You might think the 52 Christmas movies that Hallmark Channel and Lifetime are churning out this holiday season would be enough to satisfy any viewer's sweet tooth. Apparently not. For the third straight year, Great American Family (GAF), a cable outlet that prides itself on family-oriented programming, is delivering a full slate of flicks where love is the only gift that matters.
One reason so many channels get into the holiday spirit is that these rom coms are pretty easy to assemble. Just follow these simple instructions:
Pour lots of hot cocoa. The characters in the eight new GAF movies I watched drank this concoction like it was 25-year-old Scotch. Almost every cup was topped with a mountain of whipped cream. And that's just the tip of the sugar iceberg.
In "A Dash of Christmas" (3 p.m. Sunday), an ad executive and small-town baker meet over spilled pastries on the sidewalk, then continue to make goo-goo eyes while baking gingerbread cookies and whipping up a fruitcake torte. In "Santa, Maybe" (9 a.m. Sunday) a woman is over the moon when her secret Santa leaves her a bag of cookies, while her co-worker scoffs when she's gifted diet soda. The horror!
"There's no such thing as too much funnel cake!" one jacked-up character says in "The Jingle Bell Jubilee" (7 p.m. Sunday). Her family doctor might disagree.
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! It's a good thing these characters walk almost everywhere. The streets are too covered with white stuff to drive safely. You get the impression that anyone who complains about the weather will be flogged.
The steady snowfall is just one way GAF films try to create a Norman Rockwell tableau. In "Designing Christmas for You" (7 p.m. Dec. 16) our couple meet when she accidentally pelts him with a snowball. They flirt while selecting just the right kind of wrapping paper, decorating a mansion and shopping for Christmas trees by lantern. In the GAF world, tree lots are a much smarter place to meet singles than a fern bar. Just don't slip on the ice.
Love is not for the young. Poor GAF moms. Despite all their meddling, they struggle to get their kids to commit. In "My Christmas Hero" (9 p.m. Sunday), 47-year-old Candace Cameron Bure plays a woman who acts like all boys have cooties. It takes an extremely patient and extremely tall hunk (all GAF beaus are extremely tall) to change her mind. In "A Royal Christmas Family" (7 p.m. Dec. 23), a 35-year-old journalist with intern duties falls for a handsome prince. She may seem a bit long in the tooth for a fairy-tale romance, but in this universe, she's a young pup.
The characters may not be vestal virgins (many are widowers), but sleepovers are strictly forbidden. In every film I watched, the two lovebirds don't kiss until just before the closing credits. The townspeople in "Jingle Bell Jubilee" seem so relieved when the leads finally lock lips that they break into applause. No one claps harder than Mom.
Keep minorities in the background. Most networks and streaming services have gotten the memo about inclusion. Diversity is no longer a rarity — except on GAF. Of the 20 new films this year, only one features a Black couple as the primary stars. (Two of the movies think it's hilarious to have scenes in which a Black man can't ice skate.) I didn't spot one gay character. The channel has some work to do before it's a Merry Christmas for all.