Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 17 2019 01:11PM

Last month, as blog readers will recall, we jointly pondered a Jane Austen Christmas mystery: why a made-for-TV movie named Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen – allegedly based on Austen’s novel of the same title, minus the snowmen – had vanished from the Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas schedule.

But thank goodness! In keeping with the spirit of the season, joy can now spread across the land! The movie will air after all, albeit as part of Hallmark’s Miracles of Christmas schedule, which features seven new sappy romcoms, as opposed to Countdown’s busier slate of twenty-four.

Last year, as blog readers will recall, Hallmark aired not one but two nominally Austen-inspired Christmas movies. Both claimed to be based on Pride and Prejudice but turned out to have essentially no connection to Austen’s novel. Instead, as I pointed out at the time, both told “the story of a driven workaholic named Darcy who falls for a creative free spirit while they jointly plan a community Christmas gathering.”

Judging from the video preview available on the Hallmark Channel website, this year’s Austenesque offering, Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen, represents a radical departure from that model. It’s the story of a driven workaholic named Edward who falls for a creative free spirit while they jointly plan a community Christmas gathering.

And get this, you stick-in-the-mud Janeites with your purist notions of literary fidelity: While the movie centers on two sisters who co-own an event-planning company, the free-spirited one is named Ella, while the staid, responsible one is named Marianne.

Mind-blowing, I know. I’m reeling, too.

Still, a mystery remains – and I don’t mean the mystery of why people with no actual interest in Jane Austen keep slapping her name onto properties bearing only the most tenuous relationship to her work. That’s a puzzle whose solution is a five-letter word beginning with M.

No, the mystery I have in mind concerns the scheduling of the new movie, which, according to Hallmark’s publicity, will premiere on November 29 at 9 pm. Meanwhile, over at the Countdown to Christmas schedule, a film called Christmas at the Plaza is scheduled for the same night at 8 pm.

Unless Plaza is an hour-long divertissement, which seems unlikely – Hallmark’s hour-by-hour schedule for the end of next month doesn’t appear to be available yet, so I can’t check for sure – we may be facing a veritable Clash of the Titans, or at least of the Titanically Mediocre Christmas Movies. How can two films occupy the same hour of air time? Making that work may take a true Christmas miracle.

By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 23 2019 01:00PM

See that headline? The one right above this blog post? I’m kind of proud of it. Doesn’t it totally sound like it could be the title of a new Hallmark Christmas movie?

Which is appropriate, since the mystery in question concerns the strange disappearance of a Jane Austen-themed movie from the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” schedule.

“Countdown to Christmas,” now in its tenth year, is Hallmark’s annual saccharine-laced marathon of cookie-baking, hot-chocolate-drinking, snowball-tossing, small-town-holiday-visiting made-for-TV romcoms, which begins airing right before Halloween and stretches on until a few days before New Year’s.

Last year, as blog readers will recall, “Countdown to Christmas” included not one but two nominally Pride and Prejudice-inspired movies, although in both cases fidelity to Jane Austen’s original was pretty much nil. So when I learned recently that Hallmark planned to include a new Austen-themed outing this year, my expectations were low.

They got lower when I learned that this year’s offering, Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen, was apparently based on a book by Melissa de la Cruz, the author of the stupendously terrible Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, allegedly the inspiration for one of last year’s movies.

And then things got a little odd.

The buzz for Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen began over the summer, when Entertainment Tonight reported that the movie would star Erin Krakow, who plays the protagonist in Hallmark’s beloved period drama When Calls the Heart, set in the Canadian West in the early twentieth century.

In June, de la Cruz – who actually hasn’t published a book called Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen; maybe she just worked on the screenplay? -- tweeted about the cast. In July, Krakow tweeted pictures from the set. A couple of weeks ago, the movie was all set to air on November 27 – at least according to Passion for Savings, a thrifty-living website, which posted the full "Countdown to Christmas" schedule, along with a visual of Hallmark’s own suitable-for-printing one-page version, featuring a photo of an adorable little dog wearing a red scarf.

But last week, when I went to the Hallmark Channel’s website and found my own copy of that printable schedule with the cute little doggie, SS&S was nowhere to be seen, its slot on the roster apparently taken by something called Christmas Under the Stars. Although air dates had changed for a number of films since the posting of the earlier schedule, Triple S was the only one of the twenty-four that had vanished entirely.

Hmm. Was the movie not finished in time? Was its tale of party-planner sisters named Ella and Marianne who tangle with an irascible toy-company CEO named Edward insufficiently faithful to Jane Austen? (OK, probably not that.) Did the finished version fail to meet the standards of excellence expected of a Hallmark Christmas movie? (Stop laughing!)

I emailed Hallmark to see if they’ll tell me. Meanwhile, we’ll just have to hope – if that’s the right word – that the movie turns up sometime later on the Hallmark schedule.

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