Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hallmark Channel's Holiday Movie Mix: Being Good is Good for Business

I have been a fan of holiday TV movies for over a decade. It started with Falalala Lifetime many moons ago.

Then Lifetime started to diversify. Reality, more movies, more drama, not the goody-two-shoes plots of say, Comfort and Joy or Holiday Switch.

Back then the days before Christmas would be filled with holiday movies on Lifetime. You wouldn’t have to switch the channel. But that changed, and turning on Lifetime at some hours during the holiday season did not guarantee you would be seeing an elf, a handsome man named Nick or a pretty female heroine with some very important decision to make.

But alas, some clever executives over at the Hallmark Channel noticed this hole and filled it. And filled it and filled it and then started another channel and filled that one too.

The Hallmark Movie Channel and the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel are chock full of holiday faire, an up-to-the eyeballs menu of over-the top Christmas cheer.

One can tune in anytime of the day, starting in October (except for really late at night and in the 10am to 12pm slot for Home and Family which is also full of holiday goodies) and be guaranteed a movie that would make you cry or smile and make you feel that all is good with the world.

A month or so ago I just couldn’t keep up with all the premieres. How exciting that a new movie or two would premiere each weekend! More magic, more romance, more mush.Enough to lull one into a dull stupor so that the clicker stayed on that channel, What, bad news in the world? Why watch CNN when you’ve got a world without murder and mayhem? The worst people in Hallmark movies are bankers, lawyers and people that want to steal other people’s boyfriends. And the first two usually apologize at the end of the movie and as for the third category, they usually end up finding someone else themselves and everyone parts friends.

This year’s crop of premieres did not disappoint.  My favorite was A Crown for Christmas. Yes, we’ve seen this before, it’s what little girls were fed as children in storybooks from a young age, and  it’s just a different version of A Royal Christmas with Jane Seymour, but is was so well done and Danika McKellar is just so likeable. Winny! And who doesn’t love a castle majestically and meticulously decorated for the holidays?

Speaking of putting in likeable characters, you can’t go wrong with Candace Cameron Bure. Her Q rating must be through the roof. I can still watch Let it Snow and  Christmas Under Wraps over and over again. Using her as the spokesperson for the five nights of movies around Thanksgiving was a stroke of genius.  However, A Christmas Detour was enjoyable but not has much as I had hoped. Oh, I’ll still watch it over and over again, don’t get me wrong,  but it just didn’t have enough twists and turns in it. Or maybe it just lacked a leading man that was really Santa Claus.

Alice Witt is also growing on me. She plays her characters well, even does a good Santa.  A Very Merry Mixup has been on repeatedly this week. I don’t think that there are a whole lot of people in the world named Bill Mitchum especially in the same town, but she does a great job in all of her movies and this movie delivers the proverbial girl gets boy scene in the last three minutes in an idyllic setting with snow falling on Christmas Eve just perfectly.

Lacey Chabert is another staple in Hallmark movies. She is always believable as the sweet, girl-next door character, makes a great princess and I enjoyed the scene in A Royal Christmas where she taught a  bunch of castle cooks how to make a philly hero. Most people probably like the scene where she enters the ballroom but I like to find the eggs in the other parts of the movies.

I also enjoyed the second installment of the Northpole series - Northpole, Open for Christmas better than the first movie. I saw an awful lot of those communicators unsold at the stores last year. Lori Loughlin (another Full House alum) was a clever cast and Dermot Mulroney kept me watching. The magic red ribbon scene was inventive and endearing.  

I also liked.the Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Just in Time for Christmas. This was a version of It’s a Wonderful Life and it was well done. There are only so many plots for holiday movies. I outlined them in a previous article I wrote about them (http://www.suzeebehindthescenes.com/2014/12/break-out-holly-just-in-nick-of-time.html) but briefly they are: 

- Woman/Single mom/businesswoman meets man of her dreams (can be Santa)
- Children without a parent or parents  find parents/home of their dreams
- Single male finds woman of his dreams
- Business/Christmas/town/North Pole  is saved
- It's a Wonderful Life Plot/A Christmas Carol plot- lead character finds out life ain't so bad after all 
  or realizes how to live life differently
- Woman meets prince and becomes princess

I also enjoyed Karen Kingsley's The Bridge, though I had never read any of her books. This movie was a noticeable departure from the rest. You could tell it was from a novel. It had more depth, meaning, development of characters and controversy -hence a lot more real life than the others and therefore "heavier" than the others. It was a needed departure from the mix of magic elves, nannies and Santas. Faith Ford and Ted McGinley were perfectly cast as The Bridge owners. 

