Hallmark Original Movies

This week I’m asking my son Max to join me in talking about a peculiar genre of movies I was unfamiliar with until he became obsessed with them last year. I wanted him to have the chance to share his passion with you, to help you find the joy he finds in these movies–consider it a Christmas gift from him to you.

The genre? Why, Hallmark original holiday movies, that’s what!

Splash page

Every year, from late November on, the Hallmark channel indulges in a marathon of Christmas movies. Not the mainstay classics of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, mind you, but newly made things created for this venue alone.

Max has already gone through the cycle of SyFy original movies and their direct to video brethren. He’s savored the psychotronic joy of Sharktopus and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. That brand of cult movie is well trodden territory–search for “cult movies” in any retail or online store and you’ll find a slew of cheapskate monster movies—but who says the only poorly made movies that can be enjoyed for their incompetence have to be monster movies?

When Max stumbled across the Hallmark Christmas movies, it was like discovering a new color. Here were movies of painfully schmaltzy sentiment, awkward narrative structure, dialogue that was probably written by cutting up snippets from Hallmark cards and randomly glueing them together, and acting that appeared unrehearsed. Score!

Max first started watching these things last year around Thanksgiving time, and he spent nearly all of his leisure time throughout November and December obsessively rewatching these movies–especially any screening of The Town Christmas Forgot.

One night Max watched a bunch of these back-to-back, and we actually had a roiling debate about whether Hallmark was showing the same film twice in a row or if the second one was a different movie.  It was hard to tell, because the premise and cast were identical.  In the end, we decided they were two different movies, but it’s entirely possible the second one was compiled out of outtakes from the first.

I’m handing the keyboard over to my 11year old son Max now (by the way–don’t blame Max for the digital artifacts in the screengrabs and clips–this is the first time I’ve tried to pull clips off a HD broadcast, and let’s just say the technology was acting Grinchy):

I love these types of movies on the Hallmark channel because it gets you in the Christmas spirit.

Some of my favorites are Debbie Macomber’s Trading Christmas, Call Me Mrs. Miracle, A Dog Named Christmas, and Silver Bells.  They have weird plots which make me laugh, while also getting into the Christmas spirit.

I love that these movies are only available once a year, on only one channel–it makes them feel special.

Title screen

My absolute favorite of these is The Town Christmas Forgot.  I find it so great because of the “so bad it’s good” characteristics. It is so cheesy, it is funny.

A family from the big city is on a vacation to Colorado but has car trouble and they get picked up by Colman, the local mechanic and barber.  He gives them a ride to a town called Nowhere.  This town isn’t even on any map.

Nowhere

The residents here can’t afford Christmas.  The mayor Jeremiah says they can’t afford hope!

Fur hats

And of course you must have the evil Christmas hater such as Mayor Jeremaiah.  You also can’t have a Christmas movie without fur hats.

The city family has to wait two days for their car to be fixed.  The little town grows on the family and they decide to stay to help get the Christmas pageant made, against the mayor’s word.  The dad of the family is a bank manager and gives them $400,000 to build a ski lift and the town and all its shops are happy because they now have a ski resort.

It is so cheesy because of the no name actors that they hire, the really bad acting, and the production and editing.

It is full of silly lines that I love to quote:  ”If we keep our shoes on and don’t go to the bathroom, we will have a good time.”

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“This is a toy store!  Toys are for kids!”

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“The men folk don’t want it either.”

(This is David intruding on Max’s post–I just have to interrupt to say something here.  ”Men folk?”  ”Men folk?”  Who talks like that?  Anywhere?  I have spent a lot of time in small towns, towns too small too show up on a lot of maps, towns smaller in population than my daughter’s soon-to-be-high school.  And so I can say the portrayal of smalltown yokels in this thing is unhinged.  But what makes it work is that the big city folks are equally caricatured–worrying about their Blackberries and soy milk lattes.  This is about how the spirit of Christmas can bring out the best in all kinds of ridiculous stereotypes and poorly written characters.  Back to Max now–)

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During this movie they say “look at these ladies they are dancers!!!!!!!!!!!” they also do a scene where they act like they are singing while playing the song itself but the lip movements don’t match up to the words that are being sung.

