Snow Bride

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Courtesy of ABC Family, Hallmark Channel and Lifetime

Courtesy of ABC Family, Hallmark Channel and Lifetime

ABC Family, Hallmark, and Lifetime Need To Refocus And Get Back
To Quality Christmas Movies Without Agenda.

 
This is the time of the calendar year when new, live television is hard to come by. My generally jovial disposition and affection for the holidays naturally lends itself to cranking out Holiday and television related articles. However, not every holiday season is created equal. Now sure, you put up a tree (or other specific decor) every year. You make and consume a fair amount of the same foods every year. There are even can’t miss traditions that happen every year. But each year is not created equal.

One of my many traditions is that I watch nothing but holiday/Christmas programming from the week of Thanksgiving through the end of December. Now there are shows that I cover for this website and as long as they put out new episodes, of course I will watch those. Outside of that, Christmas all the time. I don’t watch late night talk shows, documentaries, mini series’, news magazine shows, if it’s not scripted new episodes or Christmas tv/movies, it can wait until January. On top of that, I have a stable of Christmas movies and music loaded on my mobile devices. I really don’t have any need for anything else, but as I said, not all holiday seasons are created equal.

Every year you can count on Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Scrooged, A Christmas Carol, and of course 24 hours of A Christmas Story. Those a great, literally. Those are first ballot Christmas Movie Hall of Famers. Television networks pay good money for the rights to air those. The question is, “What do you do with the other 90% of the Christmas viewing time?” You find other, non-classics, holiday movies on television to enjoy. Some of them are cheesy, some are heartwarming, some are cute and some are just flat-out bad. Over the years though, by and large, the made for TV holiday movies are pretty good on the whole.

2013 is a great example. In 2013 Hallmark Channel really began to separate itself from the Holiday network pack. In one season, Hallmark released A Very Merry Mix Up, Catch A Christmas Star, Fir Crazy, Hats Off To Christmas, Let It Snow, Snow Bride, The Christmas Ornament, and a personal favorite Window Wonderland. Window Wonderland I would put on any Christmas Movies list, regardless of status, budget or type. That same year ABC Family put out a couple new-made for TV movies but none to the level of what Hallmark was doing. Holidaze was cute. It’s a little Vice Versa, a little daytime soap, with a healthy sprinkling of It’s A Wonderful Life. Probably not even in the top half of made for TV Christmas movies of the last 15 years though. ABC Family also tried to maximize viewers coming off of the success of Glee and Pitch Perfect, the released The Mistle-Tones. A movie that combines group performance singing with Christmas themes. I don’t personally like it, but I understand why they thought they needed to make it.

2015 has been a complete snooze fest. On the surface, nothing seems out-of-place. Candace Cameron-Bure, Lacey Chabert (always fighting it out for Queen of Christmas movies), and even Danika McKellar (Winnie Cooper from the Wonder Years) makes a couple of appearances. There is a Debbie Macomber presence, always welcomed. And there are a stable of movies starring someone you thought was too good to do made for tv movies. Brandon Routh doing the Nine Lives of Christmas last year (which was GREAT), for example. All the mainstays and typical details one tends to look for are there. A bad example is Judd Nelson playing Santa in the forgettable Cancel Christmas. Judd Nelson is too harsh to pull off a jolly St. Nick.
This year has been completely forgettable. Take away the classics that Networks run and what you’re left with is a not very compelling holiday lineup. With movies like Ice Sculpture Christmas, Christmas Incorporated, A Christmas Detour and I’m Not Ready For Christmas…I’m not ready to devote any of my free time to watching these movies. Now I love my Queens of Christmas. I will give anything with Lacey Chabert, Candace Cameron-Bure, and especially Danica McKellar a chance. But I just can’t do some of these. Attention Hallmark, ABC Family and Lifetime…How many ‘real American girl discovers her boyfriend is really a prince’ movies are we gonna make. A Princess for Christmas was great. A Royal Christmas was still really good. I can’t get through Crown For Christmas. I’m sure it’s not as bad as I’m making it seem, but seriously, how many times are we going to do the same movie? This is especially disheartening because Danica McKellar is a part of one of the best made for TV Christmas movies of all time, Love at the Christmas Table.

The saving grace is that I, like a lot of families, have a young one who is focusing on the classics…as he should. Rudolph, Frosty, Twas the Night Before Christmas (all the Rankin and Bass classics), all of the Claymation specials (Misfit Toys, Christmas without Santa, etc), the Grinch, and his personal favorite, The Polar Express. What can I say, my son is crazy for anything with trains. So generally speaking, I don’t have the time to give each new made for tv Christmas movie a chance. All I know is that the ones I have given a chance to, have been overwhelmingly disappointing.
The bigger issue is not that they have missed the mark, the bigger issue is why? I think I have a theory.

