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From Heartthrob to Hallmark: Six Celebrity Christmas Comebacks You Never Saw Coming

If the real-life holiday season gives us time to reunite with family and old friends, the television holiday season is our time to reunite with celebrities of decades past. And like in real life, our reincarnated celebrities come replete with memories of happier times, together with a reminder of how far we’ve come — and how old we’ve become — since we last saw them. Read on for a list of our favorite Christmas-themed throwbacks in 2019.

Rachel Leigh Cook

Feel Old Yet? I have such a clear memory of watching her shake away those glasses to reveal the hot girl within in 1999’s She’s All That. And while she’s apparently had a steady stream of work since then (including roles in everything from Dawson’s Creek to Psych and Las Vegas), I’ve spent most of the time since that iconic film’s debut consistently confusing her with Rachel Weisz.

Reunite This Christmas With — A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas
Cook goes into holiday overdrive, not only starring in but executive producing this made-for-TV film. She plays Willow, a woman with many plants and a dearly departed father (wouldn’t be a Hallmark movie without one of those). When she comes home for her sister’s wedding, she unexpectedly ends up in her childhood home-slash-hotel, chasing a tragic widow-slash-prospective law firm partner with an appropriately adorable little girl. My only complaint? A quick Sixpence None the Richer cameo would have really driven the not-at-all predictable ending home. A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas airs throughout the holiday season on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Chad Michael Murray

Feel Old Yet? One Tree Hill — which featured Murray and his soulful eyes as Lucas Scott — premiered in September 2003. Whether you were team Peyton, team Brooke or even team Lindsey all those many (MANY) years ago, you and your young adult hormones couldn’t help but be sucked in by his sultry brooding ways (not to mention his off-screen romance with costar Sophia Bush).

Reunite This Christmas With — Write Before Christmas
As electrically attractive as always, Murray plays Luke (not to be confused with Lucas). Luke is an easily-confused wedding photographer with a knack for dressing up as Santa and an unfortunate history of one time being left at the altar (which he mentions exactly one time and then never again). Sparks can’t help but fly when he meets Jessica, a tragic (grown up) orphan who is best known for photoshopping her boyfriend’s face onto Christmas cards as soon as her relationship hits the three-month mark. Will a Christmas miracle work its way through his fear of first dates and her lack of discernible boundaries? Only Hallmark knows. Write Before Christmas airs throughout the holiday season on Hallmark Channel.

Lance Bass

Feel Old Yet? Sporting some not-quite-robotic dance moves and majorly oversized pants, Lance danced his way into teen heartthrob status as a member of the boy band *NSYNC. The band’s debut American single “I Want You Back” came out in 1998. But of course, it was the iconic puppet strings of  2000’s “Bye Bye Bye” that have really made their mark (in every bad wedding dance that has happened ever since).

Reunite This Christmas With — Outrageous Holiday Houses
A man makes an annual Christmas display that you can see from an airplane? Normal. A lady dedicates three full weeks to decorating her 12,000 square foot home for no less than 10 hours each day? Perfectly reasonable. And through it all, Lance Bass is there to make sure we don’t miss a single (outrageous) moment. Outrageous Holiday Houses is available on demand via HGTV, and airs throughout the holiday season.

Jonathan Bennett

Feel Old Yet? The heartthrob of 2004’s Mean Girls, Bennett played the oh-so-dreamy Aaron Samuels. By asking classmate Cady Heron what day it was (it was October 3rd), he inadvertently invented ‘Mean Girls Day’ on that date. Fifteen years later, the tradition is as strong as ever (just ask Lindsay Lohan). 

Reunite This Christmas With — Holiday Wars 
As host of this team cake-making competition, Bennett promises contestants a $10,000 prize in exchange for their festive talents. Watch contestants juggle flamingo feathers, falling snowmen and more — all while Bennett shows off the latest in utterly insane holiday looks. Holiday Wars airs Sundays at 9pm ET on Food Network. Recent episodes are available on demand.

Adrian Grenier

Feel Old Yet? Premiering in the summer of 2004, the HBO series Entourage centered around Grenier’s Vincent Chase, as it explored the rise(s) and fall(s) of a young Hollywood actor. Of course, in my particular corner of the internet, he is better known for his (sort of starring) role in a former Bachelor contestant’s memoir.

Reunite this Christmas With: Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays Gone is the drug-and-alcohol fueled, adult film star-dabbling Chase. In his place is a tragic widower who habitually puts turkey in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hires random ladies (or at least one random lady) as a live-in nanny for his three children. Keep an eye out for Pricilla Presley cameos, as well as a few definitely-not-forced intervals in which Grenier’s costar, Kaitlin Doubleday, is (thankfully) permitted to sing. Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays airs throughout the holiday season on Hallmark Channel.

Vanessa Lachey

Feeling Old Yet? Vanessa Minnillo (as we knew her at the time) was a television personality in her own right, perhaps best known for her gig on MTV’s Total Request Live. But it was her relationship with former boy band-er Nick Lachey that rocketed her into our lives. Their relationship went public in 2006, a year after his (extremely public) divorce from pop star Jessica Simpson.

Reunite this Christmas With: Christmas Unleashed
Lachey plays Becca, a busy corporate lawyer with an impressive oversized sweater game who loves to talk about NewYorkPizza (never just pizza) and whose dog dresses her, Disney princess style. Will she reunite with her hometown ex who makes her feel like an ‘emotional everything bagel’? As a fellow everything bagel myself, I truly want to know. Christmas Unleashed is available now on Lifetime, and airs throughout the holiday season.

Bonus!! The Cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The once-infamous breaker of Buffy’s heart, Riley (Marc Blucas) is still playing soldier. Only this time, he’s been writing to a colleague’s sister because he likes her coffee. Now that he’s stationed in her hometown, will he like the rest of her too? Holiday for Heroes airs throughout the holiday season on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Shedding his once-a-werewolf ways, Oz (Seth Green) voices Lumpy, a demonic gingerbread man with an infectiously creepy giggle. Part comedy, part bump-in-the night scary movie, Krampus may not offer Green a particularly recognizable role, but it has far more to offer its audience. Krampus is available for rent.

No longer the central figure in Angel’s origin story, Darla (Julie Benz) is now Meredith, a seemingly ba-humbug-type gal whose most notable characteristics are that 1) she has an MBA and 2) she is extremely good at playing Mrs. Claus. Will she end up with the sweet, sensitive man who might actually be Santa Claus? Or the shark-like Scrooge who, like Meredith, also has an MBA?  It’s anyone’s guess (but I bet you guessed correctly).  Charming Christmas airs throughout the holiday season on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Still playing a man who loves playing at being the bad guy, Andrew (Tom Lenk) has found new life as Wes, a celebrity reporter who skulks around in a series of cableknit sweaters and an aggressively distracting mustache. Since he’s not the romantic lead, there’s no love interest in it for him — but there is a series of TMZ-type stories that he’s willing to bag at any cost. Snow Bride is available on demand via the Hallmark Channel, and airs throughout the holiday season.

Long before her teenage rebellion stage, baby Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) appeared in this direct-to-video film as Gloria, complete with the cutest of freckles. Delivering such iconic lines as “I still don’t see a tree,” the future Key clearly knew she was destined for greatness. Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish is available on demand on Freeform and airs throughout the holiday season.