If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Hallmark Channel is being inundated by compliments.
While Hallmark is still the leading brand when it comes to Christmas- (and now Hanukkah-) themed TV movies at this time of year, competitors have apparently noticed how well Hallmark does with its holiday movies and are leaping on the holiday-romance bandwagon.
Lifetime has emerged as the most prominent of the Hallmark imitators this holiday season, but even ABC got into the act last week with “Same Time, Next Christmas,” starring Lea Michele -- a holiday romance right out of the Hallmark playbook.
For a TV columnist, the Christmas-movie (and Christmas-special) competition makes for a handy topic at a time of year when new-show premieres tend to be scarce in the television universe.
Clever Christmas movie titles and Christmas-y photos from the various TV movies help liven up the TV Blog each year at holiday time.
On the subject of photos, Hallmark is far ahead of the competition. Hallmark's p.r. department offers dozens of photos for each of its many movies. And virtually all of the Hallmark movie publicity photos scream Christmas with backgrounds filled with holiday decorations.
Not so with the Lifetime press materials. With few exceptions, Lifetime's photo supply was limited to one photo per movie on the Lifetime press website. And many of the photos showed almost no Christmas bric-a-brac at all; they could have been from any old time of the year.
The one chosen for this TV Blog, above, with its Christmas trees in the background -- from the movie called “Rediscovering Christmas,” airing this coming weekend on Lifetime -- was one of the rare ones that visually represented Christmas.
The titles of the Hallmark and Lifetime movies are certainly similar in tone and composition. Remember Bill O’Reilly’s annual lament that the media was waging a “war on Christmas” by conspiring to replace the word “Christmas” with “holiday” (or “holidays”) and the phrase “Merry Christmas” with “Happy holidays”?
When it comes to TV’s Christmas movie titles, O’Reilly can rest easy.
Lifetime’s holiday movies this year include “Sweet Mountain Christmas,” “The Road Home for Christmas,” “No Time Like Christmas,” “Christmas Reservations,” “Forever Christmas” and “Radio Christmas.”
Lifetime’s best title this year is a toss-up between “Christmas A La Mode” and “Random Acts of Christmas.” They’re not bad at all.
Hallmark’s movie titles this year include: “A Cheerful Christmas,” “A Christmas Duet,” “Check Inn to Christmas,” “A Christmas Love Story,” “Christmas Under the Stars” and “Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses” (the TV Blog’s favorite).
Although the details vary, the plot lines of all of these movies are pretty much the same -- a man and woman "meet cute" amid some stressful situation coinciding with holiday time. That’s basically it.
And yet, viewers flock to them, possibly because the world they depict is completely opposite to the real world we all live in. From that perspective, maybe TV’s inundation of Christmas movies is a Christmas miracle -- and something we all need right now.