Dolly Parton has always understood the magic of Christmas. In holidays past, The Daily Beast’s Obsessed has reported on the country legend saving Christmas—multiple times, believe it or not. What can we say, she’s a saint in glittered attire! This year, though, Dolly’s not exactly saving Christmas. No, she’s doing something much better: She’s bringing back Hannah Montana.
The Dolly Parton Christmas specials feel never-ending—and thank goodness!—and this year’s installment is no different. Our beloved Backwoods Barbie has been throwing down country Christmas hits for an audience since 1994 (!), when she recorded Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember for NBC. She’s back with the network this year, releasing Dolly Parton’s Magic Mountain Christmas, which should actually be titled “Miley & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember.”
Dolly Parton’s Magic Mountain Christmas roams through Dollywood (Dolly’s amusement park, which holds an annual Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration) as well as the hilarious hallways of 30 Rock, as the singer maps out her new Christmas special. This new installation into the DPCU (Dolly Parton Christmas Universe) makes an interesting decision—everything is meta. We see Dolly as she’s filming, along with all the behind-the-scenes drama that ensues as she belts out a holly jolly melody.
The plot of the special is… well, let’s just say our lord and savior Dolly Parton helms the madness, and that’s all that really matters, right? No need to focus on the bizarre three-minute monologues interspersed with frantic 30 Rock employees dipping around for more bedazzled snowflakes. Part of the whole shindig involves visits from Dolly’s friends (who are occasionally ghosts, for some reason), including legend Willie Nelson and NBC regular Jimmy Fallon.
Billy Ray Cyrus stops by the show as a ghost, disappearing after the pair sing their tune “Christmas Where We Are” on one of Dollywood’s park benches. Not long after, Cyrus’ daughter Miley Cyrus pops in for a quick show-stopper with her godmother, singing Dolly’s hit “Christmas Is”. But before their voices boom throughout all of 30 Rock, Parton offers some sage words to her goddaughter.
“I just wanted to take a minute to say something to you, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart,” Dolly says. Okay, there’s already a lump in my throat. I love these two ladies so, so much. “I am really proud of you. I’ve always been proud of you.”
Dolly continues: “And you know the one thing that touches me the most with all of this? When you had me on the Hannah Montana show back years ago, you really helped my career!”
Wait a minute. Miley Cyrus, who’s just 30 years old, helped country legend Dolly Parton with her career? This doesn’t make any sense. And yet, Parton puts two and two together, as a way to really celebrate Miley’s career—as any good fairy godmother would.
“You introduced me to a whole new set of fans, young ones!” Dolly says. “Of course, they’re not all as young as they used to be, now.”
“Well, you wrote the handbook on how to stay young,” Miley says.
“I’ve got the doctor bills to prove that!” Dolly quips.
I was one of those young fans watching Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel after school. And when I think back to it, Hannah Montana was definitely how I was introduced to Dolly Parton. (Shockingly, as a seven-year-old, I didn’t know who she was quite yet.) Now, here we all are, celebrating together over her new Christmas special.
If Disney ever decides to reboot Hannah Montana—which, with its many revivals and sequel series, seems pretty plausible—Miley and Dolly will save us all. In the meantime, Dolly Parton’s Magic Mountain Christmas is the perfect, tender reunion to remind us all that the two music superstars have always lifted each other up over the years. That’s the best Christmas gift of all.
Dolly Parton’s Magic Mountain Christmas will premiere on NBC Thursday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. ET. It will also be available to stream on Peacock the same day.