It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. Tis’ The Season To Be Jolly. Merry Christmas Everybody. Christmas is coming. It’s inescapable. And it sounds like you’re gonna be happy about it whether you want to be or not.

Happiness and Christmas are joined at the hip and, of course, a cynic would say that the Christmas season is one long parade of commercially-enforced fun. MONTAG strongly opposes this view.

In our extremely humble opinion, Christmas is indeed the happiest time of the year, and we suspect that those who don’t like Christmas are the same people who don’t like French fries or chocolate. That is to say: they are simply wrong.

And while there are limits to the saccharine-soaked happiness-overload that is Christmas in 2018 - novelty Christmas jumpers-for-two with a vague charitable impact being the new low point in the Ugly Christmas Jumper Wars - all evidence points to most people believing that, when celebrating Christmas, more is very much more.

Look at the evidence. Chocolate makes people happy - so at Christmas, people buy enormous quantities of it. Deliberately awful Christmas clothing has, indefensibly, become a thing that makes almost everyone smile, and thus there is now a multi-million-dollar industry around making nylon sweaters with - oh, I don’t know - a naked Santa and the words “I have a big package for you” on them.

And then there’s Christmas movies. People hold certain movies so closely to their hearts that watching them becomes a yearly Christmas ritual, with the likes of It’s A Wonderful Life, Love Actually, and - as everyone who shares an office with That Guy knows - Die Hard dusted off and dutifully played.

But there is an insatiable lust for more. More movies. We want them. We need them. As many as you can shovel onto Netflix. And there’s a vast industry ready to quench our thirst with a mountain of made-for-TV Christmas movies, all guaranteed to bring happiness into your life, and all as warm, comfy and safe as - well, a Christmas jumper.

In the last decade or so, a Christmas-Movie-Industrial-Complex has sprung up, capitalising on our craving for any 90-minute series of moving images involving a sprinkling of fake snow, a red or green colour scheme and a suspiciously-professionally-decorated tree - as long as the story is twee, slightly moralistic and features a 90’s children’s TV star you’d forgotten all about.

Chief Elf in the supply chain is the Hallmark corporation, who have proven especially adept at creating hundreds of Christmas-themed movies that are all vaguely similar, yet are gobbled up by a ravenous public. In 2018, Hallmark’s TV channels will broadcast a scarcely-believable 34 brand new Christmas movies, all with titles that promise - and deliver - exactly what you think they will.

Here’s a selection of Hallmark Christmas Movie classics that you too can luxuriate in:

• Crown for Christmas - featuring Hallmark’s contract star Danica McKellar, from 90’s kids TV show The Wonder Years, this movie is a hybrid offering: combining a story from the long line of poor-girl-is-wooed-by-a-real-life-prince movies with CHRISTMAS. In this case, Danica is a poor maid (of course) and the prince is the - no sniggering please - King of Winshire.

• Northpole - starring Tiffany Thiessen from 90’s kids TV show Saved By The Bell, this movie is the staggeringly obvious story of a plucky single mom being wooed by a nice hunky man in time for Christmas, thanks to the magical intervention of Santa himself. Naturally, such heartwarming unsubtlety means that - correctly - this is a Hallmark smash hit.

• My Christmas Dream - featuring Hallmark’s contract star Danica McKellar, from 90’s kids TV… wait - just how many Christmas TV movies has Danica been in? (The answer is at least seven, probably more) Anyway, here, she plays a career-driven woman who has to choose between the man of her dreams and the work opportunity of a lifetime. At Christmas.

So delightfully identikit are these movies that “Christmas movie posters with white heterosexual couples wearing red and green” is not merely an observable trope - it’s a solid marketing strategy and operational plan: these movies are made precisely this way, on purpose, in the summer, in bulk, in Canada, in the snow, on repeat.

So what are people seeking when they gulp down identical Christmas movie after identical Christmas movie? At the most happy time of the year, have we discovered that the root of happiness itself is the movie equivalent of a Pumpkin Spice latte held by someone who was once in an episode of Baywatch Nights?  Is what we really seek in life to see hunky and/or babelicious actors chew the scenery through endless meet-cutes whilst wearing Christmas hats?

Apparently so.

To find out for sure, MONTAG curled up on the sofa, wrapped itself in a fleecy blanket, gripped a bucket of hot chocolate with both hands, and analysed a few key masterpieces to find out: what is happiness, according to made-for-TV Christmas movies?

Happiness is… Hunky, laid-back men who subvert uptight people’s worldview… at Christmas!

