Hallmark Holiday Movies: ’Tis the Season?

Note: This column originally ran in the November 15, 2013 Canandaigua Daily Messenger.

Kellie Martin and Cameron Mathison in "The Christmas Ornament." (Hallmark)

Kellie Martin and Cameron Mathison in “The Christmas Ornament.” (Hallmark)

Do we really need a little Christmas, right this very minute? Evidently the folks at the Hallmark Channel think so.

Families across America were barely finished dispensing Halloween candy when the network kicked off what has become an annual tradition: weekend-long marathons, from now through New Year’s, of an ever-increasing catalog of made-for-TV holiday movies.

If you have basic cable you may have seen one over the years – or two, or six – since Hallmark began churning out these cinematic stocking stuffers with a frequency Santa’s elves would envy. The practice dates back to 2002, when four original movies aired on that channel each week in December – though without the trademark plot points that distinguish today’s modern entries.

What plot points, you ask? Let’s just say that Hallmark never met a stressed-out, Type-A career woman who couldn’t benefit from a lesson concerning The True Meaning Of Christmas. This often involves being stranded in a small but charming town, where she meets a frustrating but charming stranger whose laid-back but charming demeanor add up to the last thing she wanted … and just what she needed! The genders may switch from movie to movie, but you get the drift.

Among the 12 (yes, 12) new Hallmark movies debuting through the end of next month, we can look forward to Let it Snow, about a driven hotel executive ordered to turn an old-fashioned ski lodge into a modern winter monstrosity; The Christmas Ornament, in which a widow tries not celebrating Christmas as a way of avoiding thoughts of her late husband; and Fir Crazy, the story of a busy woman who has no time for the holidays – until she must trade her fancy office for a new job in a Christmas tree lot.

And when I say “we” can look forward to them, I’m not kidding. Here’s my dirty secret: They’ve grown on me. Last year I consumed them like eggnog – a comparison that holds up pretty well, when you consider the sticky-sweet aftertaste shared by both.

The truth is, for all their hackneyed morals, cookie-cutter stories and easy sentiment, there’s a comforting nostalgia about these guilty pleasures that offer a paper-thin veneer of holiday cheer (just like a Hallmark greeting card, now that I think about it). You can watch them while shopping online or wrapping presents. You can watch them with ironic disdain, as I once did. But once you start watching them, you might just find you can’t stop.

They’ll never replace true Christmas movie classics – look for a column on those next month – but when viewed in moderation, the Hallmark holiday films have earned a little respect.

Maybe we don’t need a little Christmas, right this very minute. Or maybe we do.