This again. While I do live blog these, by the time I’m done I’m usually too ready-for-bed to go through and edit out all the typos, so they pop up on the blog a day or two later, and usually in that time N & I have watched one or two other Xmas movies I don’t have the energy to also live-blog. Some of them aren’t worth it; last night’s was called USS Christmas and it amounted to little more than military propaganda asking us to feel sorry for these people volunteering to kill civilians around the world, but it was set in Norfolk, which is just down the road from where my parents now live, and just down the road from Virginia Beach, which is where I holed myself up in a beachfront hotel room for 3 nights earlier this fall to finish a draft of my book, and so when I saw in the opening credit sequence a pair of fighter jets superimposed behind city buildings, with their 130db screamings across the sky, I nodded as knowingly as any local must have, though not with any of their pride. Anyway, here’s an only slightly better one.

Treat Williams and a woman I keep thinking is the mom from My So Called Life have two sons. One is an actor who stars as a handsome lawyer on a courtroom drama called Handsome Justice. The other is a Buttigieg-style gay who is trying, with his partner, to adopt a baby. If Hallmark lets them kiss even once I will donate money somewhere they’d hate. So far they have held hands, and Act One isn’t even halfway over, so maybe I’ll end up eating my hat. Anyway: Treat Williams and the mom used to do what they called Christmas House, which is where they over-the-top decorate for Xmas and open the house to the town: Hudson Valley? Something Valley, but I know we’re Upstate. Both sons have come home to help them.

The not-gay’s problem—he’s the Man, clearly,[1] and they’ve just showed a photo of the childhood friend who will no doubt soon become the Woman—is that the network isn’t sure whether they’re going to renew Handsome Justice for another season. So now we get to watch and learn how the Man will decide he doesn’t really need 1.2 million followers and to be on TV anymore.

Neal tells me that the gay just got engaged IRL, that actor (who has before been the Man, admirably, in other Hallmark movies), and that his social media posts are about things like how grateful he and his fiancé are for the new pickup truck they were given by Toyota to post about. Also, Neal reports that Treat Williams’s nickname back in the day was Big Meat Treat (SFW).

As I like with my HCMs, Treat Williams is hotter than either of the sons.


The Woman is wearing a beret and has delivered coffees (not cocoas!) to the family. Her name is Andi or Andy or Andee. She used to be in a magic act with the Man they’d perform at Christmas House. And now she slipped the news that the parents are selling Christmas House, and the Woman has been hired as the agent. Oh, and the Man asked earlier why Treat Williams’ watch was in his old bedroom, and the mom said Treat Williams is always forgetting it everywhere, but it’s clear mom and Treat Williams are divorcing. They’re doing a very good job of pretending like they’re not, so I get to wait and see how long they can draw out this mystery.

Dave, Jesus, why bother watching if you know everything that’s going to happen and treat all of those as this tedious chore? Nobody’s making you do this.

Do I have to respond to this question only I have asked? Am I avoiding introspection or do I find the question irrelevant? Why watch anything? Did you read previous posts about puzzles?

Also: sometimes punching down feels like punching up, and that comes from never really knowing where you stand.


Okay so the mom just suggested that she visit the Gay in Denver (i.e., the Paris of the HCU) and he said they were welcome any time. “Maybe just me?” she said, a little choked up, and it’s unclear whether the Gay picked up on the meaning of this. “You are welcome any time,” he said, so maybe he knows more than we’re letting on? There’s so much this Christmas has to accomplish for this family: the Man needs both his next career stage decided on (will he teach acting in the town?) and the Woman to be his love forever, the Gay needs to know he and his partner can adopt, and the parents need to realize they don’t need to divorce. I think of these stories I’m most invested in the parents’. It feels like it’s time for them to stop living together and end things on a wonderful, compassionate note, and I would love this 2020 Xmas to watch Hallmark show people how relationships really are sometimes.

I’m bitter (bitter-er perhaps), I should point out, because we’ve decided not to travel for Xmas this year. California has made travel … well they can’t enforce this, but the state has prohibited nonessential travel, and our plans were to go to South Dakota, where from my research 99 out of 98 people have the virus and continue to ignore mask advisories out of a misguided and uneducated understanding of what personal freedom entails. So it’s like two strikes against us being with family this year, so here we are, still, in our 500sqft apartment, trying not to give up on what we’ve known to be life.

