Hallmark Movies

February 2018

Rick Archer's Note:  

I am pleased to announce that once again Hallmark Channel movies pulled me through the recent Christmas Season. 

On a personal note, Christmas was not a happy time for me as a child or young adult.  Marla has done a remarkable job of overcoming much of my negativity, but even with her help, I confess I could not get through Christmas without the Hallmark movies to remind me of the way it ought to be. 

The main reason I watch Hallmark Christmas movies is to get in the mood for Christmas.  I give Hallmark high marks for infusing their Holiday movies with the Christmas spirit.  Typically one of the leads is a Christmas Grouch and the other lead is Christmas Gung-Ho.  It is entertaining to watch them argue and disagree about all the things that are wrong with Christmas only to see the cheerful person break through the Grouch's wall of cynicism.  At this point, the Grouch rediscovers the warmth and true meaning of Christmas. 


When it is done right, a Hallmark Christmas movie can have the same impact as both the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life.

Let it Snow was a perfect example of the Grinch script.  In fact, both leads were Christmas Grouches. 

'When Falcon Resorts acquires family-owned Snow Valley Lodge from retiring owners, intense and driven executive Stephanie (Candace Cameron Bure) must spend the week before Christmas in Maine preparing a proposal on the property's renovations. While preparing to rebuild the Snow Valley Lodge from the ground up, Stephanie butts heads with her property guide, Brady, who has decided to leave his family's business over creative differences with his dad.

A self-defined Grinch, Stephanie begins her stay at Snow Valley Lodge immune to Christmas sentiment. But as the lodge's festive traditions provide the Christmas Stephanie never had growing up with her distant father, Stephanie finds herself enjoying every minute.  

As her Christmas Eve deadline approaches, she's faced with a decision: should she transform the lodge into a new winter hot spot or embrace tradition and let it snow?'

I knew what was going to happen in Let it Snow, but the story was so well-written and acted, it was magic.  When a Hallmark Christmas movie hits the spot, I find myself ready to sing 'Joy to the World'. 


It turns out I am not alone.  Hallmark advertises they are the most-watched cable channel on TV at Christmas time, so I checked it out.  I think they are right.  I think a lot of people watch Hallmark because it is the best place to find an idealized vision of what Christmas should be. 

Hallmark claimed to have created 33 new Christmas movies for the past season.  33 movies?  Hard to believe.  They even went to the trouble of cloning themselves to create a second Hallmark station, 'Hallmark Movies and Mysteries'.  This channel had favorite 2017 movie, Rocky Mountain Christmas.

Hallmark would prefer to maintain their customers throughout the year.  With that in mind, recently Hallmark has offered one new movie every Saturday that revolves around snow.  So far none of them have captured my heart, but I tune in faithfully every Saturday nonetheless.  I am hoping their upcoming Valentine movies will do better. 

Movie critics Siskel and Ebert became famous for their "thumbs up/thumbs down" movie rating system.  "Two Thumbs Up" became a standard phrase thanks to these guys.  As for me, I have a different rating system.  I judge each movie by whether I cried tears of happiness or not.  Yeah, I know, this pegs me as a real sissy.  What can I say?  Guilty as charged. 

Each movie revolves more around the Female lead than the Male lead.  I think that is because Hallmark Market Research shows more women watch these movies than men.  That puts me in an awkward spot.  Given that I am a guy, I sometimes wonder why I like these movies so much.   What does that say about me?  Is my sense of Masculinity in any danger?  Or am I secure enough in my Virility to write openly about my fondness for Smoochie Movies?

Oh my gosh, what will people think?

My wife says I am an aberration... no Real Man would be caught dead admitting he watches Hallmark movies.   Marla's theory is that years of dancing the woman's part in class when we are short of 'Follows' has caused a seismic shift in my personality.  Considering I watch Rockets basketball three nights a week, I am positive my Macho side is still down there somewhere, but I wonder sometimes. 

Strangely enough, the movies that have the best chance of bringing on the tears are the Cinderella movies.  If I had to guess, there are about 4 or 5 basic scripts.  Let me see if I can categorize them.

1. Cinderella Script
2. Two Gals fighting for the Awesome Guy (Wholesome Girl wins Stud Guy over Beautiful Girl)
3. Two Guys compete for same girl (most common)
4. Small Kid assists in the Romance.

The Cinderella stories are my favorites because they always involve Royalty.

Hallmark has at least one, sometimes two of these Cinderella movies every Holiday.  This year they had two... one for Christmas, Royal Winter (2017) and one for New Year, Royal New Year's Eve.  


The NYE movie was tepid, but the Royal Winter Cinderella story was sweet. 

'While on a last-minute European holiday, a young woman finds herself in the middle of a real-life fairy tale when a chance meeting with a handsome local leads to something more.

However, things get complicated when she learns that the “local” is actually a prince who is about to be crowned King, and whose mother is dead-set against her royal son’s romance with the tourist.'


