why I like sappy made-for-tv christmas movies

Two or three years ago, I would have reacted to that title the way many of you probably did: with an eyeroll and a "did Nayana have a stroke?" But my dear mother has converted me.

Thanksgiving weekend 2008: Mom and I were sitting in her TV room, and she was insisting on yet another Hallmark/Lifetime/ABC Family original movie. Because I love my mother, I kept watching. To be sure, I rolled my eyes and told her why the cheesy movies were making my teeth hurt. "Mom," I sighed, "This is not realistic. In real life, everything doesn't just get wrapped up with a neat little bow by Christmas Eve."

She replied that that was the point. Apparently not everyone wants edgy gloom and doom when they're feeling Christmassy. My little indie-girl brain did not compute, but as I sat back and started to let the saccharine Christmas cheer wash over me, I started to get it. And, as much as I hated to admit it, I was all over the sappy-ass movies when the 2009 holiday season rolled around.

This works much better for me if I compartmentalize, and just tell myself that these "original movies" on cable are not actual movies. I watch movies for artistic value as well as entertainment, but maybe it's OK once in a while to shut the indie brain off and relax. The purpose of watching A Christmas Visitor, starring Meredith Baxter and William Devane, is not (believe it or not) to appreciate the masterful cinematography*, but to let yourself float away on a gingerbread-y, deck-the-halls-y, Christmassy cloud. And that's OK on a Tuesday night.

So if you're looking for an excuse tonight to plop down and watch Hallmark's The Christmas Card (one of my favorites), here's a list of reasons why I think it's ok for a film geek to occasionally indulge:

  1. Made-for-TV movies provide honest work for non-movie-star actors. In just the next few days, you can see Ed Asner in The Christmas Card, Kelsey Grammer in Mr. St. Nick, or Wallace Shawn in Karroll's Christmas. Inconceivable!
  2. It's safe to watch this stuff with Mom. As I hinted earlier, this is perfect family viewing fare. My mother is a very sweet lady, but I can't exactly enjoy my all-time favorite Christmas movie with her. A budding romance between two body doubles on a porn set is not her idea of a fun storyline.
  3. Fun with clichés! When you're watching schlock, it's 823 times more enjoyable if you mock it just a teeny bit. I'm a big fan of Entertainment Weekly's annual Holiday Movie Cliché Checklist, which is fantastic raw material for a drinking game, assuming Mom's not sitting next to you on the couch. See last year's version here. (Even more fun here.)
  4. They make you feel Christmassy. OK, I know that's pretty damn glurgey. But it's a glurgey topic, so there was really no avoiding this. The truth is, I loves me some Christmas. LOVES IT. I usually try to show some self-control by not playing my ska version of "Joy to the World" until November... but it's a losing battle. And to be honest, these made-for-TV movies stoke those holiday embers for me till I have a lovely, chestnutty blaze. And I don't see anything wrong with that.
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    1 Response to "why I like sappy made-for-tv christmas movies"

    1. lesli says:
      November 17, 2010 at 1:39 PM

      I always enjoy & appreciate your posts! You always manage to bring a smile to my face. And while you mentioned holiday films, I wanted to pass a new film along that I recently discovered that came out last month on DVD for you to check out & perhaps review. Homeless for the Holidays is an amazing film that follows an executive that has lost it all & has to take a job at a burger joint - a situation many of our familes can relate to today. If you are looking for a great film for a family movie night, I encourage you to check out Homeless for the Holidays! I have to say that it's perfect for the WHOLE family, which is hard to find these days.

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