I realized that if we tried to have the Xmas we always have with our families—same cookies we bake, same movies to watch and other traditions—it would feel self-defeating and perhaps keep reminding us of what we’re missing, and so I suggested we try to do new things, or things that might make this lonely Xmas feel special. “Well, I think we should buy a new TV,” N said. “That’s a no-brainer.” We bought our 780p plasma back in 2008, right after we first moved in together, and it’s never had a problem and we keep moving to smaller and smaller homes, so it’s kept feeling larger and larger, but the moment he said it, my terrible mood brightened, and I was like Of course. Anyway we got a 55” Samsung for $150 under retail that Consumer Reports ranks 3rd in its size-class. It arrives tomorrow. So I’ll have a much larger screen to watch fake scripted families have their most ideal Xmases ever while not one of them even mentions the idea of illness, much less the fact of a global pandemic.

I’ve complained about this before, but I feel the hurt of it still. Would it have been so wrong or revenue-risking to line up just like two Xmas movies this year that faced the reality of the pandemic? Doesn’t Hallmark know how fiction works, and what it feels like for most human people with emotions to watch the stories of others struggling with like obstacles? I’m getting to the point where HCMs feel like public health disasters, continually airing into U.S. homes new movies that inspire people to have closely gathered warm-indoor home holiday celebrations together.

Anyway, let me try to get into this movie. If there’s one thing I believe about Xmas decorating it’s that more is more, and here’s a movie whose central premise is this same thing. Another reason to hate Melania Trump and celebrate her removal from the White House: that bitch had no idea how to overdecorate.


Oh my god okay I was wrong. 30 minutes in and the homos kissed on the front doorstep after talking about how they’re going to be a family soon. (Again: they’re those gays.)

A promise is a promise. I’ll donate money to Sex Workers Outreach Project tomorrow.


The Woman is a cipher. I think this is the first HCM this season where the Man is the protagonist, so we know very little of her heart. She has longer and darker hair than most Womans are allowed to have, and her voice is darker. She’s like a Mediterranean Cameron Diaz, or a more approachable Gina Gershon. Oh, she’s Latinx, that’s why I find her unrecognizable in this landscape. She is 100% unimpeachable, and I think she might even be a talented actress. Anyway, she’s got a nerd of a Son who is going to learn magic from the Man, thus forming the basis of Man-Woman wooing. Now they’re in the small town’s magic shop (still open in 2020) run by a Dom Deluise type with a good-enough British accent. It seems to double as a costume shop. One thing I admire about Hallmark is its optimism about the endurance of small-town retail. Will this encourage its devoted fanbase to shop anywhere other than online this year?

Oops. The network canceled Handsome Justice, making me multiply wrong about this movie’s shape. Next thing you know the parents are going to get back together, but then again they still haven’t announced the divorce plans.

Also, that the ass on the Man is better than the asses on either of the Gays is homophobic.


It’s not an All Is Lost moment, but just seconds after the mom confessed that she and Treat Williams are moving into separate homes in the new year, Xmas lights outside exploded in a bursts of sparks and some of the lawn ornaments caught on fire. And the mom is telling Treat Williams that they’re “out of synch.” “A perfect Christmas is not going to solve our problems,” she says, shaking her head in an apron and walking out of the room. Treat Williams seems dubious, or confused, and it’s unclear if he’s another unintuitive man or if the mom is the kind of person who assumes that changes in people’s interrelating practices constitute Serious Problems That Can’t Be Fixed. It seems these two are the kinds of movie characters who have a big conflict caused simply by not yet having that conversation they need to have, and so let’s look forward to that “Oh wait maybe things aren’t over forever” conversation to come.


Now I’m invested in the question of whether the Man is going to buy the house from the parents or whether the parents are going to decide in the end to stay. This house looks like it was built in 2010, maybe 2008, though of course all the talking about the house makes it seem like it’s been around forever. Now I’m wishing we got to see more kinds of homes for Xmas other than suburban new construction and new-construction wood cabins in the woods. Nobody in the HCU lives in a split-level, like we Maddens did. (I understand the demands of film shoots.) Some HCUers live in apartments, but none of them ever goes home to an apartment at the end of the movie. Inclusivity comes in many forms, as this movie is making headlines about, but the non-rural working-class really have no place in the HCU.

