Search icon


23rd Dec 2021

I watched the 24/7 Xmas movie channel for 24 hours so you don’t have to

Simon Bland


Here’s what we learned…

It gets earlier every year. Overpriced market sausage, gaudy Christmas window displays, and a seemingly never-ending onslaught of sickly-sweet festive tunes. Seriously, if we hear Paul McCartney robotically assuring us he’s having a wonderful Christmas one more time, we’re going to go full Scrooge.

Yet it gets worse. Back in September, Freeview did us all a favour and launched a new channel showing nothing but Christmas movies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s 1,440 minutes of mistletoe-topped bollocks and questionably-written life lessons every flippin’ day. Telly was supposed to be our loyal, electronic pal – why would it do us like this?

In an attempt to figure out why the box betrayed us – and because we just generally hate ourselves – we decided to see if watching non-stop made-for-TV festive fare on Freeview’s Great! Movies Christmas channel would warm our cockles long enough to help us learn the true meaning of Christmas. Who knows? Maybe it could… or maybe it’d just confirm our suspicions that our heart is indeed two sizes too small.

Either way, we did it, we certainly can’t un-see it and you better believe we noticed a few ridiculous themes and motifs that emerged pretty instantly. So grab a pint of Baileys, steal all the good Quality Street left in the family tin and put your slippered-feet up – because our 24-hour Christmas watch-a-thon has left us with some serious thoughts.

A Very Christmas Title

First off, you won’t have any trouble finding the 24/7 Christmas channel because almost every movie on it has the word ‘Christmas’, ‘Santa’ or ‘Miracle’ crowbarred into its title. In hindsight, this probably isn’t too surprising. After all, you’d likely feel pretty short-changed if you tuned into a station where it’s literally Christmas every day and didn’t find gems like Beverly Hills Christmas, Cancel Christmas, and – we shit you not – Santa With Muscles.

In a way, it’s actually quite impressive that so many screenwriters managed to churn out this many tweaks on the traditional Christmas narrative. The next time we find ourselves struggling to muster the mental energy to complete that long-neglected creative side-project, we’ll remember that someone once had the tenacity to transform Santa With Muscles from a stoned party comment into a living, breathing, job-creating movie. What a time to be alive.

What’s With The Massively Boring Sub-Plots?

Santa-aside, most of these low-budget Christmas flicks follow the same general formula. Our hero – usually a beautiful parent (typically played by a former 90s star) with a fast-paced, city-slicker lifestyle is forced against their will to head somewhere with a slower pace of life where they’ll discover just what Christmas is all about through magic, whimsy or sometimes a talking dog. That said, the motives used to get our chiseled leads into the festive frame of mind couldn’t be more boring, especially considering these movies are primarily aimed at kids.

Maybe it’s a former professional figure skater forced into returning to her rural roots after an injury (Northpole), a land dispute between a small-town farmer and a big city finance company (Fir Crazy) or even a super-stressed lawyer who’s worried they’ve spent too much time in court and neglected their kids (The Christmas Clause) – nine times out of 10, the character catalysts used on this channel are about as festive as a tax return.

Literally, Anyone With A Beard Can Be Santa

The longer you spend watching these bargain bin belters, the faster you realise that literally anyone with any level of white beard can be – and most likely is – Santa Claus. It doesn’t matter if they have a trim, Colonel Sanders goatee, or a full-on Coca-Cola-truck chin-bush – if it’s white and they look like they could be over 60 years old, you can bet your last shred of sanity that they’re ol’ Saint Nick.

Loveable grandad? Nope, Santa Claus. A wise old stranger? Naa, Father Christmas. Rosy-cheeked hobo with a playful twinkle in his eye? Well… you get where we’re going with this. Forget how peripheral they are to the movie’s overall plot, as long as they have white facial hair and a tendency to turn up just when things look bleak, odds are that mysterious OAP is Kris Kringle hiding in plain sight. What a jolly con-man.

Expect Adverts. Lots and Lots of Adverts

Funny that Freeview’s calling it a ‘24/7 Christmas Movie channel’ because a considerable chunk of airtime is dedicated to adverts. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that if you sat down and clocked it up (we did), a good six hours of each day is spent flogging electric stairlifts, limited edition commemorative coins and sleigh loads of tat that you definitely don’t need. After all, Nothing says ‘Happy Holidays’ like being reminded how much your own funeral might cost.

A typical 60-minute stint during our 24-hour session looked a little like this: Opening credits and first scene: guide dog advert. Start of second act, appearance of elves/Santa/a lesser-known Baldwin brother: zero-stick frying pan commercial offering a free pen with every inquiry. To be honest, we’re not entirely sure what comes next. By the time the film really gets going, we’re usually on the phone ordering a steam mop.

…And plenty of questionable special effects

Remember when special effects maestro Rick Baker transformed Jim Carrey into a grinning green Grinch? How about the stop motion wizardry that helped Jack Skellington rob – and then restore – Christmas Town in The Nightmare Before Christmas? Yeah, well there’s none of that here. Instead, we’re served a heady dose of shoddy graphics that are just a few notches above what you can achieve with Microsoft Paint and a Monster energy drink.

You know the type. They’re the ones you use to see throughout the movies of the early 2000s, back when CGI was a nifty new filmmaking tool. However, despite other genres graduating to motion capture realness and the terrifying depths of the uncanny valley (we’re looking at you, The Polar Express), the small-time Christmas movie scene seems to be stuck in the snow. It’s particularly noticeable whenever a talking animal has to teach a chubby kid a life lesson – but don’t worry, that only happens in every fucking movie.

Related links: