That's right - I'm talking about those oooey gooey Christmas romance made-for-tv-only movies that are playing non-stop on Lifetime, Oxygen, TBS, or whatever other channels are looking to fill in regularly programmed time with some holiday bliss. Here it is, I totally admit it, I'm a sucker for these flicks. I know, I know, they leave a lot to be desired - but, when you are high on Christmas sugar cookies and have re-wrapped the hexagon shaped present for the zillionth time your toddler discovered it - all you want is a little brainless Christmas cheer...and thank you very much, ABC Family, you can have all the chipper-seasonal-joy-nonsense you like, starring your favorite has-been Actor and his co-star what's-her-name-that-was-in-that-one-show-way-back-when.
But, as I've watched these ridiculous movies from year to year, I started seeing the wonderfully predictive scripts in a whole new way...a formula for thought-free-holiday-happy-endings, if you will. To which I give you:
the TOP 20 moments you need in every made-for-TV-Christmas movie:
20. The Office Christmas Party Scene: somebody, somewhere works in some big city as some big shot or with some big shot who is most likely obsessed with leaving their roots of a small town of some sort and needs a change of heart, somebody drinks too much or someone has a terrible Christmas sweater on while the protagonist is most likely depicted in a nice trench coat and matching hat and gloves.
19. A makeover: Somebody at some point needs to change their look - maybe a friend or the main star, but certainly a makeover or "shopping trip/in-and-out-of-dressing room" scene is showing how the character is at least up for a change of some kind.
18. A set-up: Somebody is set-up on a blind date, or "or you should meet my godson Michael" or "this is my sister Sally, you two both have Christmas Eve birthdays" of some sort. This doesn't always go well - it is either a hysterically rotten match, or an unlikely pair that blossoms into love after the next commercial break.
17. The Christmas Montage: shopping, laughing, egg-nogging, and other merriment of sorts - or maybe "finally home" and rediscovering all the lovely small town Christmas traditions, at some point there is a fabulous saxophone solo or ringing of the bells during a very festive montage before they can resume the "plot" (for lack of a better term).
16. A spousal death: Somebody's wife/mother or husband/father has passed away. It is sad. It affected the character deeply and this is mostly likely their first Christmas without this person by their side. But, hey, perhaps love is in the air and they will find someone new and charming within the next 47 minutes?
15. The cooking/baking scene: What's Christmas without flour-filled-fun in the kitchen? Somebody is burning a turkey or cutting out Christmas cookies or teaching the next generation how to build immaculate gingerbread houses. Just another delicious part of the story. Ahh, togetherness.
14. The gathering at a Family's house scene: Speaking of togetherness...somebody is hosting a party and you must come and meet my entire family even though we've only known each other a couple days! Don't mind my Aunt Margaret in the Christmas sweater with jingle bells sewn on, and just ignore the little children running through the room with hula hoops and ornaments - I don't remember who they are anyway and they are insignificant to the storyline - but don't they make this scene loud and charming?
13. The Snow Scene: Regardless of the location, city, small town, country, Hawaii or Denver...there's bound to be snow. Maybe it's falling (ever so gently as the camera backs away and someone cues the deer running in the distance) or maybe it's a snowball fight/flirtation that uncomfortably ends with making-out snow-angel style. Awkward. Brr.
12. Buying something unreasonable scene: You have to shop for Christmas presents, and at some point, someone who is most likely undeserving will be bought a gift that is way too expensive. Cashmere, a car, a horse, a house...someone is sacrificing either money or a kidney to purchase something entirely unreasonable that will, no doubt, lead to saving the day by the end of the movie.
11. Given a coat to keep warm: "Brr! I can't believe it is snowing in North Dakota and all I have on is this silly ole sequin gown? Oh me and my silly big city ways!" Never fear - bachelor number one is here to save the day with his hearty oversized midwestern parka guaranteed to keep you warm. And if that doesn't work - his burley man chest is most likely open for business.
10. Somebody gets engaged: Perhaps this ring was the unaffordable (aforementioned) superfluous gift, or maybe it is a family heirloom left from the recently passed mother/grandmother/godmother. But, regardless of the shock on her tear-stained face, no one is surprised at the proposal of that one cute couple we are sure to be happy for by now.
9. The Kiss under the Mistletoe scene: Whoops, who put that there? Whether it is their first kiss (aww) or their millionth (still in love after 50 years of marriage, how romantic) that sexy little plant is hung in some doorway on a perfectly magical night just waiting to tempt the fate of one lucky couple.
8. The Christmas Lights revealed scene: Tada!!! WOW! So that's what you were doing with all those lights and generators and why you were gone for three days in the middle of everything - aha! Someone plugs in a theatrical masterpiece of lights to totally blow the socks off (make that, eye sockets off) someone who needed a bit of a Christmas pick-me-up. How jolting...I mean, lovely.
7. The Embarrassed by Parents/Relatives scene: Well, if nothing were truer at Christmas, it's that oh-my-gosh, parents are at their all time worst, right? Like, how could dad invite that cute firefighter over for breakfast when I am still in my robe? Or, how did my mother tell that park ranger I was an avid equestrian when I haven't ridden a horse since I was ten? Or, why did my parents show up unannounced and I forgot to tell them I'm dating someone with a daughter?
6. Opening an awkward gift: If unreasonable parents aren't enough - at some point someone will open a gift (at the office party? at the family gathering?) that will be clearly inappropriate. "Who gives someone with diabetes strawberry jam for Christmas?" "Why did you give me mittens when you know I just lost my thumb in that tractor accident?"
5. The pet in the holiday costume shot: Can you say comic relief? Just when the going gets tough, the tough dress their yorkies up like elves. Need an extra giggle? Let's put Buster in those reindeer antlers as we fade to commercial. Deal.
4. The Caroling scene: Just because this isn't a musical is no excuse not to burst into song! Everyone knows the words to Joy to the World/Hark the Herald/Silent Night...and what's more, it's public domain, so that PA over there doesn't even have to go figure out how to buy the rights to the music - and oh yeah, my crazy Aunt Margaret is a choir director at an orphanage and Uncle Charles is deaf but plays the piano...all of a sudden...let's do this!
3. The Church scene: Never mind that the birth of Christ hasn't been mentioned, somehow we are in a church and someone is lonely/needs forgiveness/seeks redemption...and I have a pretty good feeling they sat in the right pew at the right time to find it...just in time.
2. The "It's a Christmas Miracle" scene: At some point, usually near the end (but, not necessarily) something of inexplicable grandeur occurs that must be a Christmas miracle! Where did all that money come from? Why, it hasn't snowed here in 40 years! He can walk again! They found my dog Lucky 4 states away! This baby was born in an avalanche! Remarkable.
1. Christmas morning: Finally! All is well and the day is finally here. December 25th has arrived, and brought with it bushels of Christmas cheer, happiness, joy, jubilation, and sheer merriment to be had by all! There is cocoa for everyone, presents abounding, snow falling, carolers singing, reindeer prancing, elves dancing, and Tiny Tim is blessing everyone left and right. Pass the roast beast and chug the egg nog! Christmas Day has come! And so has the end.
Cue the Hallelujah Chorus and change the channel...before I get sucked into the next...what's that? Some girl in the big city is leaving her job to go home to her dying father where her high school sweetheart still runs the family hardware store? Hmm...somebody stop me.