My three favorite Cinderella movies are as follows:

  1. Once Upon a Holiday (2015, Brianna Evigan)
    Crown for Christmas (2015, Danica McKellar)
    A Royal Christmas (2014, Lacey Chabert).  

All three got my highest rating... both eyes flooded with tears. 

So how does the Hallmark Cinderella script work?  

Typically the Male Lead is a Prince from some fictitious European-sounding country that sounds vaguely like Sardinia or Slovenia.

Frequently the working-class girl has no idea this cute guy she has just met in secretly a Prince.

The underdog Cinderella has to show she is more worthy of the Prince's affection than the stunningly beautiful and invariably stuck-up and betrothed Blue Blood Britch.  

Here we have two Alpha females fighting for the Alpha guy.


Royal Christmas with Lacey Chabert is a perfect example of the Cinderella script.

' As the only daughter of an expert tailor in Philadelphia, Emily is a kindhearted young woman proud of her blue-collar background. She is a devoted seamstress at the family business and madly in love with her doting European boyfriend, Leo (secretly a Prince!)

But as their first Christmas together approaches, Leo drops a bombshell on his unsuspecting girlfriend: he is actually Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of Cordinia, a small sovereign country in Europe.

Less than enthusiastic about her son’s relationship with a commoner, the prince's mother Queen Isadora (The Villian!) makes Emily feel anything but welcome at their grand castle, leaving Emily to feel more at home among Isadora’s staff of butlers and housemaids.

As Emily struggles to adapt to her new royal surroundings, the situation is made more difficult when a scheming Isadora invites Duchess Natasha (Hiss! Boo!), Leo’s ex-girlfriend, to join them for Christmas.

Attempting to stay true to herself in a world where she clearly doesn’t belong, Emily wonders if love is enough to keep her newly royal relationship from falling apart before Christmas morning.'



If I had to pick the best Hallmark smoochie movie of all, this is the one.  Two boxes of Kleenex gave their life for this movie.  This movie was so enchanting, I felt my eyes water up and my little heart went pitter-patter.   Afterwards, I tried very hard to analyze what made this movie stand out from the pack.  My best answer was 'chemistry', the great intangible.

Once in a while, the actors are so genuine on screen that I buy into their story.  That is when I truly appreciate that acting is a true skill, and that beauty, straight hair, perfect teeth, and flawless diction are not enough to carry a movie.  It comes from the heart.  Some actors and actresses have it, some don't.  Lacey Chabert has it for sure.

To me, Royal Christmas was the quintessential Hallmark movie and I know why... the Villain!  Hallmark movies frequently lack drama, but not this one.  It had oodles of Nasty!  Special kudos to Jane Seymour.  She was terrific as Queen Mean.  Natasha was equally wonderful as the scheming Princess.  I caught myself hissing at both of them.  There's an old saying... the Western doesn't start till the Bad Guy shows up.  Hallmark movies are no exception. 


As much as I love Hallmark, I take exception to their deliberate exclusion of Blacks in the lead roles.  If they want a recommendation for their first Black Lead, I would suggest Toni Braxton, the well-known singer ('Unbreak My Heart').

I saw the most wonderful movie on Lifetime network last night called Twist of Faith.  In fact, the movie was so wonderful it prompted me to write this article in the first place.   The movie starred a black woman played by Toni Braxton, and a Jewish man, David Julian Hirsh.

The tale began in very disturbing way.  The Jewish man witnessed the senseless execution of his wife and children on a city bus by a deranged man.

Full of grief, after the funeral, Jacob (Hirsh) lost his mind.  Unable to sleep, unable to eat, he bought a random bus ticket and traveled from Brooklyn to Alabama.

Improbable?  Yes.  But intriguing nonetheless.  Abandoning his identity, the man wandered aimlessly trying somehow to understand his tragedy.  Finally he passed out on the lawn next to a Black church in a small town. 

The Jewish man laid there for a day all crumpled up. 


Jacob awakened to see a sympathetic young black boy offering him a sandwich.  From that point, through the kindness of the young boy, his mother and his uncle, the Jewish man magically regained his senses.  He fell in love with Nina (Braxton) along the way which was made believable because Braxton is outstanding in her role.

To my astonishment, the combination of Braxton, Hirsh and a gifted script writer managed to somehow make this metamorphosis and the improbable romance stay within the boundaries of 'believable'.  This was no small feat given how far-fetched this Good Samaritan story was. 


I once wrote a book titled 'A Simple Act of Kindness'

The point of my book is how the simple kindness of others can make an enormous difference in the life of a wounded person.  I had an incident occur to me when I was a senior in high school.  I was very lost and more depressed than at any other time in my life.  The unexpected loss of a major college scholarship left me reeling because I was convinced I would not be going to college the following year.  Considering how poor I was, the dreams of a lifetime had just been shattered.

A woman I had never met in my life, Maria Ballantyne, walked into the grocery store where I worked and began a conversation with me.  Her daughter went to school with me and I think she vaguely recognized.  By an extraordinary twist of fate, it was her daughter who had been awarded the scholarship instead. 

