I can tell you in advance that over the coming days a number of good crime dramas will be reviewed and featured here. But before we turn our attention to the strange and grim, let’s get a grip on the need for some sweetness and light.
No, not generic holiday-themed romances. Something more down-to-earth but cheerful. What we need now are some doses of the adorable. Here are three silly but adorable slices of fun: two locally made with their own backstories, and one that’s been called nonsensical, but in a good way, by The Independent in Britain. Let’s treat ourselves; we’ve already been robbed enough of joy and elation.
A Christmas Letter (Wednesday, CBC, 8 p.m. and streams CBC Gem) is a wry, cheery but sometimes poignant holiday-themed drama-comedy. It’s a low-budget TV movie made in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., but set partly in the U.S. and partly here. The official synopsis is this: “Leslie has done everything right in her life except for finding Mr. Right, until the spirit of Christmas leads her there in an unusual way.”
Oh, that’s not the half of it. Thing is, Leslie (Glenda Braganza) runs a foster home filled with a bunch of little kids who need her support and her home. The house needs fixing, big time, and the repair bill is huge. There’s an annoying woman named Milan (Jorja Cadence) who wants to adopt one of the kids, mainly to amplify and decorate her Instagram account. And there’s a no-goodnik (Sean Cullen) who wants to force the closing of the home. Who will help? And what about this Santa guy?
Meanwhile, Leslie’s pal Claudette (Amalia Williamson) pushes Leslie toward romance, possibly with David the mailman (David Lipper, also the writer of the show), who seems nice but lost, and is living with his worrywart dad (Enrico Colantoni). Colin Mochrie is also present in an ideal role for him. What you get is cute kids, a romance, a chase, gently satiric comedy and everything ends well.
David Lipper says, “In a decade when we’ve been bombarded with almost the same rom-com story over and over again for Christmas, I wanted to write a film that captured the magic of Christmas, which can only be brought through a child’s eye.” He achieved that and the making of this charming thing was a major accomplishment.
Producer Trish Rainone, who’s from Sault Ste. Marie, ended up using her mom’s house for filming and also ended up doing the catering for the production, as the hired caterers quit. She was coping with a cast of 31, plus background actors, plus the road-trip element. And Rainone also does a great turn as a snarling, tough waitress in the movie.
Lacking the budget of a Netflix or a Hallmark production, the movie’s a fine realization of the energy and good cheer that went into it, and the energy sure shines through, making everything about it adorable.
The Missus Downstairs (streams Bell Fibe TV) tells us what Mary Walsh was doing during COVID-19 restrictions. She made this cracked and cheerful comedy with comedian/writer Dave Sullivan. Just the two of them are in it, with six episodes of about 10 minutes each. Sullivan plays John, who has a job running lottery machines, or something.
He’s supposed to move to Moncton, (there’s good fun with that) but COVID stops everything. He moves to a remote house in Newfoundland where everything looks gorgeous. Thing is, he’s got a nightmare of a nosey neighbour downstairs. That “the Missus,” played of course by Walsh as a chain-smoking, insult-spewing crank. Walsh is in her element. No one can deliver the colourful wit of Newfoundland vernacular quite like her. There’s a continuing joke about tea buns which is adorably funny enough to make you seek out a recipe.
Stath Lets Flats (streams CBC Gem) is very English, and the second season of this nutty comedy is now available. If you’re not familiar with this much admired, huge cult hit, it’s about an inept Greek-Cypriot “lettings agent” (Jamie Demetriou) in north London, and his attempts to rent apartments to clients always go awry. But he’s got his dad, who owns the company, and his equally inept sister (played by Demetriou’s sister Natasia). The characters speak a strangely odd English, everyone acts slightly deranged, but the charm of this unique series is undeniable, as is its warmth.
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