I don’t need to remind you that this is the holiday season, though I should remind you that it’s only 5 days until Christmas Day as I write this (better get that shopping done très rapide). This is the season chock full of traditions that normal people never get tired of: There’s the tree. The ornaments. The decorations. The greeting cards to send out. The shopping for presents. The carols and carolers. The ugly sweaters. And candy canes, sugar plums, and other similar stuff loaded with too much sugar.
Speaking of things loaded with too much sugar, the holiday season also has its share of TV specials and movies that are run on an annual basis and become oh so addictive to the eyes and brain. This post is about the holiday movies, specifically those that are found on the cable network Hallmark Channel. For those who don’t have cable, Hallmark Channel’s stock in trade is programming that makes the hearts of people (primarily families and older adults) go “Awww…” when they watch it. You know, just like a Hallmark greeting card. (Yes, Hallmark Channel is owned by the Hallmark greeting card company.)
The last two months of each year, Hallmark Channel goes all out in the Christmas spirit by offering wall-to-wall airings of movies and specials — but mostly, if not exclusively, movies — billed as Countdown to Christmas. Virtually every Christmas movie Hallmark airs during this stretch is, let’s face it, pretty formulaic: One handsome guy crosses paths with one equally stunning girl. They make cute. They hit it off perfectly. They have some sort of falling out before Christmas. At least one of them is reminded of the spirit of the season. They reunite to bury the hatchet. They then embrace, fall in love (or fall back in love, whatever the case may be), and have a passionate kiss. They then ride off into the sunset, or whatever passes for “riding off into the sunset” in such a movie, surrounded by happy friends and family in some big holiday shindig. And, oh, all of this happens, more often than not, in a city or small town in, say, New England or the Pacific Northwest that’s buried in a foot of snow by the end of the film (such settings and visuals are vital in a Hallmark Channel movie).
The cynic in me usually scrolls through the Hallmark Channel listings and winces at all the sugary goodness(?) the network’s holiday season movies include… especially since, as noted above, they virtually all follow the same formula. The cynic in me also takes a pass at watching any of this drivel, choosing instead to watch another holiday tradition/onslaught, college football bowl games. But I must acknowledge that these films have a devoted following, attracting large volumes of viewers (or at least large by basic cable standards) who desire something that’s wholesome for the whole family and/or is an escape from the difficulties of the real world and its controversies on the all-news channels just a few spots up the dial. Attracting such a large, devoted audience will only drive Hallmark to make more Christmas-themed movies, as formulaic as they may be; indeed, they’re churning out an astonishing 33 new movies this year.
This week, two totally different pieces about Hallmark’s Christmas movie kick piqued my interest: This discussion that aired last weekend on NPR about Hallmark’s success in the genre, and this blog post from a certain internet/TV provider in the Madison area that literally turns the Hallmark holiday movie tropes into a game of bingo. They inspired me to take a stab at creating a spec script… uh, okay, less of a full-fledged script and more of a basic storyboard-like organizing of my own Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. And so without further adieu, I proudly present to you [drumroll]…
“Yet Another Hallmark Christmas Movie”
(Uh, yeah, you can probably tell from that title alone that I’m gonna have some fun with this. And besides, Hallmark has already used every single holiday pun as a movie title.)
Fade in on… our heroine, a clean-cut woman in, say, her early 30s or so. She is played by… uh, let’s say Lacey Chabert, because these Hallmark movies usually feature a rotating roster of rather familiar handsome men and attractive ingenues, those with faces that make the viewer exclaim “Hey, weren’t they on…” and head over to IMDb. It’s a safe bet Lacey Chabert’s own IMDb entry list her in two or three (hundred?) of these Hallmark holiday movies.
Anyway, we find Lacey Chabert joyously strutting, almost Kimmy Schmidt-like, down the main street of a little burg named… uh, let’s call it Winterville. Yeah, Winterville, a tiny little burg that suspiciously looks like a suburb of Vancouver (because it’s cheaper to film in Canada; I mean, they don’t call it “Hollywood North” for nothing). Main Street in Winterville is all dressed to the nines in its finest holiday fare, from tinsel and lights in the shop windows to boughs of holly on the light fixtures.
While merrily proceeding down Main Street in Winterville, our heroine Lacey is carrying armfuls of presents and is all smiles, passing others who are also wearing smiles outside their jackets, Santa hats, and Canucks jerseys (again, Vancouver). And Lacey is still all smiles until… *whoop* she steps on an icy spot on the sidewalk, sees her presents fly out of her arms, and does a face plant on the… wait for it… soft ground (because horrific facial injuries don’t make for great TV, let alone family-friendly TV).
