Three Holiday Rom-Coms I Am Begging Netflix to Make Right Now
Yes, I am writing about holiday rom-coms in the middle of the summer. What’s the problem? Have you never heard of Christmas in July? Time in the entertainment industry is a social construct. Fun fact: Hallmark films most of its holiday romances in July and August. That’s why the costumes are often inconsistent. I’m just putting these out here trying to get a jump on the next season.
In truth, I was celebrating my 52nd birthday at a ski resort off-season, inspiring me with three ideas for holiday rom-coms bangers — all featuring women forty and over. GenX (and adjacent)women were a huge part of the target audience for rom-coms during its peak era through the 80s and 90s. I somehow managed to picture myself as the romantic heroine, even when most of them were skinny white women. Now that they’ve reduced our beloved rom-com into holiday fodder for streaming networks, the least they can do is give us younger men and broader representation.
Pitch #1- Come Back for Christmas
Come Back for Christmas stars Kelly Clarkson as Melinda Brighton, a country singer with a promising career that was cut short after an embarrassing drunk driving accident. (Look, I know Kelly is more of a TV personality than an actress, but have you watched any of these Holiday Rom-Coms? The bar is on the floor. I need her voice, and I believe that she could pull it off.)
Skylar Astin plays Adrian Wells, a singer/songwriter who works for a major record company in LA,. His boss has tasked him with producing a heartwarming holiday hit single that will save the company’s struggling country label.
Aggravated that he, a Jewish man living on the coast, has been asked to cater to the type of people who insist he say “Merry Christmas,” Adrian begins by digging through the company’s archives. He discovers a demo of a beautiful Christmas love song titled “Come Back for Christmas,” which Melinda wrote and recorded almost 20 years ago. Curiously, it is the only song she was awarded rights to in her settlement after being abruptly dropped from the label. Intrigued by the mystery, the song, and her incredible voice, he flies to Tennessee, where Melinda has been living in obscurity.
Adrian suggests reuniting her with her ex, Tyler Witcomb, as a publicity stunt to stage her comeback. I originally cast the role of Tyler with Christian Kane, the country singer/actor best known for the TV series “Leverage.” But my friend who works in wardrobe for film and television told me he’s a dick in real life, and I can’t do that to Kelly in her first starring role in a television movie. (I also asked her to stop telling me about the celebrities she meets because she’s ruining everyone for me.) So instead, we’re going with Jensen Ackles. Apparently, he sings a little bit, and who doesn’t enjoy just looking at him?
Melinda wants back into the music industry, but nothing to do with Tyler. He threw her under the bus (à la Janet/Justin style) over the drunk driving incident. (I have a couple of ideas for what happened here. My favorite is that he asked Melinda for road head, and they crashed into a Waffle House.) Tyler convinced her to take the fall, promising the scandal would soon blow over. Instead, the public and the industry shunned her, and he has since become a big star. She only fought for the copyright to “Come Back for Christmas” because she wrote it about him and never wants to hear it sung.
Nevertheless, Adrian is able to book her a gig at a Christmas Country Music Festival in Telluride (because ski resort), where Tyler is the headliner. Adrian promises Melinda she only has to take a few publicity photos with him, can sing whatever she wants, and after that, she never has to deal with Witcomb again.
Cut to: Montage of Melinda’s superstar makeover with a Nashville stylist named Kensington Monroe, a cameo done by Tituss Burgess. IMPORTANT NOTE: We can see her eating a salad and running on a treadmill if it’s absolutely necessary. But it’s crucial that Melinda does not appear to lose any weight before the festival because FUCK THAT.
It’s much more important to show that she and Adrian have fallen for each other while prepping for the festival. They sing and write songs together, he’s hyping her up for public appearances, and they do fun things to build her social media presence. Adrian still needs his Christmas hit, but he’s become more invested in reviving her career, which he justifies as a bigger boost to the label in the long run.
When she inevitably faces Tyler Witcomb at the festival, he is unexpectedly contrite. He begs her forgiveness for being young, dumb, and selfish about putting his career above hers. He invites her to sing “Come Back for Christmas” with him during his set. Nothing would please him more than to help fix the mistake he made 20 years ago.
Adrian’s plan is coming together precisely as he hoped, so why is he so unhappy? Is Tyler’s generosity sincere, or does he have ulterior motives? Does Melinda still have feelings for him? Perhaps his idea to reunite the two singers is working a little too well…
Pitch #2- Hitched for the Holidays
Regina Hall is the actress I would choose to play my middle-aged self in a biopic. I trust her to find the humor in my sad, mundane little existence. And I’ve been infatuated with Richard Ayoade since writing Thirst Trap: Nerd Edition. The chemistry between this comedy duo already feels off the charts. This rom-com needs to happen. We deserve.
Regina Hall plays Felicity Moorehouse, a public relations agent for a female celebrity secretly on her honeymoon in Saint Moritz, Switzerland. The celebrity’s role is insignificant, but she must look somewhat similar to Regina Hall and maybe appears to be 10–15 years younger. Her husband must look enough like Ayoade to be recognizable by his signature curly locks. I think you see where I am going with this.
