater,” and more from our conversation is below.

comptonWith his bleached-blond hair (first acquired to play World War II hero Buck Compton in “Band”) and ice-blue eyes, McDonough often plays the bad guy. But in real life, he’s a devout Catholic and a political conservative — and one of the nicest guys I ever met in Hollywood.

But, being true to the Faith does carry a price in all aspects of life, and the entertainment industry is no different — especially when you’re a married man with mouths to feed.

Said McDonough on what he will and won’t do:

Two rules. I don’t use the Lord’s name in vain on TV or movies, and I don’t have sex scenes. How do I work as an actor after that? Okay, I’m the bad guy. I tell you, with five kids, I’ve got to keep working.

I’ve got to pay those bills. Every time I have a job, I have to figure out how to be the most creative and fun guy and great performance and all that stuff. Aside from that, I just love doing what I do. I have a great time doing it, and I’m blessed beyond belief to have the opportunity to keep working. I mean, this is 30 years in the business of constantly working on whatever. It’s been awesome.

On the advice given to him by Father Colm O’Ryan, pastor emeritus of Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills:

Go out and sin one less time today. Go out and drink one less drink today. Go out and do these things one less time today, and you’ll be doing your job as a child of God. That’s what he’s about. That’s what I try to do after I get to play bad guys on TVs and movies.

On working on “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” with fellow Catholic Kevin James:

We had Mass every day at lunch.

We hired the biggest suite at the Wynn Hotel. We’d fly priests in. We’d have Mass every day during the filming of this in Las Vegas at the Wynn Hotel.

Not for gambling, but for God. It was phenomenal. Kevin James — not only one of the greatest actors on set, but one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. Gosh, what an amazing human being to do that. “All right, everyone in the cast, everyone in the crew. You want Mass? It’s going to be in suite 306. Let’s have at it. Every day.”

Is it a challenge to be a faithful Catholic in Hollywood? Sure. And sometimes you may have to make tough choices about roles. But as McDonough shows, it can be done.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, HBO

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

‘The Face of Mercy': New Film, Narrated by Jim Caviezel, Explores the Divine Mercy

divine-mercy-trailerWhat does Mercy look like?

In the new film “Face of Mercy,” narrated by Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ”), the Knights of Columbus present us with several stories of what mercy looks like. As the Year of Mercy comes to a close, we are left with looking back over the last year and thinking how we have or have not shown mercy to the world.

We often look for answers in the face of injustices — big and small. What does justice look like for a widow whose husband was murdered? Or for a young woman whose family was killed in the Rwandan genocide? What about injustices done to others when we feel powerless to help? If we look at our own lives, there are injustices big and small that seem as if there is no easy answer. This new film dives into the personal stories behind difficult moments such as these.

Divine Mercy is the mysterious answer to this daily experience of disillusionment, fear and injustice. Divine Mercy is a reminder of the reality of the person of Jesus Christ, of the gift of His love and mercy freely given to us. Mercy makes our love capable of forgiving. And only with forgiveness can we live justly with one another in our families, workplaces and towns.

“I often tell people that I am the poster child for Divine Mercy. I’ve hurt so many people and yet there is mercy for someone like me,” Fr. Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, says in the film’s trailer.

We have all had this feeling of hopelessness and shame about our mistakes. Pope Francis often embodies this face of Divine Mercy that reminds the world that there is more than just our mistakes and injustice, there is a tender and loving Father who seeks to love and bring healing to the brokenness of the world. Like Pope Francis, Saint John Paul II urged for the world to be renewed by God’s mercy. he said, “You are not the sum of your fears and failures, you are the sum of the Father’s love for you.”

The idea of Divine Mercy comes from the prayer life of Saint Faustina Kowalska of Poland. In the early 20th century, Christ revealed the importance of a devotion to Divine Mercy to this cloistered nun, just before many of the atrocities of the last century.

As this Year of Mercy draws to a close, take some time to contemplate where you see mercy in your daily life and especially in art. The great films are full of examples of this mysterious gift of mercy. “Les Miserables,” for example, looks at the interplay between light and dark, justice and mercy, death and life. For more movie suggestions about Divine Mercy, click here.

We here at Family Theater Productions are excited to watch this film and thankful to our colleagues at the Knights of Columbus for making use of media for evangelization.

The film is available at, the Ignatius Press website, and the Knights of Columbus site Knights Gear. Broadcast dates and more information are available at

Since Oct. 16th, it’s also been airing on selected ABC affiliates around the country — and a few haven’t aired it yet. Those airing it between now and the end of the broadcast window on Dec. 16 are (here’s the full broadcast schedule):

  • KOCT/KOAT (Albuquerque-Santa Fe) — 10 a.m., MT, Dec. 10
  • WICS/WICD (Champaign & Springfield-Decatur): 4 p.m. CT, Dec. 4
  • WCHS (Charleston-Huntington): 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 11
  • WOLO (Columbia, South Carolina): 1 a.m., ET Nov. 27
  • WXYZ (Detroit) 2 p.m, ET Dec. 4
  • KVIA (El Paso), 10 a.m. MT, Dec. 4
  • WJET (Erie), 12 p.m. ET, Dec. 16
  • WZVN (Fort Meyers-Naples) 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 4
  • KHOG/KCBS (Fort Smith) 11 a.m. CT, Dec. 10
  • WCTI (Greenville-North Bern-Washington) 5 p.m. ET, Dec. 3
  • KRGV (Rio Grande Valley), 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 4
  • KATC (Lafayette) 11:30 a.m. CT, Dec. 11
  • KOMO (Seattle-Tacoma) 11 a.m. PT, Dec. 11

Image: Courtesy Knights of Columbus

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.