Mrs. Ballantyne must have seen the pain on my face.  The next thing I knew, after a 45 minute conversation, this woman... previously a complete stranger... helped me overcome the worst crisis of my life. 

I think it is the memory of Mrs. Ballantyne's intervention that hooked me so strongly onto this movie as I watch the kindness of that family heal this damaged man. 



I don't know if they give Emmys out to actors in these sort of movies, but I was impressed how the two stars made this fairly absurd plot work to perfection. 

In the end, I was crossing my fingers for the two stars to kiss and, to my delight, they did.  They were both so wonderful in their roles that the kiss became the perfect ending.

And then it hit me... oh my gosh... they allowed a black woman to kiss a white man!  Oh no!  A Jewish man no less!  Pretty daring stuff.  And yet based on the storyline, the ending made complete sense.  The funny thing is I didn't think the producers had the guts to leave that scene in.

So I asked myself why I was so cynical to think this way.  What is wrong with a black woman kissing a white man when they so obviously care about each other?


I guess my surprise comes from several years of watching the Hallmark Movie Channel.   Don't get me wrong, I LUV Hallmark movies in a big way!  However, I do have a major hang-up with Hallmark.  Black people as Leads in Hallmark movies are strictly TABOO. 

After watching close to 50-75 Hallmark movies over the past couple years, I have yet to a see a single black person, male or female, play the lead.  I find this very disconcerting.  This is, after all, 2018.  We have already had a black president, so what's the problem here?

That said, let me point out that Hallmark does bend over backwards to make sure plenty of black actors and actresses are included in each film.  Except that this doesn't buy Hallmark credibility in my book.  It reminds me how TV commercials include a smiling, cheerful black person in the background to ensure black people will buy their product. 

Typically it takes less than five minutes into the movie to see 'The Obligatory Black Person' appear.   The Female Lead typically comes first, that's a given.  However, 'The Black Person' is guaranteed to follow right behind her. 

Many Hallmark scripts revolve around professional women faced with a major career dilemma.  For this reason, 'The Obligatory Black Person' is frequently the Boss.  This allows Hallmark writers to kill two birds with one stone.  By letting the Boss confront the Female Lead about some problem at work, they can get the Black Person Issue handled and tackle the Career Issue at the same time.

Hallmark romance movies are so predictable that Marla and I know the progression by heart.  Over time, we have made a game out of it.  We each try to catch the next expected plot development and call it before the other notices.  The Hallmark movie appearance of 'The Black Person' is so predictable that Marla and I can hardly wait to be the first to spot her (it is always a woman).  Finding 'The Black Person' is like finding Waldo or spotting Moby Dick.  Thar she blows!!

Why do I say 'she'?  That is because the most important black person is always female.  Not only that, like I said, she is often the Boss.  Interesting.  Does making a black person the Boss atone for not casting a black person in the lead?

Variations on the theme include The Black Person as co-worker, best friend, or assistant.  The black person is invariably attractive, wholesome, and completely supportive of the lead actress.  Never a trace of envy.  At this point, I begin to wonder what Black people think about Hallmark.  Maybe someone will tell me.

This past Christmas was no exception.  33 new movies for the 2017 Holiday Season and every lead was white.  Hallmark gives a very awkward twist to phrases like 'White Christmas' and 'Snow White'

After giving this some thought, I think Hallmark's Market Research has reported their audience is overwhelmingly pale.  There are two ways to look at that.  One way is to always play to your WASP Base.  Another concept is to add a Black Lead as an experiment and see if that Base can be expanded.  If Lifetime can do it, why not Hallmark?

The absence of a Black Lead is not the only TABOO.  There are actually quite a few.  Another thing that is TABOO for Hallmark is an 'Original Script'.  I hate to say it, but the earlier Hallmark movies often had an edge.  Lately Hallmark relies more and more on their Formula... predictable movies where each plot twist is laid out with precision clockwork. 


'For 2017, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is planning to place a record 33 new original holiday films under your tree this year, and the gifts will keep on giving through the end of the season. Today, we offer you a present that must be opened right now, the details on the final eight of those 33 films.'

Personally, I wonder if Hallmark stretched themselves too thin.  They rushed 33 movies to screen for the 2017 Holiday Season.  Many of these were, shall we say, a bit on the Vanilla side.  No surprise there. 

The problem for Hallmark is they seem to have run out of creativity.  They don't want to take any chances, so virtually every new movie is totally predictable.  Marla and I take turns guessing what will happen next.  I suggest you don't challenge us.  We are almost never wrong. 


Here's an example.  Things are going great.  We are getting to the end of the movie.  At this point, Mr. Right and Fair Maiden have made their connection and things are ducky.  Then comes the next-to-last scene and ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.  Something always goes wrong in the next-to-last scene.  I am so certain of this, I would gamble my house on it.  However, I don't panic.  Why not?  Because I know everything will work out in the end.  There has NEVER... repeat... NEVER... been an unhappy ending.  The Formula will not allow it.

