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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Hold the hot chocolate

I’m afraid I have some very bad news. The pandemic has taken so much from us, and now it seems to have taken something more.

Long ago, in the Before Times -- aka January -- the entertainment press reported that the Hallmark Channel was planning to add yet another Jane Austen-themed movie to this year’s Christmas schedule.

Since 2016, the channel has brought us five deeply mediocre rom-coms claiming Austen associations: Unleashing Mr. Darcy; its sequel, Marrying Mr. Darcy; and three Christmastime offerings – Christmas at Pemberley Manor; Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe; and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen.

The newest addition, Christmas at Mansfield Park, was to be written by Melissa de la Cruz, a prolific novelist and TV screenwriter whose credits included not only the TV movies PP&M and SS&S but also the (very bad) novel on which the first of these was based.

Alas, however, Hallmark’s Christmas movie broadcasts have been underway for two weeks now, and Christmas at Mansfield Park is nowhere in sight. It’s not listed among the twenty-three new movies in the “Countdown to Christmas.” It’s not one of the seventeen “Miracles of Christmas” offerings. It has no IMDB listing.

This year, according to the announced titles, Hallmark will be bringing us Christmases in Vienna, Nashville, and Colorado, as well as in the (possibly fictional) locales of Evergreen and Glenbrooke, not to mention at a chateau. We will be able to enjoy a Christmas ring, a Christmas bow, a Christmas doctor, a Christmas house, a Christmas waltz, a Christmas carousel, and a little Christmas charm. The hot-chocolate-and-gingerbread train will not, however, be stopping by Mansfield.

Neither Hallmark nor de la Cruz seems to have issued any public explanation for the change, but online speculation assumes that COVID messed with production plans. Will the movie be rescheduled for next year? No word on that, either.

It’s unlikely that the delay in broadcasting Christmas at Mansfield Park represents a terrible loss for the art of cinema. Still, it’s one more small reminder of 2020’s abnormality. If you can’t count on Hallmark to bring you a bad Austen-themed movie at Christmastime, what certainties remain?

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