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David here again–I asked Max to proofread this and approve my edits to his text and he complained I hadn’t posted the above clip of the pageant finale.  He said I had to include that clip to “show how bad it is.”  (If you click on the clip, make sure you watch it to the end)

What Max has fallen for, is a genre very similar to the boom in low-budget sci-fi and horror in the middle 20th century.  Just as the likes of Roger Corman and Bill Castle could crank out cheaply made programming for a ready-made teenage audience hungry for a particular formula, whatever audience Hallmark thinks it’s targeting must have a similar appetite for a particular kind of fare and similarly low standards (to judge from the commercials, I’d say that audience is mostly elderly shut-ins and unhappily married housewives).

But the thing is–all these criticisms he makes are said with love.  This movie and its ilk have brought him countless hours of genuine (if ironic) joy.

30 Responses Hallmark Original Movies
Posted By Caffeinated Joe : December 17, 2011 8:11 am

Great review of a cheesy-but-fun genre, by Max & you. We love watching these sometimes-super schmaltzy films, but they do get their spirit of the holidays message across. Thanks for sharing!

Posted By Caffeinated Joe : December 17, 2011 8:11 am

Great review of a cheesy-but-fun genre, by Max & you. We love watching these sometimes-super schmaltzy films, but they do get their spirit of the holidays message across. Thanks for sharing!

Posted By swac : December 17, 2011 10:04 am

Whatever you do, don’t let Max watch The Christmas Shoes (now out on blu-ray!)…

Posted By swac : December 17, 2011 10:04 am

Whatever you do, don’t let Max watch The Christmas Shoes (now out on blu-ray!)…

Posted By whynot47 : December 17, 2011 11:25 am

what I like about these movies is you can SAFELY watch them with your kids… your girlfriend’s grandparents… people you’ve never met that are gathering at the same house as you!! No one in these films is going to unwrap a ‘questionable’ or ‘inappropriate’ gift… no lyrics to a Christmas ‘standard’ are going to be polluted and then repeated by a four-year-old for the next three weeks. It is reminiscent of watching late 60′s /early 70′s dramedys where conflict is introduced and resolved through determination, grit, and often with some help from an unsuspecting angel. It is the quintessential ‘popcorn for the mind’… you GET what you GO IN for!!

Posted By whynot47 : December 17, 2011 11:25 am

what I like about these movies is you can SAFELY watch them with your kids… your girlfriend’s grandparents… people you’ve never met that are gathering at the same house as you!! No one in these films is going to unwrap a ‘questionable’ or ‘inappropriate’ gift… no lyrics to a Christmas ‘standard’ are going to be polluted and then repeated by a four-year-old for the next three weeks. It is reminiscent of watching late 60′s /early 70′s dramedys where conflict is introduced and resolved through determination, grit, and often with some help from an unsuspecting angel. It is the quintessential ‘popcorn for the mind’… you GET what you GO IN for!!

Posted By Tom S : December 17, 2011 1:10 pm

Haha, so the finale that saves Christmas in that movie is rich people building a ski resort in town? It’s a trickle down Christmas, everybody! Hooray for Reaganomics!

(Also, the black guy in the audience of that last clip is wearing overalls with one strap undone? In Colorado, in the winter? They can’t even get their stereotypes right!)

Posted By Tom S : December 17, 2011 1:10 pm

Haha, so the finale that saves Christmas in that movie is rich people building a ski resort in town? It’s a trickle down Christmas, everybody! Hooray for Reaganomics!

(Also, the black guy in the audience of that last clip is wearing overalls with one strap undone? In Colorado, in the winter? They can’t even get their stereotypes right!)

Posted By JackFavell : December 17, 2011 10:32 pm

Hey, I’m an unhappily married housewife and I take offense at the stereotype that I watch Hallmark Channel’s cheesy Christmas movies!

