Image Credit: Eike Schroter/Hallmark Channel; Ben Mark Holzberg/Hallmark Channel; Andrew Eccles/ABC Family; Disney Enterprises; Starz/Hyrid DogThere you are, all curled up on the sofa, holding a mug of hot cocoa with one hand, knitting an unsightly reindeer sweater with the other. Your tree is twinkling, your fireplace is glowing, and your neighbors are caroling semi-competently on your snow-dusted lawn. Is there anything that could make this scene more festive? You bet your sweet chestnuts there is. The holidays aren’t officially the holidays until we gorge ourselves on the buffet of new Christmas TV movies served up around this time of year. Are they corny? Like an Iowa farm. Predictable? You can set your watch to the arrival of most plot twists. Manipulative? That answer lies in millions of moist tear ducts. But I watch these flicks — every single one of them. Why? Partly because anti-depressants are too expensive, but mostly because I need to conduct the necessary research for EW’s Holiday Movie Cliché Checklist, a handy annual chart that Dalton Ross and I created five years ago to help you figure out which flicks incorporate various traditional trademarks of the genre (mistletoe makeout! stranded by snowstorm!).
If you scanned this year’s checklist, which appeared in the magazine’s Dec. 3 issue, you probably noticed that there was room for only eight movies. What about the other nine, you ask? Aren’t they worthy of recognition? Quite possibly. That’s why all 17 movies are eligible to compete in the third annual Yulies, the only awards that care enough to honor absurd achievement in the holiday TV-movie genre. Here’s the list of movies vying for a coveted Yulie Log.
November Christmas (CBS, aired Nov. 28)
The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation (ABC Family, aired Nov. 28)
Three Wise Women (Hallmark, Dec. 23)
The Night Before the Night Before Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 23)
Battle of the Bulbs (Hallmark, Dec. 24)
On Strike for Christmas (LMN, Dec. 24)
Christmas with a Capital C (GMC, Dec. 25)
Debbie Macomber’s Call Me Mrs. Miracle (Hallmark, Dec. 25)
Santa Buddies (ABC Family, Dec. 25)
Gift of the Magi (Hallmark, Dec. 26)
An Old-Fashioned Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 27)
The Santa Incident (Hallmark. Dec. 29)
Farewell Mr. Kringle (Hallmark, Dec. 30)
The Town Christmas Forgot (Hallmark, Dec. 30)
The Santa Suit (Hallmark, Dec. 31)
The Good Witch’s Gift (Hallmark, Dec. 31)
*Many of these movies have already premiered; I have included a repeat airdate where appropriate. Also, consider this your one and only SPOILER ALERT: Plot points will be discussed — and delighted in.
Best Use of Lauren Holly
The Hallmark Channel apparently believes that there is no better way to celebrate the holidays than to deck the halls with boughs of Lauren Holly. She stars in not one, but two holiday movies, a feat we haven’t seen since … well, last year, when Dean Cain did double duty. In The Town Christmas Forgot, Holly plays an overworked businesswoman who learns to slow down and smell the snowflakes with her family after a storm strands them in a depressed village. But naughty is more fun to watch than nice, and in Call Me Mrs. Miracle, Holly is a snooty, callous, self-consumed designer who’s prone to uttering lines like “I don’t know if large women care what they look like, but if they do, let’s exploit them, hmmm?” Winner: It’s a Miracle!
Tastiest Christmas Cookie Calamity
Many of our movies served up Christmas cookies; four of them even wrapped a little drama around the seasonal treat. Both On Strike for Christmas and The Night Before the Night Before Christmas milk the idea that male family members are unfit bakers: Behold their disastrous attempts to whip up a batch in the kitchen! But you’ll get a slightly better sugar high from Santa Buddies: Puppy Paws uses his magic powers to transform a tray of unattended plain cookies into multi-colored treats; he then gobbles them up and ducks out as the unhappy chef returns, in the process accidentally framing his friend, Butterball!* (Note: Butterball should not be confused with another of Santa Buddies‘ golden retrievers, B-Dawg, who spits lines like “Yo, you straight-up trippin’?” and busts some serious breakdance moves.)
Biggest Holiday Ham
Who were the few, the not too proud, to throw a little Kraft into their craft and ham it up for your enjoyment? Dean Cain and Joey Diaz — who scored Yulies last year for their portrayal of Ted and Stewey, the inept thieves thwarted by a Mario Lopez-voiced pooch in The Dog Who Saved Christmas — returned this year in The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation with a fresh batch of groaner jokes, some enhanced with flatulence. And in Christmas with a Capital C, Ted McGinley’s onscreen offbeat brother, Greg (Brad Stine), looking like a cross between Jeff Daniels and Sawyer, reenacted the birth of Jesus in unusual fashion: He voiced the Virgin Mary with OMG teen-speak before tweaking a classic Clint Eastwood line (“Go ahead — make my baby”). Let us also offer a tip of the cap — and a towel — to Matt Frewer, whose Stu took a stream of cat urine in the face in Battle of the Bulbs. But we present this award to the man who would appreciate it the most: The Santa Suit‘s Darrell Faria, for his convincing portrayal of Sebastian, an aspiring, mildly delusional thespian who took his role as mall elf — and support staff for Santa Sorbo (yes, as in Kevin) — way too seriously. Your ‘zombie elf’ look may have frightened away a little child, Darrell, but it’ll make for a good Halloween costume next year.
