If it works, don’t fix it
Hallmark sells shirts that say, “All I want to do is drink hot cocoa and watch Hallmark Channel.”
—The Associated Press
ROCK and rollers figured it out a long time ago: Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break for lead, verse, chorus, chorus, chorus. You can then na-na-nah all the way home. And to big bucks.
The structure works. Oh, some brilliant Freddie Mercury type will throw us for a loop now and then, but if you want a rock single, follow the path. Country music has a similar design.
Those who put Christmas movies together for channels such as Hallmark have their format too. It’s as recognizable as it is pleasing on these sad, cold days when the sun goes down before the news goes off.
The Style section featured a story about the Christmas movie composition the other day. And for a couple of folks at the homestead, it sounded perfectly familiar. Take, perhaps, a fish out of water, add some snow and decorations, mix with some Ray Charles holiday music, throw in a dash of misunderstanding or other conflict, and resolve it all within 90 minutes. No need to bake.
(A Holiday for Love, 1996: A corporate suit is sent to a small town to decide whether to shut down a factory, throwing the locals out of work. But he gets sidetracked after meeting a local woman during the holidays.)
The good thing about these madefor-TV Christmas movies is that there is very little reason to watch an entire flick in one sitting. There aren’t any Quentin Tarantino twists. You can watch them in mixed company, even with kids. There isn’t any Quentin Tarantino dialogue, either.
And if you have to pause to go get more popcorn, or to read a course of medical journals, or view a hanging, just to get the sweet taste out of your mouth, go ahead. The plot will be right here when you get back.
(A Royal Christmas, 2014: The heir to the throne of small Cordinia wants to marry a seamstress from Philly. But his mother has different and “more important” plans for her son.)
The folks who put together these movies aren’t shy about it. They’ve found a winning formula, and the world is beating a path to their door. “You can guarantee that when you meet our two leads in the first 10 minutes of a Hallmark movie, it’s guaranteed that they will end up together,” Michelle Vicary told the Associated Press. She’s an executive vice president at Crown Media Family Networks.
These movies are so popular that they start running before Halloween.
(A Princess for Christmas, 2011, not to be confused with A Royal Christmas, above: A young woman travels with family to Europe to celebrate Christmas, and falls in love with a prince.)
The genre is popular enough that Netflix is getting into it. AP reported that last year it came out with A Christmas Prince, and the sequel is now available: A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding. And the joke is that we’re not kidding.
(A Prince for Christmas, 2015, not to be confused with A Royal Christmas, above, or A Princess for Christmas, above, or A Christmas Prince, above, or A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, above: A prince visits small-town USA incognito only to fall for a local girl who doesn’t know his secret.)
ACTUALLY, we watched that last one. It stars Viva Bianca and some British-sounding guy who isn’t nearly as pretty as she is. It was a trap, we tell you. We were promised hot cocoa and some cuddling on the couch, complete with a blanket and those cookies with the frosting on them, but we didn’t get to the remote fast enough, and an hour or so later we were smiling and “aww”-ing as the two main characters found each other again. We have to admit, it was a pleasant hourplus. Could’ve been worse, we suppose. Could’ve been Caddyshack II.
It’s hard to make fun of this stuff when several times this month you’ll walk into the living room with five people silent and still—caught up in the next prince’s story. So give it a try.
Besides, guys, don’t you ask her to watch football sometimes?