Well, I’m actually not unhappily married, but I am a housewife. And I just want to say, way to go, Max! Good for you, thinking outside the box and enjoying a new genre with an open mind.

They show these movies even at 6 in the morning – for the last month my eleven year old daughter has been really irritated because I LOVE LUCY has been pre-empted by these wholesome films. Maybe if she were to sit down with Max, she might find herself enjoying them instead of switching immediately over to craft shows on HGTV, where they make cheesy wall art and ugly ceramics that probably appear in those same Hallmark Christmas movies.

Posted By JackFavell : December 17, 2011 10:32 pm

Hey, I’m an unhappily married housewife and I take offense at the stereotype that I watch Hallmark Channel’s cheesy Christmas movies!

Well, I’m actually not unhappily married, but I am a housewife. And I just want to say, way to go, Max! Good for you, thinking outside the box and enjoying a new genre with an open mind.

They show these movies even at 6 in the morning – for the last month my eleven year old daughter has been really irritated because I LOVE LUCY has been pre-empted by these wholesome films. Maybe if she were to sit down with Max, she might find herself enjoying them instead of switching immediately over to craft shows on HGTV, where they make cheesy wall art and ugly ceramics that probably appear in those same Hallmark Christmas movies.

Posted By Jenni : December 17, 2011 10:56 pm

Kudos to Max for finding a genre he loves. I like the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, often starring top-notch known actors and usually aired on CBS. You should let Max see their movie version of The Christmas Box, that starred Maureen O’Hara. Very touching movie.

Posted By Jenni : December 17, 2011 10:56 pm

Kudos to Max for finding a genre he loves. I like the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, often starring top-notch known actors and usually aired on CBS. You should let Max see their movie version of The Christmas Box, that starred Maureen O’Hara. Very touching movie.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 18, 2011 1:04 pm

My mother watches all of these movies. I can’t stomach them. She also watches almost the entire CBS line-up. Go figure.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 18, 2011 1:04 pm

My mother watches all of these movies. I can’t stomach them. She also watches almost the entire CBS line-up. Go figure.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 18, 2011 1:05 pm

I think Max may have a writing career ahead of him, and possibly a date with Jack’s daughter. :)

Posted By dukeroberts : December 18, 2011 1:05 pm

I think Max may have a writing career ahead of him, and possibly a date with Jack’s daughter. :)

Posted By Kingrat : December 18, 2011 3:43 pm

People actually did say “Menfolk” in some of the small Southern towns where my relatives lived. But that was a few decades ago.

Posted By Kingrat : December 18, 2011 3:43 pm

People actually did say “Menfolk” in some of the small Southern towns where my relatives lived. But that was a few decades ago.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : December 19, 2011 8:22 am

I’m still mad at HALLMARK for taking away Western reruns on Saturdays.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : December 19, 2011 8:22 am

I’m still mad at HALLMARK for taking away Western reruns on Saturdays.

Posted By Heidi : December 20, 2011 12:59 pm

Oh, good. i thought I was the only freak watching these things. They are my gulity pleasure during the holidays. However, not all of them have no name actors in them, which makes it even better. I must say I have missed “The Town Christmas Forgot.” I will keep an eye out for it. Mrs. Miracle is one of my favorites…just so sweet and sugary. I don’t watch more than one at time though, I think it would throw me into a sugar coma.

Posted By Heidi : December 20, 2011 12:59 pm

Oh, good. i thought I was the only freak watching these things. They are my gulity pleasure during the holidays. However, not all of them have no name actors in them, which makes it even better. I must say I have missed “The Town Christmas Forgot.” I will keep an eye out for it. Mrs. Miracle is one of my favorites…just so sweet and sugary. I don’t watch more than one at time though, I think it would throw me into a sugar coma.

