Date of airing: December 5, 2019 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: TBD
I was hoping to get into the Christmas spirit with the Hallmark Channel’s white white-collar Christmas love stories, but if you are a regular on this blog (and you aren’t, because why the heck would you care about my TV opinions?) you might have noticed I haven’t written up about more than one Hallmark Channel Christmas film yet, and I say that as someone who has already watched about 30 of them to develop a feel about how those films are supposed to look like. But here I am now, surprisingly getting into the Christmas spirit not with the help of the Hallmark Channel, or Lifetime, or Up, or Freeform (which produced this offering, making me wonder if it was initially slated to air on ABC’s sister cable channel) even the Netflix Christmas film offerings, but with the help of ABC of all broadcast networks, which for some reason has decided to produce a television movie in an age where broadcast network television movie events are rare and extinct, and to tell the viewers who can’t get enough of Christmas love stories on television between the end of October and Boxing Day that there is one more TV network interested in making this a tradition. And ABC comes with elements that could get them ahead in the Christmas love story game: The network doesn’t have to watch out for critical voices lambasting the absence of minority characters and a diverse cast, because ABC is already known for putting women and men of color into the center of storylines (thank you, Shonda Rhimes). The network doesn’t need to shy away to at least tease that there are gay characters in their stories, although we are still in an era in which writers, directors and producers shy away to portray same-sex love more directly on camera (Drew and his boyfriend Todd, who has been blessed with a ridiculously hot six-pack on his chest, didn’t even hold hands here). And the network probably can get a few of the TV A-listers into the game, as I consider Lea Michele one of them, and seeing her back on television after GLEE and the personified nightmares and tragedies that surround the back story of the FOX high school pop musical dramedy was quite the delight.
Not that I would consider SAME TIME, NEXT CHRISTMAS a very well-done Christmas television event, let alone a film to remember for the ages, it was still a solid-enough offering to make me smile here and there, and to get me hoping that there is still goodness in the world and that you don’t necessarily have to follow the impeachment inquiry 24/7 via cable news and podcasts. Put on an 82-minute long love story and just forget all about the woes and worries of the world and maybe you get a heartache about the beauty of the world, which SAME TIME, NEXT CHRISTMAS definitely portrayed: beautiful people, beaches on Hawai’i, colorful sunsets, characters who actually love each other, happy ends all around, and no villain to be found. Seriously, Greg wasn’t even angry that the day before the wedding, his bride decided to walk out of that relationship, which makes Greg a wonderful man as well — even the white-collar guy who jumped at the opportunity to propose to Olivia in this beauty of an island and become a cliched personality in the process, got a happy end, because in his case he was spared living in a marriage with a woman who would be lusting after and dreaming about another man she has known since childhood.
Story-wise, SAME TIME, NEXT CHRISTMAS has barely anything new to offer to distinguish it from all the other 50-or-so Christmas love stories you are able to catch on television each year: A boy and a girl run into each other one day, they fall in love, and for the entirety of the film they are trying to form their feelings about each other (and trying to get away from the relationships they are currently in) before ending the film on a happy note, as boy and girl are finally together for real. The plus points SAME TIME, NEXT CHRISTMAS is offering though is a wedding at the end, the decision to place the narrative over multiple Christmas seasons, and a divided focus on the supporting characters who have an equal level of stories and troubles to go through. Also, Lea Michele smiles a lot, and not unlike her film’s love interest, I also could not get enough of that smile, begging the question why people haven’t cast her in more things that have nothing to do with music and more to do with love stories. She might be known for her singing career and stage musicals, if there is one thing SAME TIME, NEXT CHRISTMAS has successfully proven, it’s that Michele is a proper lead for romantic comedies. I could probably say the same about her co-star Charles Michael Davis, but I never believed that television love stories with an 82 to 84-minute length are always about the male co-star, which is a problem writers need to take care of at one point. After all, one of the rules of each Hallmark Channel Christmas films is that the central character is the woman, and the stories are told from her emotional point of view. ABC knew how to adapt that rule for their own Christmas love story.
In the meantime, the film was definitely getting some touchdowns with its depiction of Hawai’i. I consider the group of island as the place I wanna die on, and now I am starting to consider to just move there and retire from life in my thirties, knowing that nothing can get crappier than following the current madness of planet Earth, but nothing can get prettier than watching a sunset on a beach on O’ahu. SAME TIME, NEXT CHRISTMAS is not just a love story, but it’s also a two-hour long advertisement about spending some time on Hawai’i, and if I had any money, I would buy a ticket now and start retiring. But if any network is attempting to put yet another love story onto the islands, let one thing be known to the writers, producers and directors of said productions: Bring a little bit of Hawaiian culture into the story, and maybe the film will be more unique. At the end of the day, SAME TIME, NEXT CHRISTMAS is just another Christmas love story on television that tried to be more special with its setting and narrative choices, yet it was still just a generic romance novel with a boy and a girl who run into each other, fall in love, and spend the entirety of the film trying to form their feelings about each other (while trying to get away from the relationships they are currently in) before ending said film with a kiss on their lips.