Now getting to the business of these movies. I was wondering how these movies did and found an article in the Wall Street Journal about how they are doing well, attracting new viewers, even  younger ones, and new advertisers. In the much desired 18-49 age group, Hallmark Movie Channel is up 4% and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries 23%. On average about 845,000 people tune in to a Hallmark Holiday movie. Here’s the article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/hallmarks-feel-good-diet-draws-viewers-advertisers-1450261803

This does not surprise me on many levels. First, I am not surprised that the movies are growing in popularity and I did notice a change in the commercials. Last year, every other commercial seemed to be about  Stuffies. These were some kind of oversized stuffed animals that had hidden pockets where kids could hide things in. The text for the commercial referenced “grandparents”. The prevalence of these commercials almost made me feel like I was watching content that I shouldn’t be because I am not a grandparent and won’t be for quite some time. In other words, I kind of felt like I was in the wrong place, but I stuck around.

The commercials this year were different. They were more varied, and I don’t recall “attention grandparents” in any of the commercials. I am glad the advertisers have found this audience, and I may add that they are probably getting more bang for their buck than they anticipated.

That is because, I believe, (not based on scientific experience but life experience) that as females, we are not clicking away the split second a commercial comes on. If we are not taking a break to watch the movies, most likely we are multitasking during them. We may be doing emails, writing cards, baking, wrapping, catching up on work, doing mail, organizing our week, etc.. and we don’t have the energy or desire to go flipping through a few dozen channels to find something slightly more interesting in the 90 seconds the commercials run. And we also may miss a few key words if we don’t get back in time!

We may get up to get something, or take our eyes off the screen, or perhaps flip to the other Hallmark channel, Ion. ABC Family (Freeform) or Lifetime to see what movie is playing there, but generally speaking, we keep the channel on. I hope the advertisers realize this.

I was also happy to read in this article that the younger folk are coming on board. That makes sense as I know several young females that watch the movies with their moms.

If I had a daughter, I would feel safe watching these moves with them. They are wholesome, there’s no violence, there’s nothing but a few kisses here and there (and most are under a mistletoe and not in a bed) and the dialogue is not insulting. The people have personalities and ethics. There’s always a happy ending. And isn’t that what you want for your children? Isn’t that what you want in life?

I am glad to see that the female protagonists are involved in their careers, more so than in past movies. Oftentimes they have to make choices between their careers and their boyfriends. Boyfriends win out most of the time. This year, in one movie, the male lead had to make a choice between a career and the female lead and he chose his love over his career. It was refreshing to see this, but I was thinking how if I was him and a part in a soap opera came up for me (he was an unemployed actor) that I would  live for awhile with a long-distance relationship and take that job out in California.

As I mentioned women do have careers in these movies. Two movies this year had females as personal shoppers (each on a different network).Idea - can’t the women be store managers? Or how about having the males be the personal shoppers and the women be the key executives with no time to shop? Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to be sitting behind a desk with someone bringing you shoes and handbags in a variety of styles and you just had to say yeah and nay?  Now there’s a fantasy script for Hallmark.

The season is winding down now. The Countdown to Christmas has reached single digits. Most of us Holiday Movie Geeks have seen them all and are watching the reruns of our favorites. We can already tell what the movie is by the opening credits. And we are searching the schedules to see if there are any new ones we missed. Try Ion. Or try Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. I only caught some of Alison Sweeney’s mysteries so the DVR may be necessary now. The new mysteries with Brooke Shields are intriguing and may keep me on this channel post-holiday.

However, I am looking forward to next year and . I have another idea for a script. How about a plot where it’s a normal women dreaming of something new in life and she becomes a part of a Hallmark movie? If it can happen through a washing machine it can happened through a tv.Just an idea there, Hallmark movie people.

- By Suzanne Ordas Curry, Photos Courtesy Hallmark Channel Facebook.

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