by Janet Potter
Lifetime Christmas movies take place in a magical universe full of perfect single men where everyone turns their Christmas decorations up to eleven, and every small town has an eatery called Millie’s or Dinky’s or Flopsy’s or Boopy’s that’s “famous” for a food that’s perfectly easy to make well, like pancakes or coffee. The women in Lifetime Christmas movies haven’t found love, and there is always one person in their life standing by to give them aggressive advice in the vein of “there’s a single man over there, he’s your only chance at happiness, or I fear you will die alone at the age of thirty-two.” The men are handsome, sensitive, and family-oriented, their unavailability due only to an easily surmountable circumstance — an ill-suited girlfriend, a grief process that’s almost over, or the fact that they’re a ghost.
The perfect single man and the very lonely woman quickly fall in love (magical Christmas relationships generally take between two days and two weeks to form) against the backdrop of adorable small town Christmas festivities and a small human interest project, like saving a reindeer farm. A Lifetime Christmas movie is a convoluted and unrealistic and saccharine and completely wonderful thing, and this year Lifetime is premiering seven new ones to run throughout the holiday season.
A Gift Wrapped Christmas — November 28th
The perfect single man in this movie is still getting over his wife’s death, and has a girlfriend who only speaks in corporate jargon. He hires Gwen, a perky blond number doing a straight up Kate Hudson impression (although it kind of works and she’s charming), as his personal shopper, and she oversteps her professional bounds on a daily basis until he realizes he’s in love with her. This is the first of two movies in which two people sing a full-length Christmas carol while looking into each other’s eyes as everybody else in the room watches in silent admiration, and this is treated as romantic and fun.
Worst example of problem-solving: When Gwen’s car breaks down at one point, she leaves it on the side of the road without even a peek under the hood, giving no thought to calling professional help before starting a multi-hour journey on foot.
Who’s giving out the aggressive advice: Gwen’s perfect older sister, played by the perfect little sister from 7th Heaven.
The naughty list: Gwen’s outfit at the beginning of the movie.
The nice list: The guy who plays Gwen’s brother-in-law is legit funny.
The Christmas Gift — Sunday, November 29th
The perfect single man in this movie runs a group home for foster children. When he was a perfect single child, he sent anonymous Christmas gifts to random kids, and one of those kids grew up to be Michelle Trachtenberg. She’s a journalist with unnecessarily good diction whose career is on the rocks. She decides to save it by writing a story about the kid who sent her a blank journal for Christmas twenty years before. Their first interview is in a bar and she shows up in a cocktail dress, which is not how journalism usually works.
Realities glossed over: Every detail of how the foster system works.
Who’s giving out the aggressive advice: Trachtenberg’s editor, played by the eternally handsome Rick Fox. Their relationship is very unprofessional.
The naughty list: Nothing about this movie makes sense. Trachtenberg, who I honestly thought was amazing in Gossip Girl, says all her lines at half speed. Everybody’s personality and motivation changes every five minutes.
The nice list: Even though it was the worst of this year’s crop, there is a short, sweet moment with a war veteran that made me cry.
The Flight Before Christmas — Saturday, December 5th
The perfect single man in this movie is Ryan McPartlin, the meathead from Chuck, who spends the movie looking bananas handsome. He finds himself sitting next to Mayim Bialik on a plane, and boy do they hate each other instantly, but their plane is grounded in Bozeman, Montana, and they’re forced to stay in a B&B together for a few days. They have exactly one conversation, in which she talks about how many failed relationships she’s had and how she’ll probably die alone, and he talks about how relationships are just really, really, really, really hard work and working hard is what love is. They have this conversation six times in six different settings and then they are in love. Does Ryan McParlin walk out of the bathroom with a towel very loosely held at his waist? Yes.
Who’s giving out the aggressive advice: Reginald VelJohnson and Jo Marie Payton, who played the Winslow parents in Family Matters, own the Montana B&B, and they are a riot.
