If the Hallmark Channel is known anything, it's for running cheesy holiday movies around the clock during the run-up to Christmas. I have never knowingly watched an entire Hallmark Channel movie. I've accidentally started such a movie on Netflix, belatedly realized it was godawful, and persevered anyway, mostly because I was trying to scratch a seasonal itch.1 But generally I avoid the genre. There's simply too much good stuff to watch–or even rewatch–to spend time on the cinematic equivalent of kumbaya.
At the risk of offending everyone reading this: When I picture the Hallmark Channel's core demographic, I imagine a gray woman with pillowy bossoms working needlepoint (whatever the heck that is). Someone who calls TV shows "my programs," is predisposed to mushy nonsense, and asks how school is going even though you graduated 20 years ago.
I never imagined my stepdad would be a fan of the genre.
He's a real guy's guy. Rode a motorcycle. Hunts and fishes. Can change the brakes on his truck and remodel the entire kitchen. When he was younger, he lived in a tent for a while, eating whatever he could literally rustle up, stuff like grilled squirrel or turtle soup, and somehow doesn't consider it the worst experience of his life.2
Dude loves the crappy Christmas genre. The crappier the better! He lays on the couch, watching whatever Hallmark serves up, idlying munching the treats my mom puts out in seasonal dishes. I first became aware of this startling fact at Thanksgiving a few years ago. It was one of those moments that makes you reconsider everything, like when I was 10 years-old and discovered my stepmother's illustrated sex manual, The Gourmet Book of Sex, on the living room bookshelf.3 It was a seismic event, neatly splitting life into Before and After.
I'd known the man almost 30 years, but in that moment I felt like I never known him at all. I honestly would've been less surprised if Santa Claus came skidding down the chimney, took a crap on the rug, and told me to keep the change.
Questions crowded my mind. As is my habit, I tried to ask them all at the same time. All the Words Everywhere All at Once.4
"Why? Are you serious? Is your remote dead? Are you dying?"
He just laughed.
"Those movies are terrible!"
He nodded, smiling. "Oh, they're awful."
"They're easy watches. Nobody's getting shot, nobody's dying. I know what I'm gonna get–everything works out in the end."
Waitaminute... boringly predictable stories as a feature?
I frowned suspiciously. After all, this is the same guy who busted my balls when I watched Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. He'd wander into the room during a segment, make a comment like, "if you believed that, wait till you see the next story we've cooked up," and wander out again. It was the closest I've ever come to being a victim of a drive-by shooting.
For the longest time, this was one of those "agree to disagree" things, which is really code for, "I'm right and you're wrong, but in the interest of familial cohesion we'll pretend this never happened." But recently I was talking to my friend Nicci about Shrinking and how Apple has cornered the market on tender, feel-good shows, and I finally understood why my stepdad was so drawn to the crappy Christmas genre. Sometimes you just wanna feel good.