I wish I could say I am just THAT SMART to know what is going to happen next, but I know better.  After all, they only have about four or five basic scripts.  After watching 50 movies, how tough is it to guess the next scene?  The writers clearly assume a few minor variations will suffice to keep us totally confused.  Perhaps some of their viewers are so senile this works.  After a while, all the movies blur together, so the casual observer might feel some uncertainty.  Not me.  Unfortunately, my memory is still more or less intact.  Maybe that's my problem.  I have been down every beaten path so many times the thrill is beginning to fade a bit.  On the other hand, the moment I get depressed at Christmas time, time to click on one of my saved movies.  Incidentally, I still have 12 unwatched 2017 Christmas movies left on my DVR.  I am saving them for an emergency.

One trick they use to disguise the same script is using different actors and actresses.  Clever.  They figure we are too stupid to notice this is the same plot as another movie from a year ago.  Or maybe a week ago.  Another trick they use is to give each movie a different name even though it is the same script.  These are smart people here at Hallmark.  They have figured out that 'Originality' is unnecessary. 


In case you have never watched a Hallmark Smoochie Movie, let me help you out.

99% of all scripts involve Romantic Competition.  Either two boys fight over one girl or two girls fight over one boy.  It is always one or the other.  Since Hallmark operates on a strict budget, they prefer not to hire three suitors for the same woman.  Besides, that would make it too complicated.

Hallmark loves Career Women!!  Typically we start with a stunningly beautiful or remarkably wholesome female professional who is currently searching for her first real career success.  Meanwhile she has an unfulfilling love life.  This is a GIVEN. 

The presence of a great career quickly establishes the Female Lead as intelligent and successful, thereby making her 'A Good Catch'.   However, the Career Girl is not necessarily happy.  Not only is she determined to score that one big break in her career, she is often dissatisfied with her love life. 

That is not to say she is alone.  Far from it.  Virtually every Female Lead has a viable, but rather tepid suitor hanging around.  Call him Mr. Wannabe.  Mr. Wannabe has no chance.  Sooner or later, Mr. Right, a Heartthrob Hunk to be sure, will appear.  At this point, Mr. Wannabe is toast.


Amazingly, time after time, Fair Maiden is SHOCKED to find her current love is not her one true love.  The drama often revolves around how the Female Lead politely extricates herself from the wannabe guy  to follow her heart.  Frequently right at the end, she gets that career break she has always hoped for, but walks away from her dream to follow her new heartthrob hunk instead.

Reminds me of the classic song 'Someday Soon'...' I would follow him right down the toughest road I know, Someday soon, goin' with him, someday soon'.

I am not quite sure this is the best message for my career-ladder-climbing daughter to see, but she doesn't watch Hallmark, so I guess I'm safe.

There are other Forbidden Things on Hallmark movies.  A premature kiss is TABOO.   The Formula says it is mandatory that the First Kiss must come at the end.  However, there is almost always an 'Interrupted Kiss' where other people appear just in time to discourage a premature conflagration of passion.  If it is an especially complicated plot, they might even have TWO interrupted kisses.  Wow!

Marla and I are always on guard to look for the 'Interrupted Kiss'.  When Marla is paying attention, she usually wins because she's a girl and girls always know when the guy is ready to make his big move.  However, lately I have been winning a lot more often thanks to her daughter who sends Marla a text message once every ten minutes.  This is no accident, by the way.  I am so desperate to win, Marissa and I have an 'understanding' as to which are the best hours to text her mother.  Do not laugh... Marla and I keep score.  This is serious stuff.

Another TABOO is NO VIOLENCE ALLOWED.   You know, these movies are about LOVE and we all know that LOVE creates PASSION. 

However, Violence and Passion are no-no's according to Hallmark.  I admit there is a part of me that yearns for some of that good old Urban Cowboy badass... you know... Girl meets Boy, boy wins girl, boy blows it with girl, boy takes up with other girl (a reprehensible britch), girl takes up with other guy (a reprehensible bully), but deep down they still love each other, so boy retakes girl in the end by thrashing bully with his fists, etc, etc, etc.   Hey, that would be a great Hallmark movie, maybe the greatest of all time!!

However, that is not the Hallmark Way.  Out and out Hostility is forbidden.   No punches and certainly no voice shall be raised in anger.  Depression is okay.  Tears are okay.  Hurt is okay.  But not Anger.  Everyone is soooo understanding about the inevitable break-ups. 

Lots of Hallmark movies revolve around NEGLECT.   According to the Formula, the preferred plot device to explain why the relationship isn't working is for the wannabe guy to take the Fair Maiden for granted.  More often than not, the problem is that the Wannabe Male Lead is so wrapped up in his own career, he fails to pay proper attention to his so-called steady girl or fiancée.  Beeg Meestake! 


The best example of this is Bridal Wave starring Andrew Walker, my favorite Hallmark actor and Arielle Kebbel, one of my favorite actresses.  This is definitely a both eyes filled with tears movie.

