Intro to Hallmark and Countdown to Christmas
So the Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas has begun and at the time of this writing, Halloween hasn’t happened yet. This Christmas celebration stuff is getting out of hand. If you’re not familiar with the Hallmark Channel, it is a channel on basic cable that shows comfort food television with commercials about kitchen goods and such in between. If I had to guess, it targets white US southern women who:
- like making crafts,
- read magazines like Women’s World,
- and very much overdo it on the decorations.
- (I don’t fall into these categories, but here I am watching… a lesson on making assumptions)
If you look up anything about Hallmark programming, you’ll find information on sites like Country Living and Good Housekeeping which should tell you everything. The films and television shows they broadcast are saccharine and embrace every trope you can possibly think of, with romance being the genre of choice. There is no element of surprise.
The Countdown to Christmas is an annual event that shows a brand-new romantic Christmas movie every week until the end of December. This year, we’re looking at 22 films that Hallmark managed to produce since last Christmas.
I’ve decided to take it upon myself to recap/review all 22 movies. It’s been a tradition of mine to watch these films and rather than yell at the screen, I’m going to share it all with you, reader!
CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY MANOR RECAP
First up for the launch of the Countdown to Christmas is: Christmas at Pemberley Manor. Here’s the synopsis.
As Christmas approaches, Elizabeth Bennett (Lowndes), a New York event planner, is sent to a quaint, small town to organize their holiday festival. When she arrives, she finds William Darcy (Rady), a high-profile billionaire lacking in holiday spirit, in the process of selling the charming estate she hoped to use as a venue. Determined to make her event a success, Elizabeth persuades the reluctant Darcy to let her hold the festival on the historical estate once known for its holiday cheer. When they wind up working together to arrange the festivities, the unlikely pair begins falling for each other. But when complications arise and the festival is unexpectedly shut down, the couple parts ways and Darcy moves forward with his plans to sell the estate. On the night before Christmas, a wistful Elizabeth hopes for a Christmas miracle to revive the festival, save the estate and rekindle her holiday romance. Starring Jessica Lowndes and Michael Rady.
We find our protagonist Elizabeth Bennett being approached by her boss. The film quickly establishes that she’s hard-working because she organizes her life in colored binders.
About a minute into the film, it is also established that she is single. She wrote a letter to Santa asking for a boyfriend because her niece didn’t want to write the letter herself.
Elizabeth’s boss is a classic tough bosslady who tells Elizabeth that she must help a small town that is in the planning phase of its annual three-day Christmas festival. Apparently, New York doesn’t have enough parties for this particular business.
Enter Mr. Darcy. He says the words “department heads” which means he’s a business man who means business. But he’s got a kind heart. You can tell because he’s trailed by what appears to be a very blond, very nervous PA (Travis) whom he consoles briefly with some nice words and a disarming smile. It’s the PA’s first week, you see, and he’s doing fine.
But let’s get back to business. Mr. Darcy has to close an important real estate deal, so the pair will probably have to work through….CHRISTMAS. Darcy lets us know this isn’t a big deal for him by declaring, “I always work on Christmas.” Someone needs to melt this ice-cold business heart.
We arrive at the small town of Lambton and are introduced to the young hunk Mayor. How do we know he’s mayor? A blonde PA character (not to be confused with the blond PA character from before) literally states “George, you’re the mayor!”
During their discussion, they impart that Mr. Darcy is trying to tear down the much-beloved (but very empty) Pemberley Manor and convert it into condos. It’s Darcy’s property, so he may do with it what he pleases. Mayor George is not impressed and appears to have some history with the dashing Darcy.
Apart from standard political duties, the young mayor is also in charge of the yearly Christmas festival, and as it’s his first one, he needs to make it big. That’s why he hired Elizabeth’s New York party planning service. It is also revealed that Mayor George has a thing for Elizabeth. He looks off in the distance and has a quiver in his voice when he talks about his hired party planner.
Cut to Elizabeth. She ubers over to Lambton and even waves at the friendly, white-bearded local. She’s there for her meeting with Mayor George and blonde PA (whose name is Jane) and dives straight into party planning visualization mode.