I am a Christmas degenerate. I jokingly tell people that Halloween is the speed bump preventing me from starting the Christmas ‘Holiday Season’ earlier. I can find joy and comfort in just about anything from November through December. Even these teens and single digit temps we’ve been having out here lately. There is one detail that prevents me from being any other viewer during this time. There is no amount of money you can throw at marketing, no video promo you can air, no hint you can drop that will even for a moment come close to turning me into a year-long viewer of networks like Hallmark, Lifetime or ABC Family. Hell even changing their name to Freeform (Jan. 12) will not bring me to the formerly known as ABC Family. It just isn’t going to happen. Hate to break it to you, I do not care in the least about Pretty Little Liars. I don’t care about Cedar Cove. And you can’t make me care about Dance Moms or the next man hating Lifetime original movie. It just is not going to happen. I honestly could not possibly care any less than I already do about those networks unless they are airing Christmas content.

In the past I’ve made a minor fuss about stuffing their non-holiday programming down our throats. Now I wish that’s all it was. Whether by design or a friendly coincidence, these networks have gone from trying to maximize new viewers by running their non-holiday promos during holiday programming to actually altering the way they make their holiday movies to resemble how they make their non-holiday shows and movies. My biggest fear is that ten years from now, we’ll look back and say, “Those were the good ole days, 1999-2013”. There is a reason why people like me don’t watch those networks for 10 months out of the year, but go binge crazy during the remaining 2 months. When they were making heartwarming, cute, clever holiday movies for the sole purpose of maximizing viewers during the Christmas/Holiday months, they made magic (considering budget, cast and other factors), maybe it was lightning in a bottle. Or maybe that’s no longer good enough and someone in a board room decided to use this window to maximize opportunity.

My theory is that winning Christmas is no longer good enough for the Christmas Big 3. Would it be nice if some preteen watching Elf saw a promo for The Fosters and decided to watch it when it started its new season after the Holidays? Or maybe a retired government employee decided to give Project Runway a real chance. What these networks need to understand is that the bulk of their Christmas/Holiday viewers are never, will never consider watching their networks the rest of the year. And for good reason. If we liked what they put out, the countdown to Christmas stuff would just be icing on the cake. I believe they are slowly changing the way the make these movies, how the characters react, the temperament of the movies and even the subject matter of these movies to resemble what they make for the other 10 months of the year.

ABC Family (Freeform), Hallmark and Lifetime…understand what you are. Maximize that and try not to bite off more than you can chew. There is nothing wrong with being a heavyweight ratings wise during the holiday season and being a featherweight the rest of the time. I am a scripted network fiction, sports, new release movie type of viewer most of the time. I am not your demographic most of the year. Unless you’re going to start airing some new Tuesday Night Football or plan on bringing back Constantine, there’s nothing you can do that will interest me come February.

My advice to our readers is to do what makes you happy this time of year. That and focus on the classics this year. Hopefully I’m wrong and this is an uncharacteristically bad year for made for TV Christmas/Holiday movies. Watch them if you want. I don’t mean to stop you. But if you’re time is limiting or you’ve been wondering why none of these seem to interest you, stick to the classics this year. A Christmas Story, Vacation, Home Alone, Polar Express, The Grinch and of course all of the musical and animated specials we all love so much. Stick to what we know to be great and try again next year, hoping for improved results.

freedownwallpaper.com

freedownwallpaper.com

Welcome to the Saturday December 20th DVR list. Saturday represents the “Christmas push”. An idea that Christmas fanatics like me, resent at least slightly. Indulge me if you may. I approach the holidays as a ‘season’ if you will. It’s one large period of time for me that starts with Halloween and doesn’t end until after New Years. For the me the journey is more important than the destination. A minority held approach I’ll grant you. Most people treat it like a countdown to the 25th. You can see this in the way these networks promote their Holiday programming. “Countdown to Christmas”, “25 Days of Christmas”, etc. Although I’ve been watching Christmas movies on my own time since about the 20th of October, I acknowledge that the 20th of December (or the last Saturday before Christmas) signifies the big push. This is where the networks start to break out the big guns. While there is a significant number of classics, there are still some made for TV gems in the mix. There’s a lot to get through, so I’ll attempt to keep these a little shorter.