'As her wedding day draws near, Georgie has doubts surrounding her plans to marry Dr. Phillip Hamilton, a dashing and prominent plastic surgeon. Though Phillip qualifies as the "perfect" fiancé, Georgie feels a romantic spark is missing in their relationship.

Tensions rise further when Phillip's sophisticated mother, Felice (Jaclyn Smith playing a terrific Villain!), blatantly frowns upon Georgie's working class origins.

Georgie keeps finding herself in chance encounters with Luke Griggs, a handsome ex-architect, who walked away from a high-end architectural firm to enjoy a simple, no-frills life.

When an undeniable chemistry develops between Georgie and Luke, Georgie must decide if she's going to move ahead with her rapidly approaching marriage to Phillip.'

Can you imagine a plastic surgeon losing his fiancée to an out of work bum?  He loses her at the wedding site no less!  No way!! 


So what went wrong?  The doctor's mistake was leaving her at the resort to go back and fix someone's broken nose.  While he was away, this guy steals his fiancée away right under his nose.  One can definitely appreciate the symbolism here. 

The next thing this guy knows, Mr. Right turns into Mr. Wannabe.  Tough luck, guy.  Here is the funny thing... this Wannabe Plastic Surgeon is so painfully polite when he gets the Bad News!  Me, I'd be crying, but not this guy.  He is Philosophical.  No big deal, Que Sera, Sera.  I find it unbelievable just how well-behaved the Wannabes are at accepting their TOUGH LUCK. 

Seriously... the plastic surgeon loser is such a good sport about it, we see him at the wedding of Georgie and Luke one year later.  This guy has actually lost his girl at the Altar and he forgives them both! 

The overwhelming accepting Wannabe Plastic Surgeon in Bridal Wave is not the exception.  I don't recall a single act of retaliation in any Hallmark movie.  I find this a tad unrealistic.  I don't know about you, but I don't recall being such a good sport every time I lost a girlfriend.  In fact, I recall being rather irritable.


Every Hallmark movie must have a good explanation for why Fair Maiden ditches Mr. Wannabe for Mr. Right. Although 'Neglect' is their favorite excuse, Hallmark is not above using ACT OF NATURE as an alternative excuse for the inevitable rift.  A good example of this would be Evergreen Christmas

'When a veterinarian sets out to have the perfect Christmas, she assumes it’s going to be with her longtime boyfriend. But when a storm shuts down the airport, she crosses path with a doctor and his daughter. What transpires will give them all a Christmas more magical than they could’ve imagined.'

Basically, the Wannabe boyfriend didn't try very hard to make it up to Maine when he had the chance.  He let something frivolous like a blizzard stop him.  Dumb move.  By the time he got there, it was too late.  Tsk Tsk.

(Incidentally, do you see something 'unusual' about this picture?  If so, I think you are catching on.)


Here is an important note to first-time watchers... don't get too attached to the First Guy on the screen.  The First Guy never has a chance.  (Unless he's a Prince, of course.  No Prince has ever lost a girl on Hallmark.  Princes are undefeated).

Marla and I know the first guy we see is the one who has to go.  Therefore, keep an eye out.  The next cute guy to appear after Mr. Wannabe is bound to be the eventual winner of the Fair Maiden's hand. 

One of my favorite parts in every Smoochie Movie is waiting to see how the True Love guy steals the girl way from Mr. Wannabe.  Here again, maybe my past experience explains my fondness for this important Plot Development.

I never quite realized it, but my courtship of Marla reads like a Hallmark move.  Did you know I stole Marla from her boyfriend of six long years on a Dance Cruise?  No one could have predicted our sudden romance.  After all, why would a level-headed girl like Marla throw away a handsome, prosperous boyfriend of six years for a sketchy dance teacher she has just met on a dance cruise?

Truly, this script is so preposterous no one would believe it.  So what did the prosperous boyfriend do wrong?  He neglected her, the most Fatal Mistake of all!!!  He let Marla go on a Singles Cruise all by herself.  Can you believe that?  Talk about arrogance!  No man in his right mind lets a woman who looks like Marla go on a Singles Cruise unattended. 

It was an upset victory to be sure, something straight out of Revenge of the Nerds.  After all, this guy was a ruggedly handsome rugged rugby player, a Macho man, not some wimp dance teacher like me. 

So what was Rugby Ralph's mistake?  That should be obvious... Rugby Ralph never watched any Smoochie Hallmark movies!  Because if he had watched them, Rugby Ralph would know the rule.... Never Ignore the Female Lead!  

Another well-known Hallmark script uses a kid as the Matchmaker.  The best example of this is Chance at Romance, a really sweet movie.

Samantha (Erin Krakow) has gone on a string of bad dates.  She meets a photographer from another state and gets his email address. Lo and behold, Sam is excited to see that he is interested in her when they correspond.  In fact, he sends her a ticket to come visit him.  Hallelujah!  Only one problem.  When she gets there, she learns that her online relationship was created by Heath's 12 year-old son.  Oops!!  It's preposterous of course, but Erin Krakow is a gifted actress who makes this script believable.  I was impressed.


