They have a certain reputation. Especially those from the Hallmark Channel. Sugary sweet. Predictable. So cheesy you can see through the plot holes. But they are incredibly popular and are many people’s (okay, many women’s) favorite holiday traditions and a highlight of the season.
I go in waves. A couple of years ago I probably watched a couple dozen of them. Last year, I maybe watched two. This year, I’ve watched about six or seven. I often have them on in the background while I’m doing something else. But also this year, Stud Muffin has suggested one several evenings. I think because we had a fairly stressful fall season, and it feels good to watch something and not have to think too much about it.
In a probable corollary, he said yesterday he was done with watching The Rookie. We were fans of Castle and Nathan Fillion so when The Rookie premiered in 2018 we watched it. Talk about cheesy. Fillion is a rookie on the LAPD, having attended the academy after a divorce and sending his son off to college. So many of the storylines were implausible and pure Hollywood. For the first season, Stud Muffin could tolerate them, even if he had to hold his nose. But since we’ve been home, we’ve been catching up on season 2 and, maybe because we’re powering through/binge watching/not watching an episode a week, he said couldn’t do any more. That’s fine with me. I’m not a huge fan. Because often when he bails on a show, it was one I didn’t want to watch, but I agree, I get hooked, and he gets bored and quits. Survivor. The Voice. American Idol. To name a few.
Anyway, enough with that rabbit trail. Back to Hallmark.
Some of them are surprisingly good. And some of them are embarrassingly bad. Here are my thoughts on a few I’ve watched this year. Note though that not all of them are strictly “Hallmark.” Some have been on Lifetime, Ion, or Up. But they’re all in the Christmas romance category. And they’re listed here in no particular order. Not the order I watched them in, and not the order of preference.
Sense, Sensibility, and Snowmen: This one was the most disappointing, I felt. I love Jane Austen and Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorites of hers. So I expected to love this. But … eh. First of all, the writers switched the personalities of Ellinor and Marianne. In this story, Ellie was more distractable and likely to ditch her job and duty while Marianne was the steady and dependable one. Also, Edward Ferris was a competent businessman. There was very little conflict and even less plot (planning a Christmas party).
A Firehouse Christmas: Not the best, but far from the worst, with a nice message about parental expectations on kids. Tom’s soon-to-be-ex, Mary, has a new relationship book out and she wants the public to think they’re still happily married. He wants to spend the holiday with his firefighter girlfriend, Jenny, and his daughter.
Switched for Christmas: It’s a requirement that you must watch at least one Christmas movie with Candace Cameron Bure and this year I chose Switched for Christmas. It’s a few years old, but I hadn’t seen it before. It’s not the usual plot. No evil land developer is looking to take over the local resort. No snow storm strands a traveler in the small town (see Christmas Town below, another Candace movie). Candace plays identical twins, one a suburban working single mom, the other an urban single career woman. When they envy each others’ life, they decide to swap for a week. This one was a pleasant surprise. Even Stud Muffin enjoyed it more than he expected.
A Christmas Recipe for Romance: Based on a novel written by a friend of a friend, who is also in an online chapter of Romance Writers of America that I’m a member of. So I watched it to be supportive, not sure what to expect. It was quite good! Definitely predictable, but that didn’t detract from the charm. There is a failing inn that needs money to survive. A plucky inn manager determined to win a cooking contest. A disgraced chef whom she turns to for cooking lessons. You know how it ends. I knew how it ended, but I’d read the book. 😉
Christmas Town: Another Candace Cameron Bure movie, this one with the predictable plot of getting stranded in a small town by a winter storm, falling in love with the town and a man. This one has the added plot twists of kids in foster care, a broken angel, and letters from the past. It was better than it sounds.
A Christmas Love Story: I recorded this one because I’m a Kristin Chenowith fan (and I don’t hate Scott Wolf) and it was refreshing to watch a music teacher conduct a choir with authenticity, not aimlessly waving their arms. This one was somewhat predictable, but it has a great plot twist that wasn’t telegraphed too early. The music included true Christmas music, not just about jingle bells and snowmen. Kristin is a music teacher who needs to compose a new song for her Christmas choir’s concert. Her newest student’s single father is opposed to his son singing and taking time away from preparing for college and his business degree. You can see where this is going. But trust me, it’s good.
You Light Up My Christmas: In Lifetime’s efforts at being more diverse and inclusive, this one stars Kim Fields from the sitcom Facts of Life. Her costars from that show Lisa Welchel and Mindy Cohn have small parts too, for added nostalgia factors. Kim plays Emma who returns to her hometown to sell her family home only to get pulled back into the family business and, of course, sparks fly with her former boyfriend. It was another one that wasn’t great, but not terrible.
Marry Me at Christmas: This one is a couple of years old and it’s the only one I’ve rewatched. It’s based on a book by one of my favorite authors, Susan Mallery. Johnny Blake, a famous Hollywood action star, comes to Fool’s Gold to help plan his sister’s wedding. He hits it off with the actual wedding planner, Madeline, and you know the rest of the story. Except this one has actual conflict (his career and need for privacy vs. her trust issues and business partner’s focus on publicity for their wedding shop). It’s very good.