The Ultimate Guide to Christmas Specials

Christmas TV specials, limited series and movies are bigger than ever these days from now until the New Year, you’ll be able to find some festive yule-tide programming every night of the week. From the traditional viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life, the different versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to baking shows and live music specials, we’ve got them all listed on the new Christmas TV Specials page. (Since not all of the networks list their specials early, this list will be updated throughout the coming weeks, so check back often for new additions!)

‘The Toy Box’: A Kinder, Gentler ‘Shark Tank’

The Toy Box Review
Cedric shows off his Wacky Worm Racing Game on The Toy Box. (ABC)


Tonight ABC debuts its new entrepreneurial show, The Toy Box, where new inventors of toys and games come to compete for a chance to have their product made by Mattel and sold at Toys R Us. Though the topic is toys and some of the cast members are children, the show should be enjoyable for both kids and adults. And while the show is quite different from Shark Tank, it does have noticeable similarities. Many of the inventors have invested years a money into their toys and games and will be drilled by advisors and judges.

Each episode of The Toy Box features five contestants who first show their invention to a panel of three mentors (Dylan’s Candy Bar owner Dylan Lauren, toy guru Jim Silver and Pixar creative director of Consumer Products, Jen Tan). If the three of them find the product favorable, they will advance to meet with the judges, a panel of four pint-sized children with big ideas. The judges are Sophia Grace Brownlee (who has appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show), Aalyrah Caldwell (star from the cancelled ABC sitcom Uncle Buck), Toby Grey (The Unexpected John Cena Prank) and Noah Ritter (who has also appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show).

The Toy Box Review
The judges: Sophia Grace Brownlee, Aalyrah Caldwell, Toby Grey and Noah Ritter (ABC)
The contestants seemed genuinely surprised when they meet the judges for the first time, which I suspect the creators of the show didn’t tell them ahead of time. There are a lot of opinions thrown around in the episode. Some the advisors are concerned with safety while others are concerned about how much a game or toy will actually be played with.

The Toy Box Review
The advisors: Jim Silver, Dylan Lauren and Jen Tan
One contestant who does make it through to the judges is Darla Davenport who created the Niya Doll. If she looks familiar, you may have seen her years earlier on a similar program on ABC called American Inventor. This woman has been working on selling her doll for about 30 years. It almost seems unfair that she has to face two boys as judges who want very little to do with the doll. The judges are surprisingly good asking the right questions and coming up with some solid reasoning on which toy they think is the best. But they are still kids. Ritter has virtually no filter and serves as the show’s “mini Mr. Wonderful.” He’s a nice kid, but unlike the others, he struggles with good manners and gets WAY too much screen time. He will get under some viewer’s skin in a big hurry.

The show is hosted by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet who I found to be a major disappointment. Unlike his character on the sitcom, Stonestreet seems to lack the energy this show demands. He even seems somewhat disinterested and bored with the proceedings, at least in the pilot episode. It just isn’t a natural fit.

So, while The Toy Box isn’t a perfect show, it is entertaining as it is interesting and is definitely kid-friendly, which is always a nice plus. The show airs on Fridays at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

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