Beginning at 8/7c, CMT will air a modern Christmas classic starring Dolly Parton, then they will rebroadcast two 2011 CMT original movies, one starring LeAnn Rimes and Burt Reynolds, the other starring Laura Bell Bundy and Ricky Schroder.
Up first it’s an early Christmas treat as Dolly Parton stars in 1996’s Unlikely Angel. Originally broadcast on CBS during the holiday season, in the fifteen years since, Unlikely Angel has become one of my personal favorite modern holiday films. Yes, it’s a thinly veiled rip-off of every classic Holiday film from The Bishop’s Wife to It’s a Wonderful Life, but it’s still a sweet story of Ruby Diamond, a country singer who, following her untimely death, must return to Earth to help a troubled family unite during the Christmas holiday. Parton, who also executive produced the movie is all but typecast as the larger than life country singer. The main difference between Ruby and Dolly is the fictional character is a bit self-important, while the real deal is actually just as sweet as she seems. The film casts Roddy McDowall as St. Peter, who Ruby encounters at the pearly gates following her fatal car crash. He tells her about the dysfunctional Bartilson family who’ve grown further and further apart since their mom died. If Ruby can succeed in reuniting the family before midnight on Christmas Eve, she will earn her wings. Brian Kerwin, who until recently was seen as Charlie Banks on ABC‘s One Life to Live, co-stars as Ben Bartilson, the father of the family, who, of course, develops a bit of a crush on Ruby, masquerading as the family’s flighty new governess. Eli Marienthal made his acting debut in Unlikely Angel as young Matthew Bartilson. He would go on to star in 1999’s American Pie and it’s 2001 sequel as Matt Stiffler, Steve‘s younger brother. Fans of CW‘s recently-wrapped Smallville will no doubt recognize Ben‘s troubled teenage daughter, Sarah, played by Allison Mack. Five years after appearing in Unlikely Angel, Mack gained popularity as Chloe Sullivan on the long running teenaged Superman drama.
Next, at 10:15pm/9:15c, it’s a rebroadcast of CMT‘s most recent original film, Reel Love, starring LeAnn Rimes. When successful lawyer, Holly Whitman (Rimes) learns her father (Burt Reynolds) has suffered a heart-attack, she returns home to her small southern Alabama town to help out. Once home, she butts heads with her father and her rube of a brother and, in true made-for-TV fare, meets and falls for Jay (Shawn Roberts), the new guy in town. This unexpected romance leads her to question her feeling for the guy she left behind and her original plans to come home to help and return to the big city once her father’s health returns.
Then at 12:15am/11:15pm central CMT will re-air To The Mat starring Laura Bell Bundy and Ricky Schroder. To The Mat originally aired back in the summer and tells the tale of Aaron Stocuim (Schroder) a less-than-motivated ex-wrestler who is struggling to keep his father’s legacy–a wrestling school in the south–from going out of business. Realizing the family needs outside help, Aaron‘s mother brings in an ambitious, self-assured Wall Street consultant (Bell Bundy). It’s your typical fish-out-of-water, unintentional love story along the lines of Sweet Home Alabama and any number of romantic comedies released within the past 20 years. Actually, To The Mat was written by Sweet Home Alabama scribe, C. Jay Cox, so the comparison is justified. As for director Robert Iscove, his credits include the 1997 Brandy/Whitney Houston retelling of Cinderella, the forgettable American Idol foray into movies, From Justin to Kelly andThe Ten Commandments: The Musical starring Val Kilmer. No, I’m not kidding. In spite of the director’s odd credits, To The Mat is an enjoyable family drama peppered with a little comedy and patented made-for-TV romance.
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