Christmas Next Door, Hallmark Christmas movies are never all that realistic, but a new one this year, Christmas Next Door, could be based on a true story. It’s not, but some of the themes of the movie, like hating the holidays, the chaos that is having kids, learning as you go along, feel all too real. Which is precisely why the Hallmark channel is so genius when it comes to these feel-good holiday movies.
In this particular movie, Eric, played by Jesse Metcalf, is a certified bachelor who writes lifestyle books about, well, how to be a bachelor. He also isn’t all that keen on Christmas so when he’s left in charge of his niece and nephew for the season, he turns to his next door neighbor, April, played by Fiona Gubelmann, for help. She loves the holiday season and takes over, teaching Eric “some valuable lessons about the value of family, love, and the joy of Christmas, as seen through the eyes of children,” according to the Hallmark description.
Although Christmas Next Door, like so many other Hallmark holiday movies, is totally fictional, it’s addicting nonetheless. What’s not to love about a cantankerous bachelor turned good with a little Christmas magic and perfectly cast love interest? Nothing, really. Which is exactly how the network wants you to feel.
If you love the Hallmark holiday movie marathons, you have one woman to thank for it: Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming and network publicity for Hallmark’s parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, and she knows just what you want from your holiday TV movie binge. She told E! News, “[TheHallmark channel] own[s] Christmas and we are going to do it in a bigger way and a better way and really speak to the spirit of the season that I don’t think any of our competitors do.” So if you feel addicted to that holiday magic fix, it’s all by design.
Just so you know, the movies aren’t supposed to feel real. If anything, they’re supposed to transport you to another, happier place, far, far away from the news cycle and all of your IRL problems. Vicary told Fortune in an interview about their holiday business:
The holidays are a magical time of the year when we think about connecting emotionally with family and friends. We all still want to have hope, faith, and love in our lives. Our movies are about tradition and the excitement of the season.
The ratings for the Christmas movies are huge, even when they run a marathon for “Christmas in July.” So if you find yourself watching Christmas Next Door, and then 10 other movies that feel and look just like it, you’re not alone.
Although the target audience of women 25 to 54 years old grows from year to year, according to Vicary, a lot of men are tuning in, too. Vicary said in the same Fortune interview that the “big surprise” is male viewers aged 18 to 49 years old. So don’t let your male family members and friends pretend that they aren’t enjoying it when you hog the TV.
According to Vicary, the Hallmark channel has made 33 new holiday movies this year as part of their “Countdown to Christmas” event, since people just seem to want more and more of them. Watching movies like Christmas Next Door, as cheesy as they may be, is good for the soul.
With reality as harsh as it is these days, Hallmark’s Christmas Next Door, and all its other holiday movies, are better off being totally fictional.
Christmas, next door
“This year it’s going to be a lonely Christmas day for me,” sighed Martha in dismay. Her son had called to say he would not be coming home for Christmas. Martha’s nephews were having a get-together, but they had not invited her. Martha wanted to decorate her home, but the tree and box of decorations were in the loft and she could not climb up to get it. Martha hadn’t even hung a star in front as the bulb was faulty and the electrician had not found to time to come by.
Martha saw her neighbour with his two children. Martha wondered if she could ask him to get the decorations down. It had been six months since her neighbours have moved in but they had not spoken. “He doesn’t look friendly or helpful,” she thought. Charles looked at Martha, “She always has a grumpy look on her face. I wonder if she ever smiles,” he thought.
His wife had gone to Bangalore to nurse her sick mother. The children had their half-yearly exams and he was worried about where the kids would go when they got back from school.
Martha’s phone rang. It was her friend Mary, who called to lament about the ungrateful world they lived in. “Why don’t you visit your brother?” said Martha.
“I don’t want to see him. He’s an ungrateful person,” yelled Mary.
Martha went for a walk after the call.
Things were chaotic next door. Despite his best efforts, Charles had burnt the dal and vegetables. His daughter Ruby wanted him to teach her maths. His son Benny was hungry.
Just then doorbell rang. “Good afternoon sir, I am from Sweet Treats bakery. Your neighbour is not at home. Can you please take delivery of this?” said the delivery man.
“Sure”, said Charles. He kept the cake on the table.
“I’m hungry,” said Benny.
“Let’s order from a restaurant,” said Charles. He went to place the order and when he returned he was shocked to find Benny helping himself to a big slice of chocolate cake from the box. Ruby was also relishing the icing from the cake.
“Oh no!” said Charles, “That grumpy lady is going to be angry.” Guiltily, Charles and the kids carried the half-eaten cake to Martha’s house. “I’m so sorry. My kids ate half your cake. I’ll buy you this same chocolate cake in the evening,” said Charles.
Martha laughed, “Please don’t bother. Your kids should have another slice.”
“Aunty, when are you going to decorate your house?” asked Benny. Martha explained her problem. Immediately Charles swung into action. He got the Christmas tree and decorations from the loft. He also fixed the bulb in the front and hung up the star. They helped Martha decorate the tree. “Who will take care of the children when they return from school?” asked Martha.
“They will be dropped off at a day care centre,” said Charles.
“I’ll take care of them, after school. I’ll also help them with their studies,” said Martha.
“It will be too much trouble.”
“No, I am alone the whole day. Your kids will make good companions for me,” said Martha.
After they left, Martha looked at the name of the sender of the cake. “Oh dear, this cake is not for me,” said Martha, “It’s addressed to Martha Wilson, and I am Martha Williams.” She called the Sweet Treats bakery.
“It’s our mistake, madam. We sent another cake to Martha Wilson. This cake is our Christmas gift to you,” said the manager.
“How nice,” thought Martha. She went to the bakery and ordered five cakes to be sent out.
“Why are you sending cakes to your ungrateful nephews? They don’t visit you and didn’t invite you for their get-together,” said Mary.
“It’s Christmas time. Not the time to harbour grudges,” said Martha.
Mary thought to herself, “Martha sent cakes to her ungrateful nephews, but not to me. What an ungrateful friend I have.”
Charles’ wife had returned and the children couldn’t stop talking about Martha aunty.
Martha was happy when Charles and his family invited her for Christmas lunch. It was not a lonely Christmas for Martha, after all. Her nephews visited her on Christmas morning with gifts, touched by her gift of cakes. She turned down their request to join them for their get-together.
Mary’s brother and his family also visited her. The feeling of hatred she held against him all these years vanished as they embraced. It was all because of the cake she sent her brother that made him visit her. Mary smiled. She had to thank Martha. After all, it was she who had sent her brother the cake from Sweet Treats bakery, giving the sender’s name as Mary.