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THE TV COLUMN

Lifetime films employ not-so-famous-now actors

By Michael Storey

This article was published December 12, 2013 at 3:01 a.m.

I have a friend who has developed an unhealthy craving for Lifetime movies.

He’ll remain anonymous, but lately he has begun pouring out his pain on Facebook. It’s obviously a cry for help.

Sample posts: “The Perfect Wife was not so. Desperately need 12-step program for Lifetime Movie Network.” And earlier, “Oh, Lifetime Movie Network, you vile seductress. It was indeed a Fatal Honeymoon.”

It’s no secret that Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network target women with cheesy women-in-distress films designed to jerk tears or provide uplifting catharsis through rose-colored glasses.

The movies serve a purpose. They also frequently allow us to enjoy actors who have slipped off the Hollywood casting lists for one reason or another.

There’s a goodie coming up at 7 p.m. Saturday on Lifetime that’s certain to please my friend and plenty of other viewers during this glut time for holiday movies.

Christmas on the Bayou stars Hilarie Burton, Tyler Hilton and old favorites Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant), Markie Post (Night Court, Hearts Afire)and country crooner/actor Randy Travis.

Asner is 84 these days. It’s good to see him on the small screen again.

The movie was filmed in Lafayette, La., and nearby St. Martinville down in Cajun country, so the bayou scenery is authentic.

The film has all the requisite hallmarks of a Lifetime movie: harried (and attractive) single mom; troubled kid; hunky former beau; and the magic and wonder of Christmas.

Tagline: “Love comes home.”

Sample dialogue: “What I really want for Christmas,” the kid whines, “is I want more of you.”

Pass the Kleenex.

In Christmas on the Bayou, Burton plays Katherine, a woman scarred by a failed marriage. To cope, she has plunged herself deep, deep into her hectic life as a New York marketing executive.

Ah, but Katherine’s workaholic lifestyle has taken a toll on her 8-year-old son Zack (Brody Rose). The kid suffers from increasing disaffection. Katherine needs to take drastic measures.

She decides to take Zack home for Christmas.

Back on the bayou, Katherine’s mama Lilly (Post) begins match-making with a vengeance. Hey - she’s a mom. It’s her job.

Enter Caleb (Hilton), Katherine’s childhood boyfriend, who tries to rekindle their romance and convince her to move back home.

Naturally there is Lifetime conflict. Katherine is torn between the bright lights of the Big City and the cozy comfort of her Southern roots. She’s torn. Torn.

What’s needed is a Christmas Miracle, and that’s when Asner comes in as the enigmatic Papa Noel (how’s that for subtlety?).

Will Katherine return to her life in New York, or will she opt to return home and make a life for herself and Zack with the hunky Caleb?

C’mon. You already know how it will end. It’s Lifetime and it’s Christmas and time to feel all warm and fuzzy.

Two fer. Stick around for A Snow Globe Christmas at 9 p.m. on Lifetime. This one has more of an emphasis on comedy.

It stars Alicia Witt (Cybill, Friday Night Lights, Justified) and Donald Faison (Scrubs, The Exes). Witt plays Meg, a cynical, overworked TV executive (is there any other kind?) who goes off on a rant about how the schlocky TV movies she produces are all lies in that they make you believe dreams can come true.

Sample dialogue: “I may be a dysfunctional shipwreck of a human being, but I do know Christmas. I will deliver the perfect Christmas movie.”

She tries to smash her favorite Christmas snow globe, but it conks her on the head and (stay with me) knocks her out. She wakes up in a perfect Norman Rockwell snow-covered town.

“I’m in my movie! My freakin’ movie!” she cries.

With the help of her mysterious guardian angel, Meg begins to accept that this dream life may actually be real.

Ah, but her cynical, big-city instincts begin to adversely influence the town and she has to decide whether she really belongs in this perfect snow globe life.

“It’s a Lifetime movie. How do you think it will end?”

Getting ready. Wait, there’s more! Warm up for all of that with Dear Santa at 9 p.m. Friday on Lifetime.

This one stars cult favorite Amy Acker (Angel, Alias, Dollhouse, Person of Interest) as spoiled 24-year-old Crystal Carruthers. (That’s good acting, since Acker was 34 when the film was shot in 2011.)

At any rate, Crystal is a diehard party gal from a wealthy family who loves spending her parents’ money. Fed up with Crystal’s wastrel ways, her folks give her until Christmas to reform. Otherwise, they’ll cut her off and cancel her credit cards.

What to do?

Inspiration hits Crystal when she discovers a letter to Santa from adorable 7-yearold Olivia (Emma Duke). Olivia asks Santa to find her poor, poor widowed father Derek (hunky David Haydn-Jones) a new wife. Crystal hits the ground running.

All of this fun was directed by Beverly Hills, 90210 alum Jason Priestley.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email: mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 35 on 12/12/2013

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