Posted By Juana Maria : December 20, 2011 1:04 pm

Jim Vecchio, I completly agree. I too am mad at Hallmark for taking away the Westerns and putting them on Hallmark Movie Channel. TVLAND is just as bad, only “Bonanza” is left, no more TVLAND goes West. Even TCM doesn’t do Lone Star Cinema like it used to.”They’ve got their 5 star nights, their name in lights, but we’ve got Lone Star Cinema.” Well the song went something like that. I fondly remember Nov. 2002, when TCM had a celebration of Western movies all month long. Please bring that back! More Westerns please,TCM; I currently watching “The Rifleman” and “Hell on Wheels” on AMC. TCM needs to keep up. There are many of us who love Westerns. While I am complaining(though I am typically delighted in TCM), I am still quite upset that there was no mention of the death of John Davis Chandler last year. His movies are often on TCM. He has quite a lot of fans. I became a fan because of watching TCM, seeing his films “Ride the High Country”, “Mad Dog Coll”, “Pat Garrett & Billy the KId”,”Major Dundee”, and “Outlaw Josey Wales” to name a few. Thank you TCM for you love and devotion to actors and movies.

Posted By Juana Maria : December 20, 2011 1:04 pm

Jim Vecchio, I completly agree. I too am mad at Hallmark for taking away the Westerns and putting them on Hallmark Movie Channel. TVLAND is just as bad, only “Bonanza” is left, no more TVLAND goes West. Even TCM doesn’t do Lone Star Cinema like it used to.”They’ve got their 5 star nights, their name in lights, but we’ve got Lone Star Cinema.” Well the song went something like that. I fondly remember Nov. 2002, when TCM had a celebration of Western movies all month long. Please bring that back! More Westerns please,TCM; I currently watching “The Rifleman” and “Hell on Wheels” on AMC. TCM needs to keep up. There are many of us who love Westerns. While I am complaining(though I am typically delighted in TCM), I am still quite upset that there was no mention of the death of John Davis Chandler last year. His movies are often on TCM. He has quite a lot of fans. I became a fan because of watching TCM, seeing his films “Ride the High Country”, “Mad Dog Coll”, “Pat Garrett & Billy the KId”,”Major Dundee”, and “Outlaw Josey Wales” to name a few. Thank you TCM for you love and devotion to actors and movies.

Posted By TLM : December 21, 2011 3:19 pm

Looks like a smash hit to me…

Posted By TLM : December 21, 2011 3:19 pm

Looks like a smash hit to me…

Posted By dukeroberts : December 22, 2011 12:22 am

Jim and Juana- There is a cable channel (I have Comcast) called ME TV that shows several classic western series including Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Rifleman, Branded, The Wild, Wild West, The Big Valley, The Guns of Will Sonnett and Daniel Boone. They also show a lot of other classic non-western shows as well (Thriller! Yes!). It’s like what TV Land used to be before it turned to crap.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 22, 2011 12:22 am

Jim and Juana- There is a cable channel (I have Comcast) called ME TV that shows several classic western series including Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Rifleman, Branded, The Wild, Wild West, The Big Valley, The Guns of Will Sonnett and Daniel Boone. They also show a lot of other classic non-western shows as well (Thriller! Yes!). It’s like what TV Land used to be before it turned to crap.

Posted By Juana Maria : December 22, 2011 4:00 pm

Duke Roberts, you are absolutely correct. TVLAND has hardly anything worth watching. If it wasn’t for TCM,AMC,HALLMARK, YOUTUBE,and Netflix, I would have to go through Westerns withdrawl, which I felt strongly when HALLMARK removed its westerns and no longer has the “Big Month of Westerns” in July. How sad, I love those shows you mentioned. We must have similiar taste. Thanks.

Posted By Juana Maria : December 22, 2011 4:00 pm

Duke Roberts, you are absolutely correct. TVLAND has hardly anything worth watching. If it wasn’t for TCM,AMC,HALLMARK, YOUTUBE,and Netflix, I would have to go through Westerns withdrawl, which I felt strongly when HALLMARK removed its westerns and no longer has the “Big Month of Westerns” in July. How sad, I love those shows you mentioned. We must have similiar taste. Thanks.

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