How have you been getting ready for the holidays? Shopping for soon-to-be-outmoded electronic gifts? Baking various types of berry pies? Dragging warm and unfashionable clothes out of storage? Nope, not me. I’ve been busy watching Christmas-themed original TV movies. Ten of them, in fact. Not Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, either — we’re talking about those happy, sappy, and sometimes crappy flicks that crowd the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and ABC Family around this time of year. Whaaaa, you say? Are you some sort of twisted self-hurter? And wait a sec… aren’t you Jewish?
My reasons for engaging in the holy mother of all endurance tests were strictly professional: I was constructing EW’s second annual holiday-movie-cliché checklist, which reveals how many of those well-worn plot gimmicks (Old Flames Reignite, Magical Occurrence, etc.) appeared in each of these movies. To complete this mission, I had to sit, sober, through approximately 900 minutes of flicks like An Accidental Christmas, Holiday Switch, and Holiday in Handcuffs (pictured, with stars Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez). And, oh, the things I witnessed during my movie marathon: The re-sparkling of teen stars from years past (Nicole Eggert! Shannen Doherty!). Feisty, funny grandmas who like their egg nog with extra sauce. Mistletoe mischief. People stranded in awful weather. The irony-free delivery of lines like “Do you believe in miracles?” and “I set out to offer somebody else a Christmas miracle, but I ended up with my own.” There were a few surprises here and there; the characters in Handcuffs were edgy enough to use words like “boink,” “slut,” and “pornstar hair.”
But here’s the craziest thing to report from the trenches: I actually got a little misty-eyed during not one movie, but two. (I’ve blocked out the specific incidents, but I believe that both Lost Holiday and The Note were responsible for mildly activating my tear ducts.) What does this mean? Maybe I do believe in Christmas, er, non-denominational miracles after all.
Still, you’re probably wondering: Dan, what did you get for your far-beyond-the-call-of-duty journalism? A raise? A promotion? Check this out: I received a phone call from my editor-in-friend, Dalton Ross, who said, “I’m in the middle of some much more important work right now, but I wanted to let you know: Great job on that chart.” In the spirit of the holidays, I told him that his kind praise was truly the greatest present of all. I was lying through my teeth, of course. So now all I can do is to desperately hope that when he gets a free moment, he’ll reflect back on all of the hours of my life that I can never have back — hours that could’ve been spent helping the homeless or watching reruns of America’s Funniest Home Videos — and decide to give me a 50-inch 1080p flat-screen TV. If not, I’d even settle for some spiked egg nog.
Are you watching these new holiday TV movies? If so, which ones (if any) are great and which ones just grate?