Culture

The Story of Those Hallmark Movies

Hope you had a wonderful holiday. Good luck if you’re heading to the malls to return something; this is traditionally the second-busiest shopping day of the year.

How Hallmark’s Christmas Movies Took Over Television 

Hopefully your recent holidays were full of family gathering in the kitchen or around the table, presents under the tree, and peace on earth and goodwill toward all men and women, or at least everyone in your family. Or perhaps your recent weeks featured a workaholic young woman falling for the handyman widower who’s rebuilding a small-town orphanage or youth center, a precocious child asking probing questions about your love life, or a man who resembles Ed Asner named “Nick” or “Kris” and who claims to be the real Santa, and you realized you were living in a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. (I think Mary Katharine Ham put together the most definitive list of clichés.)

What you may not have known is that these syrupy, predictable, quasi-nostalgic picture-perfect romances — it’s a stretch to call most of these romantic comedies – are wildly popular:

Countdown to Christmas, Hallmark Channel’s annual two-month collection of round-the-clock Christmas-themed programming, helped it become the most-watched cable network last month in total day among 18- to 49-year-old and 25- to 54-year-old women.

Its five-night Thanksgiving event, which is always the highest-rated portion of the season, drove the most-watched week in network history across all key demos, culminating in Sunday, Nov. 26, its most-watched day ever among households, all 18- to 49-year-olds and 25- to 54-year-olds, and 25- to 54-year-old women. That night’s original movie, Switched for Christmas, drew 5.2 million total viewers, making it the network’s highest-rated holiday movie this year. 

Overall, this year’s Countdown to Christmas is up 4 percent year over year in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos as well as total viewers and households.

It turns out that being “anti-edgy” is working out quite well for the Hallmark channel.

The prime-time audience for Hallmark — which was launched in 2001 — grew 9% in the second quarter of 2017 from a year earlier while its companion channel Hallmark Movies & Mysteries was up 23%, according to Nielsen. Most other major cable channels, such as Freeform (formerly known as ABC Family), TBS, TNT, USA, Disney Channel and Lifetime, all saw declines in that period. Although Hallmark has an older audience — its median age is 58.6 — ad revenue has been on the rise. In the first half of 2017, the flagship network has taken in $190 million in revenue, up 7% from the same period in 2016, according to Standard Media Index. Hallmark is also getting higher prices from advertisers because it has cut the number of commercials running in its programs.

“They’ve been on a roll the past few years,” said Derek Baine, a senior analyst for the media research firm SNL Kagan . . . 

“What would have been considered dark 10 years ago would today be considered middle of the road,” Abbott said. “That allows us to play to the strength of our brand, which is quality and heritage and family friendly, and create a lot of original content for an underserved audience that just does not find it anywhere else.” 

At least a few times between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I relent and the Mrs. and I check in to see how Candice Cameron is aging. Because they’re so formulaic, you more or less know what every character is going to say and what’s going to happen in every scene before it happens. At least one of the romantic leads will be returning for the first time in many years to a picturesque elaborately-decorated small hometown, they’ll face a supremely implausible work deadline right around Christmas, they’ll have a best friend who incessantly mentions the handsome carpenter/Christmas tree farmer/amnesiac/reindeer veterinarian who’s restoring the town gazebo/volunteering at a new youth center/going to be a last-minute substitute to be Santa in the town parade . . . the contrived misunderstandings, the magic mistletoe, the overwrought declarations of lost Christmas spirit . . . and dear God, so many decorating montages.

Then, after putting up with a Hallmark movie or two, I can suggest rewatching a real Christmas movie featuring Clark Griswold or John McClane.

Hope That Prank Was Worth Losing Your Job!

Yeah, Trump Derangement Syndrome is a real thing.

It was one of those gag cards you can buy in a drugstore. “Merry Catsmess!” read the caption. And in a personal touch, as if for emphasis, Robby Strong had enclosed a box of horse manure. 

“To Stevie,” he wrote on the envelope, meaning Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for whose doorstep the manure was bound.

“We’re returning the ‘gift’ of the Christmas tax bill. It’s b—.” Strong wrote on the card. “Warmest Wishes, The American People.”

And then, he says, he went through with it. On Saturday, Strong hand-delivered the manure to two Los Angeles homes he believed belong to Mnuchin — one in Beverly Hills, and one a mansion in Bel Air that consequently got a visit from Secret Service agents and a bomb squad.

Strong works as a psychologist for Los Angeles County, he told 89.3 KPCC, and expects that delivering animal feces to the man in charge of the U.S. Treasury Department could jeopardize his job. But Strong doesn’t sound as if he regrets it.

“I need someone to ride along and document my Secret Santa project. I’m going to hand deliver boxes of horse (expletive) to Steve Mnuchin,” he wrote on Facebook on Saturday afternoon, a couple of hours before police were called to Bel Air. “No disguises, no fake names. Totally owning this one. You’re only powerless if you do nothing!!!”

That guy’s a psychologist? Physician, heal thyself. 

The gentleman has been active with the “Occupy L.A.” movement. Well, that explains a bunch. 

Later in the article, he declares, “What I did, I would like to compare to what Jesus did when he went into the temple and overturned the tables of the money-changers, who were exploiting the people financially in the name of religion.”

If you study Christianity and you come away with the lesson, “I should leave boxes of poop on the doorsteps of those whom I politically disagree,” then you really, really flunked the “WWJD” test.

Think about it, this guy has a job with the county as a psychologist, presumably encountering people with real mental problems every workday. He’s been given the opportunity to be a helping hand for people in real dire straits, who really need someone who can understand and diagnose what’s troubling them and may not be able to communicate it clearly. He’s got the ability to make the world a better place every day just by showing up and doing his job . . . and he chose to risk throwing that away for a stupid political stunt. Did he really think Mnunchin himself was going to open the door and open the package? Did he really think that this would affect anything? The tax bill has passed.

It was an empty, rage-filled gesture that had no real impact on Mnuchin, but that may cost this guy his job (and probably should). I hope it was worth it for him.

Why is it that so many Americans have imbued political figures with this illusory power to make their lives exponentially better or worse?

Happy New Year, United Nations!

One national New Year’s resolution for 2018: Spend less money at the United Nations . . . 

Check!

On Sunday, when United Nations members reached agreement on a 2018-2019 budget of $5.4 billion, Ms. Haley issued a statement emphasizing the American role in achieving more than $285 million in cuts, along with hints of more reductions to come. 

“We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked,” Ms. Haley said. In future negotiations, she said, “you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the U.N.’s efficiency while protecting our interests. 

Under a formula tied to economic size and other measurements established under an article of the United Nations Charter, the United States is responsible for 22 percent of the United Nations operating budget, the largest contribution. It paid about $1.2 billion of the 2016-2017 budget of $5.4 billion.

The United States also is the largest single financial contributor, at 28.5 percent, to a separate budget for United Nations peacekeeping operations, which totals $6.8 billion in the 2017-2018 budget finalized in June.

If you guys want to adopt resolutions denouncing our policy decisions, you guys are free to do that. Just don’t expect us to pick up the check.

I wonder if the New York City police could “accidentally” tow their cars for all of those unpaid parking tickets. “Whoops, sorry, didn’t see those diplomatic plates . . . we can get your car out of impound sometime in the next twelve to twenty-four hours.”

ADDENDA: Wonderful news right before the break: National Review contributor Tom Rogan will be restarting the McLaughlin Group, and a lot of the old crowd will be returning.

Speaking of the McLaughlin Group, from now until New Years’ Day, Greg Corombus and I are naming the winners of our sixth annual Three Martini Lunch awards on our podcast.

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