At this point I’m realizing how boring this live blog is. I’m bored with it, and my guess is that I’m actually becoming more interested in and patient with this movie than any other this year. Too little about it is worth making fun of, and while I don’t care that much whether the Man and Woman get together, I am curious about how everything is going to come together. I mean, Treat Williams just agreed to put the house on the market after the mom told him that he’s made changes in his life (he does yoga and goes hiking now) that she wants for herself—and she sees the only way that she can get these kinds of changes is by selling the house and splitting up. It’s a stupid, wrong, completely misguided and self-absorbed belief, and I know exactly what she’s feeling. I’ve been in the same stupid and wrong place she is right now, assuming that others are standing in my way of something, whereas what’s really happening is that others aren’t actively and vocally giving me permission to do and be what I want because they’re busy working on their own shit, and that reads to me too often like disapproval and abandonment.

Anyway, I hope the mom finds her way out of this trap. Also, the Man has to go into NYC on Xmas Eve to meet some producers about his next gig, so maybe he won’t be ending up in Christmas House forever? Now his advice to the son—who feels like a real pre-teen that I also have been and understand, though I was more into yo-yos and string tricks than magic at that age—about nerves is solid and useful and it’s advice I give others: nerves and excitement are both forms of energy, so accept that your nerves are a good sign that you’re ready for the job.

That Hallmark is making me like everyone in this movie but the Gays is also homophobic.


Okay let me get into it. Why do I hate these Gays? Well, they have one job in this movie, and that’s to show off how the filmmakers, and Hallmark by extension, have “revised their thinking” on gays since they took that two-brides ad off the air last year. That’s how the Gays function. All they do is talk about adoption, hold hands, wear turtlenecks, and live in the center of the country.

“Now who’s your favorite son, huh? The one who’s leaving you on Christmas or the one who’s giving you a grandchild?!” This is what the Gay says right after the parents announce they’re moving into the same house together after all (thus making room for the Man to surprise-buy the Christmas House). That’s who this Gay is: scurrying after validation still in adulthood and deciding the only way to get it is to reenact the very hetero norms that made him.

Perhaps I should be reasonable. What kind of Hallmark gays could I expect to like? Bitchy. Single. Pervy. Horny. Irresponsible. “Oh yeah because wanting to love and raise a child is hetero,” N says, rolling his eyes at me. And he has a point: sometimes having kids isn’t a societal pressure you cow to, it’s a real desire. People want kids the way I want to be left alone. I get it.

Also, Bitch Media tells me it’s important to have a successful gay couple adopting in an HCM given how hard some states are working to deny them this right. Which is probably at the heart of my complaint. These gays never had a chance. We just watched a movie about a Woman whose late mother was a stage actress who never told the Woman who her father was, and as a result she feels very ill-at-ease inside theaters and feels tepid about Christmases, which they always spent in hotel rooms. This is a character: someone with a past that affects their present and gives them choices to make on how to act. Hallmark either doesn’t know how or can’t afford to make characters out of these Gays, and so because they are tokens, they make being gay less a reality than an idea.

They are as humorless and dull as a box of rocks. If you present me an unfunny gay character I am going to understand you’ve never met a gay man before.


Uh oh! The NYC producer just revealed that they’re not canceled after all, but even amid this news the Man can’t stop thinking of the Woman, smiling in a turtleneck. Now they’ve put Treat Williams in a knee-length knit granny vest to hand cookies or maybe candy canes out to the kids running around Christmas House. The Man left in the middle of a business meeting to go be with his family, and the NYC people were shocked by this. The idea being that it’s so unprofessional to not be willing to sit in a meeting past 5pm on Christmas Eve. This is a perennial grousing that N and I do: the amount of business work that apparently gets done on Christmas Eve in the HCU is just a stupid lie to make viewers distrust cities and people who don’t as a rule put family first.

The son’s name isn’t Owen, but it’s Noah, so basically it’s Owen again. Nimble Noah. That’s his magician stage name. I’ll just end there, with everything working out for everyone in the end but me.

Final Grade: B-

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. My best guess is we’ll see two gays be the Men in 2022. Lifetime’s reportedly got a gay couple this year, so that might kick Hallmark’s ass to put this into production for 2021, but I’m not optimistic. Also, I probably don’t want to see it.