Ever the romantic, Samantha is optimistically trying to find her Prince Charming on a white horse, even if that means going on bad date after bad date. After making eye contact at one of his shows, Sam initiates an online relationship with photographer Heath Madsen.

Sam is shocked when she receives a plane ticket to visit Heath. But when she arrives for her romantic weekend, Sam learns that her online relationship was actually created by Heath's 12 year-old son.

Even worse, her visit is a complete surprise to Heath, who is busy struggling to find inspiration for his upcoming photo exhibit and coping with the pressure from his pushy manager, Celeste Jeffers-Johnson (The Villain!!).

Now stuck on a romantic vacation with her non-boyfriend, could an actual relationship between Heath and Sam be their destiny?


As I have hinted, many stories begin with the hard-working career woman who is also Unlucky in Love.  Right after the Female Lead and the Obligatory Black Person are introduced, then we learn what Career issue our star is facing.  A good example of this is Never Too Late for Christmas.

“Rebecca, a businesswoman who has let go of her joy of Christmas, is trying to secure her next big deal and promotion to executive vice president before the end of the year. When she’s sent on assignment to a remote town, she meets the handsome widower John, owner of the Holly & Ivy Inn, which is named after his two daughters. It’s not long before Rebecca’s all-business exterior begins to thaw and she finds her Christmas spirit returning just in time.”


If I recall correctly, Rebecca ditches the career to join her honey running the small town Bed and Breakfast.  The things a girl will do for love.  Some women even marry a dance teacher.  Nah, no one would ever believe that.

But it's true... they actually had a Hallmark Christmas movie about a dance teacher, Christmas DanceI kid you not. 

Marla and I absolutely rolled with laughter... in four private lessons, the guy never got past the Box Step!!  You know, would it hurt to spend a little money and hire an honest-do-goodness instructor to teach them both how to Waltz? 


You know, when you think about it, these stories are not all that complicated.   Two of my lady friends, Betty Richardson and Deborah Hrncir, have told me they are HUGE Hallmark fans. 

Together, Betty, Deborah and I could probably write one of these script by ourselves.  I might ask Marla to chip in some ideas, but her problem is that she is too realistic.  If Marla is given to flights of fancy, she keeps them to herself.  The last thing I want to hear is Marla saying my script is too preposterous to ever be selected.  I happen to disagree.  Every single one of these scripts are more preposterous than anything I could think of.  And then again, why am I being so modest?  Anyone who can write an article as rambling as this should be able to write a preposterous Hallmark script. 

You know what?  Maybe I will write one of these scripts.  It is obvious I have given Hallmark way too much thought.  My story needs to be original.  Hmm.  Aha!  I've got it!   I am going to have a Prince lose the girl!  It has never happened!  In fact, I think I will have the Prince lose his girl to a black guy who learns how to Waltz because the Prince refused to bother.  That is a great script!  It's brilliant!

What do you think?  Would Hallmark would buy the script?  Nah, probably not.  The world isn't ready.


Another TABOO is having a movie that takes place beyond our border.  USA!  USA!  Tough luck, Jamaica, tough luck, England.  This is highly ironic because practically every movie is filmed in Vancouver.  I find this very funny because they would never allow the plot to take place in Canada.  That would be TABOO. 

Hallmark has a great trick.  Although every winter scene is actually filmed somewhere near Vancouver, they pretend each winter scene is New England or Colorado.  Works every time. 

If it is a summertime movie, they take an aerial shot of New York or Seattle (these are the only two Hallmark cities) and flash it periodically.  Every time I see that Space Needle, I fall for it.  That tricks me into thinking that Seattle is where the movie is being filmed.  Nah.  Or maybe I'll see an aerial shot of Central Park.  Fools me every time. 

However, I read an article that explained almost all the movies are filmed in Vancouver.  If you question my credibility, read this: 

'Rocky Mountain Christmas will continue filming in Vancouver and British Columbia until November 22nd.  The Hallmark Channel has been keeping the British Columbia film crews busy since last winter in preparation for their Countdown to Christmas 2017 lineup. In total, 15 of the 21 movies have been filmed in the province. Although we don’t get Hallmark Channel here in Canada, many of the network’s movies eventually show up on W Network, Netflix or elsewhere, so keep an eye out!'  

Do you believe me now?  Rocky Mountain Christmas was a great movie, by the way.  It was my 2017 Christmas Season favorite.


So what typically goes wrong between the Star-Crossed Lovers?   On other TV channels, 'Cheating' is often used as the reason things aren't working, NO ONE CHEATS on Hallmark.  Cheating  is TABOO.   I am totally serious.  These are most virtuous people left on earth. In fact, PRE-MARITAL SEX is also TABOO. 

