It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s time for holiday…movies! That means a new season of round-the-clock Hallmark Christmas movies, with new ones airing each weekend through the weekend of December 17th.
It’s time to talk about why these movies are so popular and what you can expect this year, so we went to the Hallmark movie experts Bran Gray and Dan Thompson, best friends, and co-hosts of the year-round Deck the Hallmark podcast, which airs new episodes five days a week and can also be seen on the Philo streaming network. And yes, in case you were wondering, they made a full-time profession out of watching holiday movies year-round and have entered the sixth season of their very successful podcast.
“People tune into these movies because they are a mixture of nice holiday scenery and good, engaging love stories,” said Bran.“Hallmark Christmas movies are all about holiday vibes. They have figured out that special sauce that works. They have even taken chances over the past couple of years and do these movies better than any other network.”
One example of the chances that Hallmark has taken this season is their well-done Where are you, Christmas? which, if you can catch it, replays on October 30th, November 4th, November 19th and November 23rd. The film stars Lyndsy Fonseca, Michael Rady, Jim O'Heir, and Julie Warner and centers around Addy (Fonseca), who wishes for a year without Christmas. When she wakes up from a spin-out behind the wheel, the town is in black and white, and Christmas is non-existent. Addy must work with the town mechanic (Rady) to restore Christmas.
Dan and Bran founded the podcast together out of a desire to hang out more and explained that the new Hallmark regime has been willing to change the format that Hallmark fans have become used to. “They welcome you to watch the movies to see the differences now,” he said. “Where are you Christmas? wasn't a perfect movie for me, but I liked it a lot more than most that I've watched because it was a higher concept and did something different.”
Throw away the idea that Hallmark movies are just for women. “A lot of guys first watch because their significant others are watching and then find they like them,” said Thompson. “Everyone wants to turn their brain off at the end of a long day, and, for me, there is a relaxing quality to these movies. Sometimes, you just want to sit on your couch and not have to think too hard.” Gray explains that he started the podcast because he was looking for one about the movies he enjoys, without taking it so seriously. “I knew there had to be more men that watched them too, and we found out they do exist,” he said.
Fans of the podcast who become Deckie subscribers enjoy an inclusive Facebook group. In addition, they hold an annual public Bramble Jam fest in Greenville, South Carolina, where fans meet to talk about the podcast and all Hallmark movies. Hallmark premiers 31 new holiday movies this season and nine on their sister station, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. If your DVR doesn’t have enough room or you don’t want to watch dozens of new holiday movies this year, you can choose which ones you want to watch to get a taste of holiday movie spirit.
To help you narrow down the choices, we asked Dan and Bran to share what Hallmark holiday movies they are most looking forward to this season:
1. A Biltmore Christmas
Premiering as part of a double feature on Sunday, November 26th, and starring Bethany Joy Lenz, Kristoffer Polaha, and Jonathan Frakes.
Hallmark Synopsis: Screenwriter Lucy Hardgrove lands the job of a lifetime when she is hired to remake the beloved holiday movie “His Merry Wife!”
Bran’s take: “These are two of our favorite actors working together, so it’s a dream-come-true pairing.”
Dan’s take: “I think even some weird bad version of this movie is going to be good, so this has to be number one for us.”
2. The Santa Summit
Premiering on Sunday, November 5th, starring Hunter King and Benjamin Hollingsworth.
Hallmark Synopsis: At a Santa-themed holiday event, three teachers get their groove back, strengthen their friendship, and unexpectedly find love.
Bran’s take: “It sounds fun, and it will be a unique story that seems to be told in one night in New York,” he said.
3. Catch Me if You Clause
Premiering on Thursday, November 23rd, starring Italia Ricci and Luke MacFarlane.
Hallmark Synopsis: Avery Quinn's shot at anchoring news clashes with a Santa-suited intruder, Chris, who insists he's Santa's son on a first Christmas mission. They unravel a career-making story together.
Dan’s take: “I'm excited about this movie because it sounds so bonkers that it could just work.”
4. Holiday Hotline
Premiering on Thursday, November 23rd, starring Emily Tennant and Niall Matter.
Hallmark Synopsis: After leaving London, Abby connects with an anonymous caller while working at a cooking hotline. The caller is a single dad, “John,” who Abby unknowingly has become smitten with in real life.
Bran’s take: “This could be fun, and it's similar to a movie that we loved a couple of years ago called Deliver by Christmas. We are fans of Niall Matter, so it could end up sticking out.”
5. Friends & Family Christmas
Premiering on Sunday, December 17th, and starring Humberly Gonzalez, Ali Liebert
Synopsis: Daniella and Amelia are set up by their parents but agree to pretend they are dating to appease them for the holidays.
Dan’s take: “This movie has a lot of things we look for. One, it takes place in New York City, and you might be shocked at how few of these movies take place in New York City. It also features a fake relationship, where they have to act like they're in a relationship and, oh, they're falling in love. This is one of our favorite tropes. It’s also the first ever lesbian couple as the lead, and Ali Liebert is fantastic in everything, so we’re excited about this one.”
6. Haul Out the Holly: Lit Up
Premiering as part of a double feature on Saturday, November 25th, starring Lacey Chabert, Wes Brown, Stephen Tobolowsky, Ellen Travolta, Melissa Peterman, Seth Morris, and Jennifer Aspen.
IMDB Synopsis: As the holidays approach, Emily and Jared are looking forward to celebrating the holidays together again.
Bran’s take: “It's a sequel of our favorite movie from last year, Haul Out the Holly. Oftentimes, Hallmark has a tough time with sequels because you've told this love story. How can you make it better in the second one? But this particular cast is so big, and the movie has so many fun characters in it that we're just excited to see those characters again.”
7. Heaven Down Here
Premiering on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on Thursday, December 14th, starring Krystal Joy Brown, Tina Lifford, Juan Riedinger, Richard Harmon, and Phylicia Rashad.
Hallmark Synopsis: Inspired by Mickey Guyton’s song of the same name, “Heaven Down Here” tells the story of four disparate people stranded in a local diner on Christmas Eve when a snowstorm hits the town. Throughout the evening, these four bicker, bond, and unwittingly provide each other with the answer to their respective prayers.
Dan’s take: “It’s a sleeper, and I'm cautiously optimistic about it. It has Felicia Rashad in it, who I'm excited to see, and a lot of other big names in it as well. These folks are stuck in a diner, so it has kind of a bottle episode feel to it and a snowstorm and Rashad, so I feel like this one can sneak up on us and be better than we think it's going to be.”
As excited about the new holiday movie season as Bran and Dan are, they do admit that there are some things they are tired of watching year after year. “Party planning movies,” said Dan. “For example, there’s a vice president's junior partner in a law firm who needs to plan a party in 48 hours. Stop it. It’s tired.”
Dan continues, “That’s easily up there with me for making movies. I have no tolerance for movies about these special cookies that grandma left the recipe for, and we found it, and now we have to bake extra butter cookies to save the town.” Bran says that he could use more holiday movies based in the big city. “Every movie used to be going back to the small town, so while it’s occasionally going to be a thing, it’s nice this year that a few movies are based in New York City. It’s exciting.”
For a complete downloadable list of this season’s Hallmark movies, click here.
For more information on the podcast, click here.