If, per unfortunate Hallmark Channel tradition, Peter Sullivan’s “Broadcasting Christmas” gives a bit too much credence to the notion that a woman can only find career success once she’s also found love, it at least dispenses (mostly) with the cliche that being at odds is the most dependable formula for falling in love. Not, of course, that Emily Morgan (Melissa Joan Hart) and Charlie Fisher (Dean Cain) are not completely not at odds. Ha! They were once co-news reporters at some fly by night TV station in Vermont (Editor: double check that it’s Vermont) before Charlie got a gig in the Big City, leaving Emily behind even though they had been an Item. Aw shucks. Now a Big City TV host played by Jackée Harry, who we will call Jackée because whatever dreary name the movie conjured up for her character cannot compete with Jackée, is looking for a new co-host and it might be Charlie. Or, it might be Emily after she makes a not-at-all tear-stained, much to the chagrin of men’s rights activists, on-air plea to be considered too.
You gotta hand it to “Broadcasting Christmas” because Hallmark Channel Christmas movies tend to exist in their own vacuum. Their worlds are often less than contemporary, everyone places an almost maniacal premium on Christmas and the settings are pretty much all the same looking little town, be it New England, be it the upper Midwest, be it Alaska, be it the North Pole. “Broadcasting Christmas”, however, actually seems informed by current events, not simply with an offhand reference to Imperator Furiosa, mind you, but in this hunt for a co-host, which emits distinct notes of Kelly Ripa’s current version of Star Search. And what’s more, rather than being set in some sort of Anytown USA, “Broadcasting Christmas” is set in the wilds of Manhattan. Granted, it often conveys this setting with the most stock footage imaginable, but still......sometimes it is really nice to see a passé shot of the Brooklyn Bridge rather than another shot of that carbon copy Hallmark Channel main street.
Indeed, we see Charlie and Emily and their former producer (Cynthia Gibb, game) from Vermot, now Jackée’s producer, adding to the intimate intrigue, walking and talking on the New York Streets. These sequences are made that much better, in fact, by having Charlie and Patrice always dressed in black coats, offsetting the holly jolly red and green appealing outerwear that Emily sports, an obvious yet no less festive window into her personality that should undoubtedly nab costume designer Jennifer Garnet Filo a nomination come Made For TV Holiday Movie awards time.
Upon learning that they are rivals for the same job, Emily and Charlie might initially engage in adversarial tactics, but the screenplay retires that expected nonsense pretty quick and actually settles on fostering a sense of genuine amaraderie between the former lovebirds. Melissa Joan Hart has spunk because she's always got spunk because she’s Melissa Joan Hart, yo, but the spunk doesn’t manifest in the manner of shrewish careerism, or something of the sort, that often plagues the lesser Hallmark offerings. She, you might say, strikes a balance between work and individual life that is just positively scrumptious. And Cain, while no Melissa Joan Hart, is nevertheless A list compared to a lot of the feckless Ken dolls customary for these cheaply budgeted enterprises, and his smile is all kinds of sincere. He’s just a good guy, and not merely deep down but up top.
That means the concluding twist, while absolutely foregone, is nevertheless winning in the way that you want a movie you are watching on your couch in the middle of a December afternoon when it is 3 °F and you don’t want to go outside to be - that is, corny, not phony, a crucial demarcation. This holiday season, if you’re bloated on chocolates from the Advent calendar or just want to escape the hustle and bustle of your own family for a couple hours, give “Broadcasting Christmas” the digital cable green light.