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"Baby It's Cold Outside" begins to play as the camera sweeps over a snow-dusted town. The opening scene alternates between two women, identical twin sisters, moving through their morning routines in different settings worlds apart. As an alarm sounds, the first twin climbs out from under Christmas-themed flannel sheets, flanked by her dog, while the second twin is already awake in her city apartment, sitting up in a gray silk robe with an iPad on her lap, working away. The iPad-beholden twin makes her way through an immaculate high-rise condo, blending a green smoothie while wearing a dress and heels, reading emails on her phone. Meanwhile, the first sister happily throws on jeans and a flannel sweater, does the laundry, wakes up her kids, and cooks eggs and bacon for breakfast.
These opposite lifestyles, town versus country, family life versus single woman in the city, set up the plotline for the Hallmark Channel's Switched for Christmas -- just one of the 21 films Hallmark will air during its annual "Countdown to Christmas" series this winter. This inverted fairytale formula of career woman to girl next door, condo living to country farm, has proven remarkably successful for a channel that's defied cable television trends throughout the year.
Most of Hallmark's movies begin and end the same way. They start with a high-powered career woman -- usually a novelist, doctor, PR representative, wedding planner, or chef -- living in a big city. About 10 minutes in, for one reason or another, she must return to a small town (which is often her hometown) to escape the big city. Within five minutes of arriving, there's a meet-cute between the woman and the man she's destined to be with, and the rest of the plot unfolds around their courtship.
Usually there's some form of minor conflict between them, which keeps them apart initially. She tells him to turn down his music, to keep his dog out of her yard, to move his truck, or thinks he's trespassing. Sometimes she needs to enlist his help, but no matter the circumstances that lead to it, in the last three minutes, there's always a kiss. The kiss is the apex of the movie, like Prince Charming waking Sleeping Beauty from her long slumber.
The fact that most Hallmark movies are all more or less the same is the appeal, and the predictability isn't limited to the channel's Christmas series: the "Fall Harvest" series, which ended in October, included Falling for Vermont, Harvest Love, All of My Heart: Inn Love, Love Struck Café, and A Harvest Wedding.