However, I did see one daring Hallmark movie where the Female Lead showed up at a New Year Party just in time to witness her boyfriend give a highly sanitized smooch to another woman.  That is about as risqué as it gets. 

Every Hallmark plot is pure innocence in the classic romantic comedy style popular in the Fifties.  Think Gidget or Pillow Talk.  It is never once suggested that the Wannabe Male Lead who gets ditched and the Female Star have slept together.  Nor would the Wannabe and Fair Maiden dream of living together.  This too is Forbidden. 

These people all live in some sort 1950s Time Warp where Nice Girls exuding Purity and Virtue reign supreme.  Nudity?  Consider yourself lucky if you even see cleavage.  One actress commented she was ordered to cover up.  Can't have that!!

What makes this all amusing is that several Hallmark actresses have appeared in Playboy.  Catherine Bell, a serious hottie, is one name that comes to mind.  However, she plays a witch, so I guess no one minds. 


I realize I have been a tad sarcastic regarding these movies.  Let's face it, these movies are easily lampooned.  All Hallmark Movies are fairy tales of a sort.  No one expects a Fairy Tale will come true, but it is fun to entertain the notion nevertheless.  This is light entertainment after all.  Not too complicated, not too dramatic.  We ain't talkin' Shakespeare, Rebecca or Wuthering Heights, but rather good old Beach Blanket Bingo kind of fun. 

That said, there is one aspect to these movies that fascinates me.  Given that every movie follows a Formula, once in a while a movie truly transcends the banal script.  I am not sure the ratio... maybe one movie in ten... but every now and then the actor and actress are so talented that they make their highly predictable script both interesting and believable.  You know what's going to happen, but these people are so likeable that it is fun to watch them fall in love every step of the way.

There is a football legend about the Green Bay Packers power sweep to the left.  Every guy on the other team knew it was coming, but the Packers were so good at running this play, the defense couldn't stop them. 

Some of the Hallmark regulars have that same ability.  I know it's comin', but I fall in love with the stars anyway.


Since I watch so much Hallmark, it blows my mind that some actors and actresses can pull this off and touch my heart even when I know the game plan by heart.  Rocky Mountain Christmas was a good example of this, predictable and wonderful at the same time. 

'Sarah Davis heads to her uncle’s struggling ranch to escape New York and the spotlight from a recent breakup. Returning home for the first time since her aunt passed, complications arise when Graham, an entitled Hollywood star, arrives at the ranch to prepare for his next film. As Sarah and Graham start to bond, Sarah may get more for Christmas than she bargained for.'

Okay, I caught you yawning.  I agree.  This plot has 'Boring' written all over it.  In fact, the movie didn't even have a villain.  But it was a spectacular success.  The actor and actress were so superb, I caught myself really caring about them. 


Equally amazing was Nine Lives of Christmas.  This was a really cute story about a stud fireman who plays the field and a plain jane who doesn't have a chance in hell of landing this guy. 

'Fireman Zachary is a confirmed bachelor who doesn’t believe in love or commitment. When a stray tabby cat named Ambrose shows up at his door, Zachary takes him in and slowly starts to see that a little companionship might not be so bad after all. Zachary’s commitment to solitude is further challenged when he meets Marilee, an animal lover and veterinary student who teaches Zachary how to care for his new feline roommate.

Chemistry immediately develops between the two, but will they find a way to make it work?'

Both Nine Lives of Christmas and Rocky Mountain Christmas are good examples of an underdog girl who somehow charms a guy who is much better looking into falling in love with her.  So now you have yet another basic Hallmark script - the wholesome girl beats the pretty girl for the handsome guy. 


Chemistry... How does a director create chemistry?  Beats me, but it usually involves uber-talented actors and actresses.  Lacey Chabert is the perfect example.  In the movie All My Love, she charms everyone with her sweet down-to-earth goodness.

'A young caterer’s life suddenly changes course when she inherits a country home and learns she must share it with a career-obsessed Wall Street trader. At first, these opposites do not attract, but feelings begin to change when they find themselves having to work side-by-side to restore their newly acquired home.'

It turns out Lacey shares the house with a guy who is WAY OUT OF HER LEAGUE.  And when he dumps her, the pain is written all over her face.  This girl can really act!!!


In a similar way, we have Andrew Walker.  He was awesome in the 2016 Dream of Christmas along with Nikki DeLoach. 

'When a restless young married woman is granted a wish by a Christmas Angel to be single again, she soon discovers her new life isn't what she bargained for.  To begin with, her wish grants her that promotion she has always dreamed of. 

In addition, she is pursued by the handsome, wealthy entrepreneur she has a crush on.  Then suddenly, she realizes why she cared for her husband in the first place.  Now she embarks on a quest to win her husband back.'

This was a powerful movie acted to perfection by both leads.  Incidentally, Hallmark agrees with me about Andrew.  He has been in a dozen Hallmark movies! 


You know what?  I think I have figured it out.  Back when I ran SSQQ, I was a hopeless romantic.  Of all the things that were special about SSQQ, the thing I was most proud of was watching people fall in love. 

