Sunday, November 11, 2012
Such A Sentimental Scmuck
(I know that the weekend rant is a bit late this weekend, but some of this is harder to write that others.)
For those of you hormonally imbalanced from eating leftover Halloween candy or too charged with adrenaline from the election results to notice, it has officially become the Holiday season. While many may complain that Thanksgiving gets a rather short shrift in this process, I don't find the couple of weeks accorded to a turkey and the Pilgrims a big problem on our way to the fat guy with a white beard taking center state (and no, the personal resemblance has nothing to do with this attitude .... at least as far as you know).
In fact, I choose to lump this multiple holiday period together into one big "happy happy time" of over-the-top emotions that must be fought with all of the strength that a over weight, gray-haired, stogie-smoking Curmudgeon possesses. After all, the kids are grown and moved away (and the fact that I did as much or more of the moving is besides the point), the grand kids went where the kids did (which for some reason they tend to do), and there is no significant other currently in my life. (This last of course, is a subject on which a posting of its own could be written, but that would in fact be another post and not this one.) So as the holiday season comes into full bloom, it's my hand on the TV remote, with none to complain or compete when it comes to channel selection. As the title of this post suggests, this mastery of my digital world inevitably lead down a path of sentimental pap.
Because in spite of what I at least would consider my nature, I have found myself increasingly and surprisingly dialed in on offerings from the Hallmark Channel. Unlike many other networks who have long abandoned the callings of their network names in favor of low-budget, no-plot reality shows, the Hallmark Channel has remained true to delivering a product in keeping with their line of cards (you know, sentimental crap for all occasions). We are not talking about Cecil B DeMille cinematic efforts of legendary proportion here, but the made-for-TV movies that these are the offspring of. What we see are TV sitcom stars whose careers apparently disappeared when their shows departed returning for efforts in the way they used to for "Love Boat" episodes. All of which are obviously being filmed in Canada with the same cast of supporting players as every other Hallmark movie (and a lot of the non-network dramas) because it's cheaper to film in Vancouver, BC than in NYC in spite of the fact that the exchange rate has gone the other way. The generate a suprising number of offerings with a small book of cookie cutter plots that though formulaic, have not completely lost their appeal.
There are no car crashes except tragic ones that lead to lost loved ones, and no car chases except those to reach an airport or train station before a newly-found or rediscovered loved one departs. There is little violence and less nudity, though the actors are certainly still attractive enough to pull it off. There's always a hint of comedy and a dose of drama on which these tales are based; with the supposed cliffhanger ending being one in which everyone in the the fictional community (and the audience) knows that the star-crossed lovers are going to reunite before they do. In other words it's schmaltz, pure and simple.
And yet it serves its purpose in this crazy world of ours today. This is the entertainment the way most of us my age remember it. It's where family is everything and the good guys always wins. It's where the right guy gets the girl, and where love and the holiday spirit always triumph. Now most of us today are going into a period where we may not be able to be with our families that way that we'd like, where holidays are often a time of greater stress, and where being alone is simply something that must be borne. Aren't these times where such diversions are the true meaning of entertainment? While the knowledge is ever-present that the world can be a bad place and is certainly not as simple as stories we love to watch, isn't their very presence something that helps to give us a little hope and the strength to go on? Isn't an underlying belief in their positive nature something that we hope lies at the heart of every one of us? For even if the world cannot be the these movies portray, isn't it still necessary for us to believe so?
And so as the Holiday Season begins, you will have to forgive me my occasional retreat into "Good Witch" marathons and the all-day Christmas specials already playing in this Norman Rockwell cable TV world. It's hard enough to face today's all-too-harsh realities without allowing one's self to be occasionally diverted by such optimistic fiction. It may be true that underneath this cranky old, stogie smoking Curmudgeon is in fact another one that's even worse; but apparently somewhere deep underneath all of that lies little more that another Sentimental Schmuck.