Felicity has promised the newlyweds that they will be able to enjoy their honeymoon in peace, away from fans and the press. For months she has been strategically keeping their location a secret and planning with the hotel manager to enlist additional security measures. So when Felicity arrives at the hotel, she is horrified to see her client’s new husband casually chatting with guests in the lobby. Distracted by her phone, she begins to scold him from behind, including a cutting remark about his ugly sportcoat.
Only, surprise! It’s not her client’s spouse; it’s Richard Ayoade in the role of Spencer Wheatley. The hotel had Wheatley flown in from London as an emergency replacement for the hotel manager who tested positive for Covid this morning. He assures Regina that he’s been fully briefed and suggests she’s an amateur compared to his expertise in handling the paparazzi in London. And his sportcoat was tailored on Saville Row, thank you very much. Unfortunately, they’ll have to work together since their jobs depend on this honeymoon going off without a hitch.
The next day, Felicity recognizes Skip Marsden, a sleazy LA reporter skulking around the hotel. (I haven’t cast this role, but I’m open to suggestions.) She gives Spencer the honeymooner’s fake itinerary for him to “accidentally” leave within Marsden’s view. She and Spencer, as celebrity decoys, will follow the itinerary, leading him on a wild goose chase around Saint Moritz. They can only do activities that keep their faces obscured, so the reporter can never confirm their identity. Most importantly, for appearance’s sake, they must appear to be in love and stay in the same hotel room. Hijinx ensues.
They go to a spa for a treatment that covers them in mud from head to toe. They get couples’ back massages in those chairs with the opening for your face. Then things start to go “downhill” quickly. Felicity doesn’t know how to ski. Spencer won’t take his shirt off in the mineral springs. In a near-miss encounter with Marsden at a restaurant, one of them (both of them?!)has an allergic reaction to the local fare that swells their face beyond recognition. A DARING ESCAPE IN A HIGH-SPEED SNOWMOBILE CHASE CREATES MASS DESTRUCTION!!!
Ultimately, between their mishaps, their itinerary has forced them to have fun and take some moments to relax. They commiserate over their reliable ability to work over the holidays. Felicity is a fiercely loyal, no-nonsense woman who is “on” so much for the public that she’s forgotten how to be herself. And Spencer is, well, just being Richard Ayoade because you do not mess with perfection. The harder they try to sell Marsden their act, the more the line between business and pleasure becomes blurred. But what happens after the honeymoon is over?
Pitch #3- A Season For Giving
My third and final pitch features Nia Long as Maya Tisdale-Anderson, the Development Director of a worldwide charity organization. Her mission is to raise funds for a tech start-up’s online certification program for underserved communities. Stephen Amell plays her love interest, Carson Gray, a tech guru whose company writes coding algorithms to maximize the sales potential of ads on social media. (If none of this sounds accurate, it’s because I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, and therefore, I am making it up. Accuracy is what consultants are for, right?)
Maya has a scheduled appointment at his mansion to negotiate a major gift from Carson’s corporation, Grey Matter Tech. Oddly, when she arrives, his PA directs her to Carson’s home gym. Cut to a shirtless Carson working out on the salmon bar because we need to give the public what they want. He feigns an apology, but it’s clear he has set this meeting up to unnerve her and give himself the upper hand.
Carson is mildly intrigued by her proposal, but he’s clearly more interested in her. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in charity; he only thinks person-to-person fundraising is a waste of time and likens her organization to a glorified GoFundMe. He explains how Grey Matter creates algorithms that study human behavior and could maximize donations based on specific data points. Then she could stop wasting her time with fruitless meetings and go to dinner with him instead.
Maya explains that her organization is about building relationships, so he cannot replace her job with technology. You can’t run a successful giving campaign without understanding the community’s specific needs and the people who need their help.
In response, Carson challenges her to prove her worth. He will create an algorithm and use it for fundraising for a random, unrelated cause. If she can prove to him that the human aspect of her work raises more money than his technology by Christmas, he will donate 50 million dollars towards the start-up’s online certification program. She accepts because she needs the money, she’s excellent at her job, and nothing would feel better than to make this smug motherfucker eat crow.
This pitch might be the only one where the ski resort I visited would work as an authentic setting. I have a friend who goes on-location for company retreats, and I like imagining her doing hokey team-building activities and enduring through elaborate PowerPoint presentations.
So, Maya insists Carson go to one of her company retreats, mostly just to annoy him, but he also might gain some empathy for the underprivileged by learning more about her mission. Despite his less than subtle advances, she unexpectedly softens toward him during the trip as he begins to open up.
Carson isn’t an entirely heartless man; he is a bit of a modern-day Scrooge who makes decisions based only on facts and figures. He used to be more idealistic, but his distrust in humanity has made him cynical over the years. He gets uncomfortable and defensive when Maya brings him into the communities he so quickly disregards from his ivory tower. They argue, and Maya tells him to take his 50 million and shove it up his privileged white ass.
By Christmas, Stephen has won the bet. His algorithm has outraised her by a very slim margin, but at what cost? And which one of them is making more of a difference in people’s lives?
So there you have it. Three top-notch ideas for romantic holiday movies a whole year in advance. All ready for actors wearing lightweight cardigans or denim jackets in imaginably freezing weather. If, by chance, someone at Netflix (or any other streaming network) can use their power for good and make any one of these happen, 1.) God bless you from the bottom of my heart, and 2.) you’d better run me my check.