Have no fear, however, for right at that moment, Lacey is rescued by a handsome young man played by… oh, let’s say Dermot Mulroney, who, it’s safe to say, has also been in a boatload of Hallmark movies, perhaps starring with Lacey in at least a couple of them. Our hero Dermot is proprietor of a clothing boutique/crafts store/coffee shop that’s not a Starbucks franchise in Winterville. (Yes, there are such unusually diversified businesses in these flicks). Dermot’s been seeking far and wide for more inventory to sell. Luckily, Lacey is just the person he needs in that aspect, for Lacey is a… uh, let’s say she makes combination bridal bouquets and pine cone wreaths and needs caffeine-and-spice-latte-scented outlets sell them. And Dermot needs that business lest the bank darken his store’s door.
But clothing and crafts, and coffee and pine cones, are the least of Lacey and Dermot’s worries at the moment (and more importantly the least of we, the viewers’, worries). Because right then and there, Lacey and Dermot spend the entire second act making cute with each other. As joyous music plays in the soundtrack, they dance (metaphorically and/or literally) through town. Snow strategically falls around them. They create snowmen and snow angels in the city park (cut to police constable grinning approvingly). They get into snowball fights (playful ones, of course). They suddenly put on skates and go ice skating (cut back to police constable still grinning approvingly). They just as suddenly decorate a tree with ornaments. Sparks literally fly between the two of them, until…
Happy music is replaced by thrashing rock guitar as camera cuts to… Lacey’s good-for-nothing ex-boyfriend… whom we’ll call Deke, whose smoldering looks adds a whole new dimension to hot. (I dunno who’d play Deke, so let’s just call him Deke.) Deke has returned to Winterville after
doing 5 to 10 not hitting it big in the big city (which, in flashbacks, also looks suspiciously like Vancouver… because, again, Vancouver). And Deke has come to woo back Lacey’s heart. Naturally, Dermot is jealous and challenges Deke to a fight… which Deke wins.
Suddenly, Lacey is conflicted, her heart torn between new love from Dermot and the resurfaced passion she still has for Deke. Dermot, now feeling like the odd man out, suddenly exclaims that this romantic jealousy has caused him to lose his Christmas spirit. Shocked by Dermot’s admission, Lacey gets all “how could you?” and runs off weeping, Deke in close pursuit to
romance comfort her. (Ugh, men.)
Cut to… a sulking Dermot leaning somewhere on a park bench or bridge railing. Just then, a jolly man in a not-that-bushy white beard and red suit sits down steps next to Dermot to remind him that he should do anything to woo Lacey back, for if he does, he’ll regain his Christmas spirit. Naturally, this being a Hallmark movie, this perks Dermot’s confidence. And as he gets up from his spot, he realizes that the jolly man in that red suit has disappeared… and also realizes that that same jolly man sounded suspiciously like Ed Asner. (Or was it Henry Winkler?)
But it’s not the time to ponder who played which role. Dermot has to woo back Lacey! Quickly, he leaves his spot on the park bench/bridge railing/whatever and frantically runs up and down every single street in Winterville, desperately asking everyone he sees if they’ve seen Lacey. Winterville being as small as it is, more than a few know where she could be, but it takes a kind old lady wearing fake reindeer antlers to state the obvious: Lacey is probably back at her place enjoying Christmas Eve. [Dermot smacks forehead]
With that, Dermot makes the mad dash to Lacey’s place. And sure enough, he finds Lacey there with friends and family… but not with Deke. Yes! Dermot now has the perfect opportunity to not only profess his love for Lacey but to tell her he’s regained his Christmas spirit.
However… and here’s where our Hallmark movie suddenly veers away from the network’s usual happy ending formula. Oh, there’s a happy ending, for sure. It’s just that it belongs to only Lacey. Turns out she realizes she doesn’t need Dermot or Deke in her life. Matter of fact, she’s fallen in love with someone else, someone we’ll just call Chris. (Chris is played by… I have no idea, but since we’re now veering from the Hallmark formula, we could make Chris a woman.) Lacey has fallen so hard for Chris that the two of them will leave Winterville behind come January for the big, big city (which, surprisingly, looks a lot like Seattle, or at least uses Seattle as an establishing shot). There, Lacey can make her combination bridal bouquets and pine cone wreaths and sell them in every Starbucks in town (because… let’s just say Starbucks is underwriting this film). Lacey will then make a boatload of money and go national.
Bittersweet as Lacey’s news may be, her friends and family still share in her happiness. Dermot, obviously, does not, which doesn’t mean a hill of beans to Lacey, for she’s found her own version of Christmas happiness, the movie’s leading man be dammed. Fade out to credits.
So, what do you think? I know, it’s just a rough draft of a story line that definitely needs sprucing up. But when that happens, I’ll be thrilled to take it to… uh, now that I think of it, it’s likely that Hallmark Channel won’t be took keen about that final scene and dénouement. Or all that satire. That’s okay, for I could take it to Comedy Central. I mean, if Hallmark can make a boatload of money on these flicks, perhaps Comedy Central could do the same.