New Year’s Day has its melancholy side: Tinsel shelved until next December, work on the horizon, hangover hanging on. Luckily, however, the dawn of 2024 gives Janeites something big to look forward to.
I refer, of course, to the Hallmark Channel’s plan to broadcast four—count ’em!—new Austen-inspired movies on four successive Saturdays in February.*
Now, some of you cynical types may believe that these movies are unlikely to be good.
Some of you may choose to highlight Hallmark’s unbroken eight-year record of mediocrity, or worse, in its Jane Austen-themed programming: The murky depths of Unleashing Mr. Darcy and its sequel, Marrying Mr. Darcy; the barely-bothering-with-Austen nonchalance of Christmas at Pemberley Manor, Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe, and Playing Cupid; or the unmitigated silliness of Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen.
Others of you may have noticed that, in a worrying display of disloyalty to Austen’s least-loved novel, the channel apparently allowed the small matter of a global pandemic to permanently sideline its Christmas at Mansfield Park.
Still others of you may have registered the unpromising fact that Hallmark has given its impending wintertime Jane-a-palooza the wince-inducing title of “Loveuary with Jane Austen,” which betokens a worrying lack of wit and charm, not to mention literacy.**
I will have none of it.
As a card-carrying Jane Austen video completist, I am contractually required to sacrifice every Saturday night in February to these movies, and I insist upon starting the marathon with enough optimism to sustain me across the long haul. Let me show you how it’s done:
--February 3: Paging Mr. Darcy, wherein (says Hallmark’s press release) “a love of Jane Austen’s stories helps two people to overcome their pride and admit to their belief in love.” It’s about book lovers? What could be better, am I right? Of course I’m right!
--February 10: Love & Jane, wherein “a woman finds guidance from Jane Austen, quite literally.” OK, I’ve seen this Jane-Austen-as-invisible-friend thing a time or two before, but it could work again! Maybe!
--February 17: An American in Austen, wherein “a librarian who thinks that no man can live up to Mr. Darcy gets an unexpected chance to find out if that’s true.” Sounds like there will be a trip to England involved, which is never bad! And the lead actor is named Eliza Bennett--literally! It's what her parents called her!--so obviously she was born to play this part!
--February 24: A “sumptuously beautiful” Sense & Sensibility, with an all-Black cast. Hey, with this one I don’t even have to fake my enthusiasm! If you don’t count the snowmen—and I very much do not count them—it’s been sixteen years since we had an S&S, and we’ve never had one with Bridgerton-style diversity! This could be really interesting!
OK, optimism tank is full! Woo hoo! Whether it will remain that way eight weeks from now, at the close of—ahem—Loveuary remains to be seen. But at least the tinsel will be safely stowed in the attic by then.
* Join me here on Thursday for a discussion of another aspect of Hallmark’s Austen programming.
** The internet informs me that this is at least the third year in a row that Hallmark has called its February slate "Loveuary," so you can't blame it all on Jane Austen.