Friday, December 08, 2017

COLUMN: Hallmark Christmas


I'm not sure how it happened. I didn't want it to happen. I should have known better than to let it happen. It's days before Thanksgiving, but somehow I'm feeling -- (gulp) -- festive.

I love the holiday season. BUT IT HASN'T STARTED YET. When I was a kid, we had Halloween, we had Christmas, and somewhere inbetween we had that day where you eat too much.

Then things changed. Retailers weren't satisfied with just ONE month of blitzkrieg yuletide shopping. Nowadays, Christmas displays start firing up before Halloween candy has left the shelves. Leaves are still turning on my trees, but Mix 96 is already blaring Christmas music. Our three holidays have been morphed into a melange of Thanksmasoween.

I love Christmas -- but with clenched teeth and Grinch-like stubbornness, I will not love it until December. Or so I thought.

It wasn't my fault. I had a LOT of stuff to do last Sunday, and I was trying my best to find my productive side. It's just that my house is SUPER weird and quiet without a TV on, so I absent-mindedly channel-flipped to HBO for some background noise while I worked on my to-do list.

But then I noticed something. Banal dialogue... thin plotlines... washed up C-level actors... an overly saccharine soundtrack. OHH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

This wasn't HBO. I was on -- The Hallmark Channel.

I don't know when Hallmark switches to 24/7 Christmas movies. My guess is mid-July. For all I know, maybe they just ALWAYS run Christmas movies. They're low-budget, formulaic, predictable, undeniably awful... and addictive as heroin. How do I know? I just sat through SIX of them.

And it was basically the same movie six times in a row. The only thing that changes is the setting and the failed 90's actor in the starring role. It's always the same plot:

We meet him/her, who is usually but not always Full House's Candace Cameron-Bure or Party of Five's Lacey Chabert. It's the holiday season, but he/she barely notices, thanks to the distraction of (a) his/her important and time-consuming job, (b) his/her louse of a boy/girlfriend, or (c) being a single mom or dad to a precocious and overly-talkative child.

He/she invariably is in a hurry to get somewhere. Then, due to either (a) a twist of fate, (b) a wrong turn, or (c) a helpful nudge from a ghost and/or angel who is usually but not always William Shatner, he/she finds him/herself stuck in a small town that looks like any number of Norman Rockwell paintings.

There they will find the following: (a) a wise-cracking waitress and/or mechanic who will inevitably become their best friend by the end of the movie, (b) the magic of Christmas, and (c) their soulmate, who is always either struggling to get by, or struggling to get by because they're a single mom/dad to a precocious and overly-talkative child. They will meet, they will fall in love, someone will learn the true meaning of Christmas, and somehow the family farm and/or business will be saved from bankruptcy.

Lessons will always be learned, love will always prevail, fake snow will always fall. The title must include the word Christmas: "Love You Like Christmas," "Just in Time for Christmas," "Christmas Done Right," "Christmas Done Wrong," "Christmas 2: Electric Boogaloo," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Christmas," it honestly doesn't matter.

But for some reason, I can't stop watching them and I don't know why. It's not as if they're nail biters. I'm not sitting there going, "Will she ever find true happiness?" There's no other possible outcome. No Hallmark Channel movie will ever end with the script notes of, "...and then she dies. The camera zooms in on a single tear rolling down the face of the precocious and overly-talking child -- for she now knows that Christmas is a lie."

After ten minutes of watching, you feel ridiculous. After two hours of watching, you can't fight off the warm fuzzies. And after watching insipid Hallmark Christmas movies for twelve hours? Well, what happened then in my house, they say, is that Shane's small heart grew three sizes that day. It didn't help that I looked outside at noon to see giant Rockwellian snowflakes floating from the sky like holiday magic. Within hours, I had already dragged out the first of my Christmas decorations.

I suppose it could be worse. I could be one of the writers who spends their summer months dreaming up these heart-warming atrocities. I could be an actor having to walk through fake snow in mid-July pretending it's Christmas. I may have found some premature holiday magic this year, but it's not my fault. Blame Hallmark. Blame the guy who turned my TV to the wrong channel. I presume it was William Shatner.

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