We all know we’re going to watch 79 Hallmark Christmas movies in December— while decorating the tree, while opening presents, while crashing at our parents’ house in uncomfortably close quarters. Never knowing quite why, we will seek comfort in the innocence and predictability of an endless cavalcade of holiday rom-coms with leads of above-average attractiveness and below-average fame.
Now you can put all that viewing to work with a game of TV Christmas Movie Bingo. You can enjoy this game with drinks or without, though I suggest libations during this festive celebration of the tropes of the season.
Now, let the tropes begin! Print the Bingo cards (here or embedded below) to take your party to another level.
1. A TV Star of a Bygone Era
These actors and actresses are attractive, solid, speak to a comforting time of days gone by, and are easily recognizable to an audience of married suburbanites. They’re basically the Tupperware of actors, which is a compliment. Settle in and have a Tupperware party.
2. A Workaholic
The workaholic is the main character of too many seasonal rom-com confections to count. What better to juxtapose the true Christmas spirit than an attractive Gen-Y-er in a white-collar job in the big city that has nothing to do with retail who is nonetheless inexplicably called upon to work on Christmas Eve. You know, for all those advertising pitches and merger finalizations that happen on Dec. 24.
3. Mistletoe (Possibly ‘Magical’)
Any number of traditional Christmas symbols can drive the plot of a Hallmark Christmas movie. The mistletoe is perhaps most powerful given its immediate association with romance. It’s also useful when making family-friendly movies to have a stand-in for “martinis” when you’re looking for a device by which your heroine makes out with a stranger. Yeah, it was the mistletoe. That’s the ticket. Bonus if this mistletoe has some kind of vague “holiday magic” that match-makes or throws characters into “Groundhog Day”-inspired repetitions of Christmas.
4. Ice Skating or Snowball Fight
Is this physical activity going to end in an accidental fall-down embrace and an “OMG, we’re about to kiss, should we kiss?” moment that’s inevitably interrupted by a comic-relief character’s intrusion? No spoilers!
5. Evil Business Empire Threatening Small Business
Oh, no! This giant, faceless corporation wants to buy out this local spunky entrepreneur’s Christmas card-making/yule-log manufacturing/ornament carving/sleigh-retreading business. Flannel-shirted and be-ponytailed, this hard-working girl next door has chased her dream, but times are tough, and rents are high, and isn’t this kind of the definition of making it, she thinks to herself as she ponders signing on the dotted line on Christmas Eve (so many business transactions take place on Christmas Eve!)…before overhearing that this is just a plan to acquire and gut the business she built with her heart and soul. Grrr, Big Christmas Card strikes again!
6. A Fake Significant Other
Who among us has not desperately needed a Christmas party or New Year date to impress our one-dimensionally overbearing families and bosses? And who among us has not decided the best way to resolve such a thing is to hire an attractive date for such an event who is somehow available during these holidays and goes on dates for money but totally committed to a platonic business transaction?
Unless of course he falls into pure, pure love with his fake date while on a long-weekend trip to her parents’ house in an idyllic country setting in which he has been sleeping on a pallet on the floor of her childhood bedroom until a member of the family barges in and he must scramble into bed with her because he must convince them, “Yes, Mrs. Fletcher, your daughter is totally having intercourse with me, this attractive man. CAN YOU VALIDATE HER LIFE CHOICES NOW?”
7. Battle of the Beaus
A big-city love of a cartoonishly shallow and sheltered nature is brought face to face with real America and thrown into comical competition with a solid, athletic childhood sweetheart who never left the hometown because he’s engaged in some folksy but sexy work like custom carpentry.
8. Someone Named Holly
If you want to find romance at Christmas, good luck being named anything but Holly or Ivy or Kris or Chris or Nick or Rudolph. I’ve never seen a Rudolph, but they should definitely write one with a Rudolph. If you ain’t got a pun, you ain’t gettin’ none, hon. We will accept any Christmas punn-y name for this square.
9. Surprisingly Dark Backstory
Say the movie starts with the main character’s father suffering a tragic, untimely death as he oversees his Christmas tree farm (Lookin’ at you, “Evergreen Christmas”) or someone is available at the holidays because he’s a young, hot widower who feels he can never date again because his love for his late wife was so pure (Hi, Mark-Paul Gosselar).
10. Overzealous House Decorating
Like “Christmas Vacation,” only not funny!