Dec 20

Scrooged. Spoiler alert. I can and will (not now) make the case that Scrooged is the best Christmas movie of all time. That is not a typo. That’s a story for another day, so make sure to check back to NJATVS often for the Top 25 Christmas movies debate to be posted very soon. Scrooged is a modern (back in 1988) take on the Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol. Instead of a bitter financer, the Scrooge character manifests itself as Frank Cross President of IBC, a television network. While his network attempts to put on a 40 million dollar live production version of A Christmas Carol, his former boss sets him on a path to experience Christmases past, present and future. At it’s conclusion, the changed Frank Cross delivers the single greatest line in the history of Holiday programming. And every moment in between make for a great adaptation to a classic. The cast alone is worth your time if you’ve never seen this one. Bill Murray as Frank Cross, Karen Allen (Indiana Jones), John Forsythe (the original Charlie of Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty), John Glover (Lionel Luthor from Smallville), Bobcat Goldthwait (Police Academy), Carol Kane (a staple of 1980s comedies too frequent to mention), Alfre Woodard, Jamie Farr, Robert Goulet, Buddy Hackett, John Houseman, Lee Majors, Mary Lou Retton, a ‘young’ Regina King, Anne Ramsey, Wendie Malick, Michael J. Pollard, and Brian Doyle-Murray just to name the big ones I can remember. Even if you’ve seen it multiple times, its worth another go around. I probably watch this movie 20-30 times a year.

A Very Merry Mix Up. Alicia Witt stars opposite Mark Wiebe in the made for TV happy accident romantic holiday movie. For the Christmas enthusiast this is worth a look. Another in a long line of cute but predictable ‘someone finds love at Christmas’ type of movie. Alice is all set to spend Christmas with her boyfriend’s family, the Mitchums. Will, the boyfriend, is a motivated seller professionally who comes from a well to do family. The kind of family that does exactly the same thing every year for the Holidays which is as little as possible. A very cold family whose members don’t even seem to enjoy each other’s company. Alice finds herself with the Mitchums and her enthusiastic affection for the Holidays couldn’t be happier for being with the Mitchums. And that’s because she’s enjoying the company of the wrong Mitchums.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). This is the original Christmas special that I’m pretty sure every American has seen and enjoyed. Not to be confused with the Jim Carrey/Ron Howard live action feature film that while good, is not the original. Record this one and continue the family tradition of sharing it with the kids in your family.

Arthur Christmas. In this British made, animated movie we get to see more of the Claus’ than just St. Nick. In this story, Arthur is a Christmas enthusiast just happy to help. Arthur’s brother Steve, is the motivated type. Out to ascend the ranks and take over as Santa one day. Grandsanta is the elder retired former Santa. Arthur discovers that one child in particular is about to be forgotten at Christmas. With the help of Grandsanta hoping to relive the glory days, Arthur heads out to deliver a toy to this one child. It’s a lovely story and absolutely worth your time. Whether you run out and buy this movie or plan to watch it repeatedly, is up to the individual.

Snow Bride. This is another cute but predictable romantic Holiday made for TV movie. In this one, Greta (a TMZ style reporter) infiltrates a wealthy family (essentially a made up version of the Kennedys) as a woman interested in Brian Tannehill. Is she there to get and report on the dirt for her sleazy gossip rag? Or does she turn her back on her assignment in favor of love?

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Like Scrooged, a no doubt ‘no fast forward’ movie. No matter how many times you’ve seen Christmas Vacation, it never gets old. Every scene just as quotable as the one before it. The story of Clark W. Griswold Jr’s attempt to have an old-fashioned family Christmas with extended family on both sides. For my money, easily the best National Lampoon’s movie to date.

Christmas Under Wraps. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Candace Cameron of Full House fame is a stiff who is married to her job. She travels to a place where she is surrounded by the Christmas spirit and ultimately falls in love with a man she wouldn’t normally have given the time of day to. Yep, we’ve seen this in Moonlight and Mistletoe and Let it Snow before Christmas Under Wraps. In this version she is a young doctor aiming for a prestigious residency. She is forced instead to take on a residency in a small town in Alaska. Then eventually she must choose between the lifelong goal (residency in Boston) or the small town practice and man she’s now in love with in Podunk Alaska? As a secondary detail, is this small town of Garland Alaska the base of Santa’s operation? Or just a quaint small town where everyone acts just a little cryptic?

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After watching the original animated Christmas Special from 1966, you can then move over to Ron Howard’s live action adaptation starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, Clint Howard and the child actor turned front woman for the band “The Pretty Reckless” Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who.

The Christmas Ornament. The Christmas Ornament is two things happening before we even get to the plot. This movie stars Kellie Martin who most of you in my age bracket or older will remember as Rebecca “Becca” Thatcher from the show Life Goes On about a family and their son Corky who has Down Syndrome attempting to lead a normal life. And Cameron Matheson who has parlayed his soap opera career + Dancing With The Stars into a successful run in the Holiday movie circuit. In this movie Kathy is a widow who lost her husband at Christmas (sound familiar?) and she is trying desperately to not observe Christmas due to the emotional pain or remembering. Tim runs a local tree business and relative Christmas gift shop. Less on the cute side but still predictable. If you told me you had to keep your viewing of Christmas movies under a certain number, I’d say this one might not make the cut. That said, there’s nothing wrong with it. It is solid for what it is. A little too serious and depressing for much of the movie, but worth watching at least once if you have the time.