Mayor George and Elizabeth actually have a history. They met in college in the “classic literature section” of the library. This is Hallmark’s way of nodding to the book that this film is loosely based on. They dated once and decided they were better off as friends, though it is wildly evident that Mayor George is rethinking that decision. The trio goes off to tour the town.
Mr. Darcy helicopters to Lambton and begins to limo to his destination but stops for a much-needed coffee. Blond PA is tasked with this perilous duty and must get the boss a black coffee ASAP. These businessmen and their business coffees. Could he not dabble with a toffee nut latte?
Blond PA Travis jumps the queue (which is not cool), right in front of Elizabeth. Blond PA is panicked and tells Elizabeth that he needs to get this coffee or he will surely lose his job. This isn’t true as the losing job bit was a joke by Mr. Darcy that poor ol’ Travis didn’t grasp. Elizabeth decides to stand up for the little guy and confronts Darcy. It’s a flirty confrontation though, so there’s no risk of Elizabeth getting run over by the limo. Mr. Darcy leaves with his coffee, thinking of the ballsy party planner.
The next day, we see the town square fell into a hole. A problem because that’s where the festival was meant to take place. Poor Mayor George. Elizabeth suggests hosting the festival at the beautiful estate she saw when she drove in, but as we know, it’s the soon-to-be-demolished Pemberley Manor. This doesn’t stop Elizabeth who rushes to the manor to unknowingly meet Mr. Darcy, the current temporary tenant.
Elizabeth’s guilting doesn’t work. Mr. Darcy wants to sell the manor and be off on his helicopter.
While lamenting to Mayor George about her failure to convince Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy is being pestered by Christopher, Pemberley’s bearded caretaker, who decided to take it upon himself to play Christmas records he found in the house and guilt Mr. Darcy into feeling more “Christmassy.”
This infraction is interrupted by news that the condo company needs Darcy to calm the town down because there have been complaints about the impending loss of Pemberley Manor.
Elizabeth further interrupts this interruption (presumably creating an Interruption Inception™) by arriving at the manor and showing Darcy what she plans to do if the estate hosts the festival. Her ideas are underwhelming, but the Christmas music score makes it sound revelatory. Darcy agrees to hold the festival as long as his name isn’t attached or publicized. Easy enough.
While the whole town of Lambton—which appears to be made up of 15 people—begins to set up the manor, Elizabeth and Darcy go Christmas shopping. They bond over as Elizabeth explains how she internet stalked Darcy to find out more about him. The big news: he dated two models and works all the time. Good for Darcy.
The blossoming couple ends up Christmas tree shopping because Darcy doesn’t have a tree. And why would he if he’s meant to be in town for a week at most? They decorate the thing and the living room is now complete – it is a full-fledged GoodHousekeeping advert complete with white couple.
The next day, Mayor George and Elizabeth talk about the enigmatic Darcy. It’s odd to them that he has no Christmas spirit because, apparently, Darcy used to talk lovingly about Christmas at the manor. We also learn that Darcy is a hell of philanthropist; he just keeps it a secret. Oh, Mr. Darcy, what don’t you do?
Night falls over the manor and Mr. Darcy invites Elizabeth to make Christmas cookies. While baking, Elizabeth reveals that she used to sing and Mr. Darcy reveals that he was always a businessman. Everything is flirty.
The day of the festival has arrived and Elizabeth is nervous. Darcy picks up on her anxiety and surprises her with a vintage sleigh he just had lying in one of the Pemberley Manor garages. They paint it together so that it can be used at the festival. For a billionaire who never stops working, he has a lot of downtime. While they paint, they talk about their sex lives. Kidding. They talk about exes who were “the ones,” but weren’t the ones anymore after some issues.
Fast forward to the evening and people start showing up to see the tree lighting ceremony which kicks off the festival. Elizabeth brags to Darcy that there are so many people, but it appears to be the same 15 from before. Darcy refuses to go outside to see the tree lighting. Christopher the nosey caretaker once again guilts Darcy to get into the Christmas spirit. It’s been a running theme with Christopher and it’s a wonder Darcy doesn’t just fire the guy for constantly interrupting.
