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Confessions from a reformed Hallmark hater

Just five years ago, I was five years younger, coasting on the relatively painless winds of high school and serving as the ardent prime minister of the Hallmark Hater Club. My uncomplicated existence completely rejected the well-defined clichés ubiquitous in the Hallmark cinematic universe. Sappy and predictable, the young successful professional returns from the unnamed big city to her quaint hometown just in time for the holidays, but still a bit hesitant on opening that can of nostalgia. Fortunately, the high school hunk of yore is still around and single (yay!), and the two are only a meet cute away from a happily ever after.

Now five years older, irony about, I write a review for “Pumpkin Everything,” the newest Hallmark drop that was somehow more corny than a maze adjacent to a pumpkin patch and…

The time was well spent.

“Well, well, well… how the turn tables,” my mom said when I informed her of our dire need to watch the newest made-for-TV Hallmark movie over fall break. The classic Hallmark supporter and the receiver of my adolescent criticism, she always rebutted my critiques with,“It’s nice when everything just works out for once.” But a kid with zero, zip, squat understanding of the trials, tribulations, stresses and pressures of living as a real adult human being qualified “things needing to work out” as quite meaningless.

With midterms and essays, matrices and algorithms swirling my vision on the plane ride home, sappy, predictable and ‘working out for once’ all sounded just a bit more appetizing under these new pretenses.  Maybe I was beginning to understand.

Hallmark movies are profoundly popular despite the general consensus on their subpar quality.  Out of several hundred TV movies, just twenty or so have an IMDb rating of seven or higher. And yet, Hallmark dominates viewership numbers, especially around the holidays. In 2020, the channel topped the podium of all entertainment cable channels in the fourth quarter and finished second for the entire year

Hallmark movies are bankable with budgets typically less than a million dollars — about a seventieth of the average cost of a Hollywood blockbuster. The economics of Hallmark just plain work, which explains the fourty (!) holidays movies scheduled for release in 2022. Hallmark never loses. The cheesier the better.

With their newest drop, Hallmark is still batting a thousand.

“Pumpkin Everything” is gloriously baked — like a good ole pumpkin pie — in everything that’s hilariously sugary and sweet. Amy (Taylor Cole) is a novelist preparing for the press tour on her newest release Vampire Rising in [whatever big city she comes from]. With word her grandfather suffers a car wreck (don’t worry, he’s ok!), Amy rushes to her hometown of Autumn Burrow (not making that up) in the midst of a gorgeous red and gold fall.  A town of great harvest spirit, old ladies at the nursing home run the local radio station and Amy’s grandfather runs an adorable fall-themed brick and mortar called Pumpkin Everything. In a not-so-shocking twist, the sole employee of Pumpkin Everything is Kit (Corey Sevier), Amy’s old high school flame, and he cannot stop smoldering.

If you peruse the fall decor section of Hobby Lobby for entertainment or enjoy laughing at cute small town stereotypes, “Pumpkin Everything” has, well, all of that. Double digit pumpkin spice lattes are consumed, a few caramel apples too, white wine under pergolas, sweaters and flannels galore, several leaf garlands hung, scarecrow competitions commence, pumpkin fairs are attended and it all ties up with a happy ending.

Despite the unceasing cheeriness, Hallmark movies run perhaps the greatest dichotomy of all time between programming and commercials. The mood swings are immense — St. Jude, World Wildlife Fund, Humane Society.  Prepare the heart strings. Tear ducts will be tested.

Reflecting on the couch, laughing through cliche after cliche, wincing through half-baked line (like a bad apple pie) after half-baked line, I finally understood. Maybe Hallmark gives stressed out people the chance to live a hilarious fairytale for ninety minutes plus commercials. Maybe Hallmark, on some plane of existence, tickles our nostalgia for home. Maybe I can’t hate Hallmark so much now I’m the one returning for the holidays.  Watching “Pumpkin Everything” with my mom was genuinely fun. My fifteen year-old self is staring with disdain but sorry bud, your term is up.  Next time you find your way home, if it be the holidays or whenever, maybe flip on “Mingle All The Way” or  “Fir Crazy” and have a laugh.

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