This happened so often that I began to realize that my dance studio was a Magic Garden when it came to meeting wonderful people.  We had so many wonderful people take classes.  Many of our students were salt of earth, down to earth people, well-educated and very dedicated to their professions. 

Learning to dance requires persistence... and these people were persistent, no question about it.  Once they committed themselves to learn, they never gave up.

And what is the main essential to making a relationship work?  Persistence and commitment.  We had the right people, the right attitude, and the right place. 

Put these people in each other's arms and watch the Chemistry start to Cook.  It was wonderful.  SSQQ was the closest thing to a marriage factory ever created.  We averaged one new marriage and one new engagement EVERY MONTH FOR ELEVEN STRAIGHT YEARS. 

You don't believe me?  SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance.


I took so much pride in helping to design the place that created these romances that I suppose I turned into a Romantic myself. 

So, yes, I may be a big mush, but I am proud of it. 

For now the Hallmark Holiday Season is over till next year.  My Christmas wish for the 2018 Hallmark Holiday lineup is that they shed their 'White Christmas' reputation and hire a talented person of color to play the lead.  Wouldn't that be nice?  I think America can handle it.


One more thing.  Before I leave you, I have great news!!

Lacy Chabert and Andrew Walker will be paired TOGETHER for the first time in the upcoming Hallmark Valentine movie My Secret Valentine.     My favorite guy and my favorite gal in the same movie!!!  I cannot even wait. 

"When?", you ask.   This coming Saturday!!!!!!!   February 3. 

You know where I'll be... a glass of wine, a box of chocolates and plenty of tissues.  Best of all, Marla will be beside me trying to win the competition. 

Happy Valentine's Day everybody.  And may the Romantic Magic of Hallmark be with you.






From: anonymous
Sent: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 4:57 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Cold Weather Tonight

 Hi Rick,

Due to the cold weather I decided it would be safer if I didn't try to make it to class tonight.

Incidentally, I tried calling you six times today.  Do you ever answer your phone??  And if so, do you ever return messages?


In this woman's case, I was outside most of the day bringing my portable plants inside and trying to adequately cover everything else outside.  Anybody who has been to my house knows I take my garden seriously.

And to answer the other question, no, I never listen to messages.  My outgoing message is simple: Please email me instead

In the case of the recent freeze, I activated my email auto-responder with the following message:  


On ‎Tuesday, ‎January‎ ‎16‎, ‎2018‎ ‎06‎:‎18‎:‎27‎ ‎AM‎ ‎CST, <rick@ssqq.com> wrote:

This is Rick Archer.  Yes, we will have dance class on Tuesday and Wednesday evening.  I will be there, I promise.

That said, if the conditions are such that you would prefer to skip class, by all means do so.  We will simply run class a little bit longer in the remaining weeks. 

If there is ever a problem affecting everyone, I will activate the email responder again.  It is far easier to do that than record a new voice message for my phone. 

For the record, here is my land line phone number.  713 862 2121.  However, I don't answer it very often.  Nor do I own a cell phone.

Here is why I am so grouchy about the phone. 

I am writing a book.  Every time the phone rings, I jump out of my skin because I concentrate so hard.  

Not only does the phone interrupt my train of thought, I now glance at the phone to see who is calling. 

95% of all phone calls to me are made by a computer or some pitiful human forced to become a telephone solicitor. 

I am not making this up.  95% of my calls say 'Out of Area', 'Wireless Caller' or 'Unassigned'.  The thing to understand is that I don't just get these calls during weekday working hours, I get these calls on weekends and at night as well.  Furthermore, often these same number will call two or three times in the same day.  As I written this segment, I have received two such calls.  One was from Kirby Title LLC, a taped message selling health insurance (clever touch using an actual business name) and one from 'Unassigned'.  

The 'Unassigned' is a recurring phone number I have seen many times.  So I thought perhaps I could block calls.  Apparently this is a feature one can use on cell phones, so I called my phone company.  They said there is no way I can block phone numbers from unwanted callers on a Land Line.

With that, I threw in the towel.  Please forgive, but I decided the only way to avoid letting the telephone ruin my life is to ignore it and ask people to email me instead.

Email is quiet.  Email doesn't interrupt me.  I can answer email when it is convenient, i.e. whenever I take a break from writing the book.  Yes, I get unwanted emails as well, but it takes a nanosecond to delete them. 

Incidentally, I check email once an hour if you need to get a hold of me.   You will either get an answer quickly or definitely by next morning. 

I understand that most people these days prefer to text, do Facebook, Twitter, etc, but not me.  The only way to write a book is to avoid interruptions as much as possible. 

Please forgive my archaic ways.   If by chance you disagree with my thinking, by all means, feel free to email me.


And that's a wrap for today. 

36 pages in this issue. 

I am the world's biggest tree hugger, so I dearly hope you will read my Newsletter on your computer or tablet.  This way no trees will have to die.    However it is true countless pixels will be rearranged.

Rick Archer


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