The tree is lit which is a great success! But here comes the big uh oh. Darcy steps out of the house to congratulate Elizabeth. While they shake hands, someone snaps a photo which ends up in the newspaper. Elizabeth apologizes to Darcy, but he doesn’t really care about being seen anymore. He’ll care really soon though because Elizabeth’s boss Caroline has seen the picture and puts on this face:
Other characters besides the Darcy and Elizabeth duo take the screen for once. Mayor George and Darcy start having a chat about Elizabeth (is this what the Bechdel Test is like in reverse?) and Darcy picks up that ol’ Georgie is still into Liz. We’ve got the love triangle in full swing. It’s a pointless one because we know Elizabeth isn’t into Mayor George, political title or not.
But no time for triangles, Elizabeth’s boss flies into Lambton to berate Elizabeth for doing her job well and roping a billionaire into a cheap little party. This causes Elizabeth to break the news to Darcy that she’s not going to be in charge anymore. Darcy is none too thrilled and I wouldn’t be either because I would just want to sell off the dang house by this point and wouldn’t want to meet anymore of these characters.
Elizabeth and Darcy go on a carriage ride. Darcy is unhappy because he now has to hang out with the boss woman and he doesn’t wanna bang her. Elizabeth is unhappy because she’s being belittled by her boss and can’t bang Darcy. And the horse is unhappy because he has to listen to these two for an entire carriage ride.
The second night of the festival is upon Lambton and, horror of horrors, the singer is ill! Good thing Elizabeth is the only person in this 15 horse town that can sing. She sings and everyone is pleased. Especially Mayor George who confides in Mr. Darcy that he thinks it’s time to ask Elizabeth out on a date. Bummer for Darcy. Elizabeth also gets a bummer because her boss tells her that her services are no longer needed for this particular event so she can go home early for Christmas.
Darcy is back to doing work in the study and Christopher the caretaker interrupts again to meddle in Darcy’s love life. Darcy has had enough of Chris’s constant blathering that he takes the man’s advice and runs off to tell Elizabeth that he “values her.” However, he doesn’t get to say these heartfelt words because he catches Mayor George and Elizabeth hugging (a consolatory hug as she just shot Mayor George down. It’s fine being friends.)
Darcy dashes off to sign the sale of Pemberley Manor papers and get back onto his helicopter to billionaire land. This change of heart means that the final day of the festival is canceled. Elizabeth is distraught that Darcy would do this and just leave without saying goodbye. Mayor George, in a great friend move, tells her that Darcy does care….about a lot of things.
We catch up with Darcy at the airport and blond PA Travis starts stalling so that the town can have its festival. Elizabeth stands up to her boss saying that she can make this festival happen and the boss takes it pretty well. Darcy realizes that Travis is stalling and Travis fesses up, saying that the town is going to have its festival and Elizabeth loves him which seems like a tangential piece of information. Anything to save the festival, I suppose.
Back at the manor, there are even more problems! Christopher the caretaker has gone missing and he’s supposed to be Santa. Not only that, but the speaker isn’t coming. What our distraught heroes don’t know is that Christopher has gone after Mr. Darcy whose car has gotten stuck in the snow. It is here that we learn that Christopher is actually Santa. Yes, Kris Kringle has dropped everything on Christmas Eve to make sure these two idiots get together for in time for the 25th. A Christmas miracle indeed. They race to Pemberley Manor just in time. Santa is back for the festival and Mr. Darcy states that he will do the annual Christmas reading. The town of 15 people is over the moon. Elizabeth and Darcy make out. FIN.
Overall, the film was predictable which will always be the case with these Hallmark gems. The actors do a fine job with having to say lines like “nothing is impossible on Christmas.” Stay tuned for the next film which is called Christmas Joy. Will it be joyful enough for me? Find out next week.
- If you watch enough of these films, the Santa reveal isn’t all that surprising. Santa is shoehorned quite often in these.
- The Hallmark Channel can only reference Jane Austen. There are no other authors in the Hallmark universe.
- There was a lot more about the blond/e PA love story, but it was too infuriating to even think about.
- The film starts with a title card that says A Hallmark Original. That is an ironic thing to be stating, Hallmark.
- “I’m planning this year’s Christmas festival. Are you familiar with it? Yes, I remember it from when I was a kid. It was very festive.”
- Did you miss the first airing? Once Hallmark premieres a film, they just toss it into the rotation so you can pretty much watch it from here to eternity.
- This is my first ever review/recap in my life so feel free to tell me what to do!