11. Lost Christmas Spirit
Often paired with a Surprisingly Dark Backstory, a character has lost his or her Christmas spirit due to past unpleasantness and never knew how to regain it. Until now.
12. Wise Santa
A main character receives advice from a bearded stranger and, with a quizzical look on his or her face, internally questions if he or she just met the real St. Nick as said stranger walks away. Real Santa might be hiding in plain sight as the Santa at the local mall or hidden in a service industry as a mailman, bartender, snow shoveler, or night watchman at a department store.
13. An Ugly Christmas Sweater
Bonus if it’s worn unironically.
14. Photoshop/Bad Green Screen
Google the movie you’re watching. Even though all the cast members of these movies ostensibly shot them together in a shared location, they seem unable to do a photo shoot while together, necessitating painfully Photoshopped versions of themselves cobbled together with some poor stock photo model’s appendages against a stock Christmas mantle or some such. We will also accept super-obvious superimposed backgrounds in any live-action scene, where they’re clearly reshooting something that didn’t work the first time but unwilling to fly back to Toronto to fix it.
15. Thwarted Artistic Dream
Workaholics usually had a dream they gave up to become workaholics. They wanted to be singers until they became harried assistants to pop stars. They wanted to be painters until they became graphic designers for women’s magazines with officious editors. Some Christmas calamity stirs in these characters a need to chase their much less well-paying dreams again.
16. Transparent Vehicle for Starlet’s Single Release
Which leads us to that moment, shoehorned into the plot, where the lead is singing karaoke in a local bar or forced to serenade her office Christmas party, and it suddenly dawns on you, “Oh, bless her heart, she has a single.” You should definitely drink for this soft-focus, auto-tuned tour de force.
17. Shopping or Gift-Wrapping Montage
Add a dance beat to the starlet’s single, and play it behind the joyful agitation of a last-minute Christmas-prep montage. Oh, gotta sprint through the aisles for that sought-after toy, gotta fight with fellow patrons, gotta get tangled in wrapping paper, gotta get the puppy tangled in ribbon and look charmingly exhausted while we laugh with our significant others!
18. Third-Act Complication
Ah, yes, the third-act complication. Also known as the Incident Seen From Afar That Could Be Cleared Up in 3 Seconds With Actual Grown-Up Talking But Will Instead Throw The Couple Into a Tailspin of Despair Which Foreshadows Their Future Divorce. She saw him hug someone in the town square! (It’s his sister.) He saw her sell out the family business to the corporate empire by accepting a contract! (She was actually refusing it.)
19. Folgers or Balsam Hill Product Placement
Coffee and Christmas trees are the reason for the season.
20. A Christmas Deadline
So much gets done on Christmas Eve in the business world of Hallmark movies. How better to illustrate our leading workaholics’ terrible priorities? An ad pitch, a giant project, redone architectural plans because the boss tore yours up right before you were leaving the office for the holidays? All due Christmas Eve. Get to work!
21. Down-On-Its-Luck Nonprofit
This is the real meaning of Christmas, don’tcha know? A lead with a Surprisingly Dark Backstory has probably taken to helping others to cope with his or her personal tragedy. Our tragic hero with a heart of gold is terrible at finding sustainable fundraising sources and often beset by an Evil Developer who wants the community center/orphanage torn down for his Big Evil Business deal, which of course happens on Christmas Eve.
22. Raising Money
“Let’s put on a show!” Our lead’s adorable community must band together to raise enough money by Christmas to thwart the Evil Business Empire’s plans for the Struggling Nonprofit.
23. Precocious Kid (Matchmaking)
The child of one of our leads, or maybe the child he’s mentoring at the community center, has a lot of insight about life for being between 4 and 8 years old, man. But he sees into our lead’s soul, asks invasive questions about his love life, and is usually weirdly interested in matchmaking for 30-somethings.
24. Kids’ Christmas Pageant
Hey, precocious kid actors want a shot at recording deals, too, so they are given the chance to communicate the real meaning of Christmas on stage in angel wings.
25. A Makeover Scene
Wash, rinse, try on clothes. Repeat.
26. Parent Love Story
Boomers need love, too! An older generation’s love story takes a back seat to our leads, but is no less saccharine.
27. Wacky Townie
Bring on the badly written comic relief!
Why were “The Prince and the Pauper” and “Roman Holiday” written if not to lend their plots to made-for-TV movies? A wayward prince or princess earns a square.