Unholiest Clash Between Former Childhood Enemies Over a Nativity Scene
Of course, the Yulies would never approve of a fight over something as sacred as a nativity scene, but on the other hand, the Yulies wouldn’t turn away from watching one if it’s already in progress. In Christmas with a Capital C, Daniel Baldwin stars as Mitch, a Berkeley-educated atheist who returns to his Alaskan hometown and files a motion to shut down the town’s religious display on government property, much to the chagrin of Dan, a high-school rival turned mayor, played by … Ted McGinley! And when that scrooge Mitch tries to stop Dan’s little daughter — dressed as an angel — from singing on government property, Dan’s brother winds up shoving Mitch. But things get even uglier in Battle of the Bulbs: As unfriendly neighbors Bob (Daniel Stern) and Stu (Frewer) try to outdo the other’s Christmas decorations, Bob winds up wresting a “Joseph” from the delivery man before getting into a tug of war with Stu over Joseph. Winner: The dimbulbs in Battle of the Bulbs.
Line of Dialogue Least Representative of the Christmas Spirit
Second runner-up: “You mean you’re the ghost of Xmas yet to come? Really? Because I’m pretty sure I never banged Santa.”—Sloane (Christina Milian) in Christmas Cupid
First runner-up: “I do have a problem with Christmas … and all the rest of the garbage you Christians have been jamming down my throat since I was a kid.” —Mitch (Daniel Baldwin) in Christmas with a Capital C
Winner: “You wouldn’t like what I’d leave in your stocking … and it’s not coal!”—Drake (Kevin Sorbo) in The Santa Suit
The “Remind Me Not to Ask You About Your Family’s New Year’s Eve Traditions” Award
In Call Me Mrs. Miracle, Molly (Jewel Staite) and Jake (Eric Johnson), are sipping wine on Molly’s sofa, inching toward a romantic kiss. In situations like these, Patti from The Millionaire Matchmaker might advise that the daters stay on neutral, innocuous topics. Let’s go to the tape:
Molly: [patting Jake’s arm] “So tell me about Christmas with your family!”
Jake: [pause] “My mother died Christmas Eve 20 years ago … Freak accident. Snowstorm. Two cabs collided. My father and I, we haven’t celebrated Christmas since.”
Most Extreme Declaration About Christmas from a Child
Runner-up: “It’s going to the best Christmas ever!”—Makayla (Francesca Derosa) in Christmas with a Capital C
Winner: “This is the worst Christmas ever! I hate you!”—Susie (Emily Tennant) in Battle of the Bulbs
Best Conspiracy Theory About Santa Claus
Second runner-up: “When I was four — this is great — my mom told me Santa Claus is a myth created to stimulate retail sales. — Anna (Christine Taylor) in Farewell Mr. Kringle
First runner-up: “This is the human element of the Intruder Network, an extraterrestrial nexus bent on world domination.”– Erickson (Greg Germann) in The Santa Incident
Winner: “How do you know he’s not an alien who crash-landed on our roof, took the shape of a nice old man just to put us at ease, and as soon as we let our guard down, he’s gonna cut open our head with a laser beam and eat our brains out? It could happen!”—Hannah (Rebecca Williams) in The Night Before the Night Before Christmas
The CyberSanta Award
Who says that Christmas TV movies don’t speak to the youth of today? This year, three flicks included characters viewing a viral video! Are any of them NSFW? Not quite, but in Christmas Cupid‘s must-watch clip, drunk starlet Caitlin (Ashley Benson) vomits into Santa’s toy sack.
Outstanding Representation of Christmas Clichés in Two Minutes or Less
If you want to revel in the traditional trademarks of the holiday TV movies but are running short on time, just watch the final two minutes of The Night Before the Night Before Christmas, when you can enjoy: Santa granting a boy’s wish for a white Christmas, Santa bellowing “Merry Christmas” as he flies off on his sleigh, a star being affixed to the top of a Christmas tree, a dog wearing antlers, a mistletoe kiss, and a family Christmas photo.
Best Freefall While Decorating
There are three or four nominees in this category, including one by Daphne Zuniga in On Strike for Christmas. And when Daphne Zuniga plunges off a ladder and into the bushes with a comical yelp, you just hand her the Yulie, no questions asked.
That concludes our third annual Yulies presentation, folks. Do you have any awards of your own to add? Which were your favorite — and least favorite — holiday TV movies this year? Is anyone out there braving the entire line-up? Happy holidays to all!