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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Bourbon

Hallmark Holiday Movies Aren't Rom-Coms And Here Is Why

It's frustrating to see so many mislabeling Hallmark's (and other channels like it) as romantic comedies when they are straight-up romances. If you want to get technical, they are "sweet romances," too-meaning, no sex, pure, innocent until the very end, which ends with a kiss.

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Hallmark Channel

I love romantic comedies-Bridget Jones's Diary, You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, Never Been Kissed, etc., as much as the next person----more even. I LOOOOOOOOVE romantic comedies. It's my favorite genre.

I also LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE holiday romances and Hallmark has my favorites, though there have been some decent ones on GAC. Netflix and Lifetime trying to catch the magic of Hallmark but the movies have a different feel.

For example, Netflix's LOVE HARD was a romantic comedy, meaning it was a COMEDY first and a romance second.

The definition of a romantic comedy is a COMEDY that has a romantic throughline. Romantic comedies are COMEDIES first and then romance.

See this definition from a quick Google search

Romantic comedy (also known as rom-com or rom-com) is a subgenre of comedy and slice-of-life fiction, focusing on lighthearted, humorous plot lines centered on romantic ideas, such as how true love is able to surmount most obstacles

Legally Blonde is a romantic comedy as it's a comedy--Elle's journey at Harvard. The improbable way she gets in and only goes there to bring back a guy makes it a comedy first, but the romantic undertone is her old relationship with Warner and her new one with Emmett. Without Emmett, though, it still works as a film.

Elle Woods law school application video
Legally Blonde movie still

Miss Congeniality is a romantic comedy as the improbable situation is that Gracie Hart goes undercover in a beauty pageant at thirty-five years old to catch a killer. Still, she ends up with her partner Eric, at the very end of the movie. Through working together, they fall for each other. He sees her in a new light, but the story is really hers; just like Elle in Legally Blonde, she grows. The story works as a comedy without her partner.

Gracie walking out right before she falls
Miss Congeniality movie still

It's improbable because Gracie is a tomboy and super rough around the edges, but that's also the comedy of it. You can watch the trailer for the 2000 rom-com HERE via YouTube

Now, your typical HALLMARK HOLIDAY movie is NOT a comedy.

It's a ROMANCE and a sweet one at that.

They all follow the same formula.

You have two leads; they both have goals of their own when the story begins; and through meeting the other and falling in love, they realize something and change slightly, but without the romance, there is NO STORY. And Hallmark movies have very little comedy.

I take writing workshops all the time to continually grow as a writer and network-especially in Hollywood; networking is everything, and producers, directors, and writers who have movies on the air always say that a Hallmark holiday movie is 90-98% romance and 2-10% comedy---so even though they are often called holiday rom-coms, it's incorrect.

Let's break it down. (This is MOST of them, though some have broken the mold but the formula is the same with the story)

You have your lead character; she has a good job in the city, has a relationship that isn't great, and she is called to a small town.

When she gets to the small town, she meets a man-her love interest.

They are thrust together by circumstances to do something related to Christmas,

They fall in love and have their happy ending.

All Hallmark holiday movies are centered around Christmas./the holidays. They don't just take place at Christmas; the story is about Christmas. (or Hanukah etc)

To have a successful Hallmark holiday film, you must have a ROMANCE and a HOLIDAY element that drives the story.

They also have a strong COMMUNITY and FAMILY.

Now, imagine Bridget Jones at Christmas----

Bridget meeting Mark at the holiday buffet
Bridget Jones's Diary movie still

You always can because it starts on Christmas, but look at Bridget--she is smoking and drinking!

Hallmark ladies don't drink or smoke.

The story of Bridget Jones starts at Christmas and ends at Christmas the following year but if it was jammed into two weeks in December, she would still....

Drink, smoke, curse, make an ass out of herself, SLEEP WITH HER BOSS, and be totally inappropriate in every way and then realize she loves Mark Darcy at the end, even though he was sleeping with someone else the entire time. LOL

I'm sure it would be hilarious----maybe I'll write that!! Hahaha

So let's Hallmark it up.

At the beginning of Bridget Jones, she says to the audience/ her diary that she isn't going to date "fuckwits"---Bridget, such language for a lady! Hahaha

In a Hallmark movie, she would be sitting with her sister or bestie and talking about how she wants a man like--then describe the perfect Hallmark Hunk. That is what would happen.

She would go to a small town and find him.

She would not sleep with her boss and carry on like a drunken fool doing everything bad for herself.

It's a COMEDY first. It's about Bridget's ridiculous goals to change but getting the way of everything she thinks she wants because of bad decisions, and it's funny because of those situations.

If you want to write traditional romantic comedies, watch it, study it, and mimic it. It's brilliant.

If you want to write for Hallmark, watch every film you can, study the formula, learn the tropes, find a new story that hasn't been done and ensure that the holiday is the story's center.

Here is one of my favorite Hallmark Holiday films.

CHRISTMAS IN LOVE---it's in the tile--Christmas and love--BOOM ROMANCE--not rom-com.

Staring Brooke D'Orsay and Daniel Lissing

Promo for Hallmark
Hallmark movie Christmas In Love

This one flips it a little in that the female lead already lives in the small town, and the man comes from the big city, but it has it all.

Here is the official logline

An aspiring crafter working in her small town's bakery shows the new big-city CEO that it's people and not machines which make the business a success.

And It's listed on IMDB as a DRAMA & ROMANCE

Yet I still hear people calling it a rom-com. It's not.

The story opens with the protagonist decorating a wreath, and then after a few establishing scenes, it cuts to Daniel in a high-rise in San Francisco with his father telling him he has to go to this small town.

There is nothing improbable (comedy must element) for either of them.

He goes there, learns about the town, helps her realize her dreams, and they fall in love.

It's exceptionally well done. Watch the trailer for Christmas In Love here via IMDB

My question for you is.

Do you want to write a Hallmark holiday story or a rom-com?

Maybe you are like me, and you write both, and that's fine, but just know the difference, and please stop referring to your Hallmark Holiday film as a rom-com as it's not; it's a romance!!

See my earlier post about rom-coms as a subgenre of comedy HERE

Thanks for reading, and I hope this was helpful; please share on social, and tag me @stephobourbon on Instagram, Twitter, and FB. Use #writingromcoms


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