The naughty list: As the town’s dance contest is starting, the judge says: “Remember, the only rule is to have fun!” which is all well and good, but a bad way to run a dance contest.
The nice list: Every time Ryan McPartlin smiles an angel get its wings.
Last Chance For Christmas — Sunday, December 6th
The perfect single man in this movie is John, one of Santa’s reindeer handlers. Prancer has a hoof fracture and John has to go to a reindeer ranch in Alaska, owned by a feisty single mom named Annie, to find a replacement in time for Christmas. Will he convince her to lend him a reindeer, and also fall in love with him, in time to save Christmas? Who cares, because this movie is genuinely funny and charming, and made me laugh many times. There is a subplot involving a grown man who is obsessed with sleds, and you’re like, What? Is there seriously a Citizen Kane joke in this Lifetime Christmas movie I’m watching? Ten out of ten, would recommend.
Best line: “I work for Santa and it’s not weird!”
Who’s giving out the aggressive advice: Mrs. Claus
The naughty list: Delivering presents all over the world takes one night, but the elves say if they’re down one reindeer it will take three-to-four months. What?
The nice list: Annie’s got that no-nonsense, lives-in-a-harsh-climate, Janine Turner from Northern Exposure vibe. I want to be her friend.
Becoming Santa — Saturday, December 12th
The perfect single man in this movie is a toy designer. He proposes to his girlfriend Holly at her parents’ house, not knowing that her parents are literally Santa and Mrs. Claus, that he is at the North Pole, and that if they get married he’ll become Santa Claus one day. This is the second of two movies in which two people sing a full-length Christmas carol while looking into each other’s eyes, everybody else in the room watches in silent admiration, and this is treated as romantic and fun. Some tests the Clauses give the perfect single man to see if he’d be a good Santa Claus: Eating dozens of cookies in one sitting, sneaking around a room without waking anyone up, sliding down a chimney.
Most confusing character to look at: Holly’s ex-boyfriend, Jack Frost, wears Timberlands, pastel sweaters tied around his shoulders, and has shoulder-length silver hair.
Who’s giving out the aggressive advice: Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter from Family Ties.
The naughty list: Santa’s fat suit looks like it was made out of throw pillows and saran wrap.
The nice list: Holly Claus’s lipstick throughout.
Wish Upon a Christmas — Sunday, December 13th
The perfect single man in this movie is a widowered father who runs a Christmas ornament company that’s been in his family for generations and means a lot to them. Don’t worry if you forget that last fact, he’ll bring it up again in four minutes. The company is in financial trouble, and Amelia, a corporate consultant who happens to be his high school girlfriend, comes to town to trim the fat. Maybe the company would be in less financial trouble if their Christmas party wasn’t fancier than most weddings, and didn’t have a live band and didn’t end with a tree-lighting ceremony.
How far away the perfect single man’s son is the first time he kisses Amelia: Two feet.
Who’s giving out the aggressive advice: Amelia’s dad, Alan Thicke!
The naughty list: The employees of the Christmas ornament company work in a tiny, overly decorated room, and hum in unison.
The nice list: Amelia is played by Bianca from 10 Things I Hate About You, which was my favorite movie in high school.
The Spirit of Christmas
— Saturday, December 19th
The perfect single man in this movie, Daniel, was murdered on December 13th, 1890. Every year on the anniversary of his death he takes human form and lives in his old house, which is now an inn, for twelve days. (In his eighteen nineties beard and suspenders, he does not look a bit out of place in 2015.) Kate is a lawyer trying to sell the inn, and decides to help him solve the mystery of his death so he can move on to the afterlife.
Best line: “This is shaping up to be the worst Christmas since I died.”
Who’s giving out the aggressive advice: The manager of the inn, who’s all like, “You guys are perfect together, go for it! Who cares that you’re alive and he’s the living dead? Work it out!”
The naughty list: It’s inconceivable that he didn’t solve his own murder in the ninety-five years before Kate comes along.
The nice list: The leather gloves that Daniel is wearing in the final scene are so gorgeous that I shouted at the television.