When you don't care enough to see the very best
Remember when the holiday season meant cuddling up on the couch, warmed by the fire, sipping the occasionally spiked egg nog and watching anything on the telly but the inevitable rerun of “It’s A Wonderful Life”?
Times were simpler then. Dylan and Shatner hadn’t released Christmas albums. The holiday Yule log wasn’t streamed 24 hours a day. And the Hallmark Movie Channel hadn’t churned out a decade’s worth of cookie-cutter cinematic classics.
Ah yes, the hopeful optimism of hapless singles — played by impossibly pretty thespians who not only hadn’t found love ... but who we were certain HAD found love during the previous holiday season’s run of Hallmark movies.
Why isn’t Martin Scorsese going after this overmined genre instead of being a Grinch about superhero movies?
For those who have successfully avoided the full-length promotional efforts to sell greeting cards and ornaments, the good folks at Hallmark have been mass-producing holiday films for 10 years or so under a “Countdown to Christmas” banner.
This year alone, there are 40 new titles being screened until jolly old Saint Nick gives us the gift we’ve been waiting for — shutting down the caravan until next year (unless you’re one of those masochistic types who indulges in the cable channel’s annual “Christmas in July” onslaught).
Hallmark isn’t alone in producing these impossibly cute gal meets impossibly cute guy — just when they thought they’d never find love again — suspensions of disbelief. All told, there are more than 80 “original” (ho-ho-ho) such films coming our way over the Christmas season (which, in the case of Hallmark, began a few days before Halloween).
It’s just that the Hallmark imprint is so entrenched now that the season is trumpeted by social media groups, fan conventions and a sleigh-full of wisenheimer entertainment columnists taking pot shots at them — a task that takes slightly less effort than Dick Cheney hunting for animals that are tethered to posts.
At least the Hallmark movies allow viewers to criss-cross the country to see that, just about anywhere, there are droves of twinkle-eyed, predominantly straight, white singles in desperate need of companionship.
This year alone, we’ll get to celebrate “Christmas at Graceland,” “Christmas at Dollywood,” “Christmas in Montana,” “Christmas at the (not Ashland) Plaza,” “Christmas in Rome,” “A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas” and “Christmas Under the Stars”... which, one can only guess, accounts for everywhere else.
My favorite new title this year premieres on Nov. 30 – the cleverly coined “Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen” (it’s always an ampersand in these names) that tells the story of a unlucky-in-love party planner who ultimately wins the heart of an uptight businessman who is so uptight that he’s always address as “Mr. Edward Ferris.”
As Jane Austen ripoffs go, it doesn’t come close to the novel “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” — which doesn’t have reindeer, but is replete with giant lobsters and man-eating jellyfish.
Each year, there are hand-dandy guides as to how to tell you’re watching a Hallmark Christmas movie — filled with pointers such as the Christmas grumps are usually overworked professionals (see “Ferris, Mr. Edward”); a local business, often with a holiday theme, is in danger of being shut down; a stranger (who’s unlucky in love) gets stranded in a way-too-charming small town; or a clarinet starts being heard in the background.
A clarinet playing in the background is the universal signal that our “Two Turtle Doves” (yep, that’s another new title this year) are about to fall in love.
If all of this is a bit too much for you to take — without, that is, the proper amount of holiday spirits — don’t fret ... the good folks at Country Living Magazine have developed the greatest gift of all.
The Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game, which not only will help you get through the entire 90 minutes, but counts as doing your curl lifts for the day.
The game is separated into three categories:
Take A Drink when (among other things): A character’s name is related to Christmas (Holly, Nick, etc.); you see an ugly sweater or tie; there’s a reference to a dead relative (there isn’t enough spiked egg nog in the world for this); or a newcomer partakes in a family or town tradition.
Completely Finish Your Drink when: the Christmas cynic is filled with the holiday spirit; or when it starts snowing on Christmas. (Finish your drink and that of the person next to you when it starts snowing on Christmas as the unlucky-in-love couple kisses for the first time.)
Finally, Country Living advises that you Take a Shot of Something Stronger when you spot actresses Candance Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert or Danica McKellar.
That trio, all stars as children on beloved TV series, find themselves falling in love over and over in Hallmark Christmas Movies — alongside dashing actors who played the star’s best friend, or third cop from the left, in a series that faintly jingles a bell.
Hallmark hasn’t ventured into Southern Oregon yet, but it’s not hard to imagine what “Christmas in the Rogue Valley” could look like.
A beloved business — let’s give it a season name like ... oh, I don’t know ... how about The Holly Theatre — is threatened with closure unless enough money can be raised through its annual winter performance of a living Nativity scene.
This year, the pageant is staged in the Rogue Valley, as a homeless couple named Jo-Jo and Merry (everybody drink) is forced to live in a tiny house as she awaits to give birth to a child of unspecified origin who she won’t have vaccinated ... when suddenly they are visited by three wise members of the LGBTQ2+ community bearing gifts of reusable grocery bags, metal straws and hemp.
Nah, that’s not a Hallmark movie; that’s a world premiere at the Shakespeare festival.
Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin is fine with eggs, it’s that nog stuff that he won’t allow at firstname.lastname@example.org/.