In The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2009), there are two loud messages: women need men to be happy, and happiness is not found in possessions, except that actually… it is! And yet, MONTAG found itself willing to ignore these dubious starting points because this movie stars The Fonz.

Yes, Henry Winkler, AKA the world’s nicest man, provides literally all of the warmth in this adorably generic story of a Very Professional She-EO, played by Baywatch Hawaii’s Brooke Burns. Her hatred of both a) Christmas, and b) letting loose is tested by a Sexy-Firefighter-Calendar-type hunk who, if you squint a bit, looks like a cross between Melted Tom Cruise and Careworn Jason Bateman. He couldn’t, of course, be more different to our heroine: he has no real plan, but does have lots of older-than-his-years Very Sage Advice to share with her.

Through a series of entirely predictable circumstances, we learn that Sometimes Letting Life Just Happen is better than being An Uptight Woman. We also learn that having lots of money and possessions isn’t important - except for the extended sub-plot which involves obtaining a must-have Christmas toy, and culminates in a straight-up felony, when Laid-Back Hunky Guy knocks a toy store owner unconscious with a trash can, while Uptight Career Woman gurgles in love-addled, liberated delight.

  • Number of times the leading lady accidentally sees the Hunky man shirtless and stumbles over her words as she realises she is in love with him: one.
  • Get You A Man Who Can Do Both: FYI - women need both a cuddly uncle *and* a Man With No Plan.
  • Key Learning: Put the Fonz in any move for an instant 70% lift in happiness.

Happiness is… Stockholm Syndrome!

2007’s Holiday in Handcuffs is another movie that asks us to embrace a jailable offence in the name of Christmassy love. Melissa Joan Hart - star of 90's kids' TV show Clarissa Explains It All, plays a ditzy, artsy waitress lamenting that she “has nothing to offer” her parents - “no husband, no grandchildren” - who are waiting for her to arrive in the family homestead with a man in tow.

Sporting what may or may not be one of Ru Paul’s curly blonde wigs, Clarissa Explains Away her problem by kidnapping, at gunpoint, 90's kids' TV star Mario Lopez from Saved By The Bell.

Despite being held hostage and almost having his Christmas baubles destroyed by a stray crotch-level bullet, the uptight, high-flying businessman Lopez falls in love with his captor via a series of Christmassy events including ice-skating, snowball fighting, and aborted escape plans thwarted by freezing snow.

  • Number of times the leading lady accidentally sees the Hunky man shirtless and stumbles over her words as she realises she is in love with him: one.
  • Amount That Clarissa Explains: probably not enough to satisfy the local cops.
  • Key Learning: Happiness is a warm gun.

Happiness is… DESTROYING your bitter rival in a bake-off (and by nabbing the hunky single dad first)

In the Hallmark Channel universe where every movie is substantially identical, a Christmas movie named A Cookie Cutter Christmas is surely some sort of meta-joke that slipped through the net.

In fact the whole movie is some sort of meta-analysis of capitalism itself, depicting the struggles of cute ’n’ plucky singleton Christie in her battle with her too-perfect nemesis penny, played by Miranda Frigon from 90's Kids' TV show, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show.

Generic Hunky Single Dad James, who looks a bit like Bryan Cranston in a fairground mirror, enrols his daughter at a new school and - in a gross breach of tutor-student child protection protocol - her teachers Christie and Penny then battle for his affections.

Their plight revolves around competing in capitalist zero-sum games of the traditionally female-only "Baking" and "Winning The Man To Ensure Her Happiness" kind. Only one of them can win, while the other will be SHAMED before an audience of her peers: a pitifully man-less losing baker. Who could possibly win?

  • Number of times the leading lady accidentally sees the Hunky man shirtless and stumbles over her words as she realises she is in love with him: one.
  • Hallmark Movie Not To Be Mistaken With: Christmas Cookies.
  • Key Learning: The way to man’s heart is through his stomach, plus also by using his six year old daughter as collateral.

Truly, it's impossible to watch Hallmark's christmas movies and not feel strong pangs of happiness, seasonal delight, or mouth the word "Awwwwwwww" quietly to oneself. We are the dogs, and Hallmark are our owners, dangling treats that we are hard-wired to sit down and beg for.

It's also hard not to watch these movies and risk your eyes rolling right out of your head, but Hallmark are onto something, and are in no rush to change the system. "We purposely look to be an escape. We try not to be issues-oriented in terms of creating polarizing conversations,” says Hallmark’s VP of Marketing, and here, MONTAG cannot disagree with their intent: as long as you keep our Xmas Synapses tingling, we'll take all of what you've got.

(Oh, and we'd like another Melissa Joan Hart/Dean Cain Christmas Classic, please!)

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