V Interesting

Deck the Hallmark with Bran, Dan, and V

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Hallmark has become an expert at cranking out holiday movies. And Brandon Gray and Daniel Thompson have become experts at watching and reviewing them. V brings on these good friends to duke it out over which Hallmark movies are actually good and to share everything they’ve learned about the Hallmark universe, like how the network has evolved under new leadership. As hosts of the popular Deck the Hallmark podcast, Bran and Dan have a whole sleighful to unload.

For more of Bran and Dan’s hot Hallmark takes, follow @hallmarkpodcast on Twitter and Instagram. You can find Deck the Hallmark wherever you get your podcasts.

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V Spehar, Dan, Bran

V Spehar  00:05

During the Christmas season, more than 80 million people tune in and watch a Hallmark movie. Now you know, most people like them it’s big city executive returns to the small town for the holidays. Rekindling a relationship with a childhood sweetheart maybe. rediscovering the true meaning of Christmas. At my house. We are addicted. My wife has them on 24 hours a day. And for years, these familiar and predictable movies have filled people with warmth and holiday cheer. Why are these cliche storylines such a big hit? How has Hallmark managed to stay the king or queen of Christmas movies? Here to chat with me today about the joys of cable flicks is Bran and Dan, the hosts of deck the Hallmark podcast guys, thank you so much for joining me. I gotta tell you not only do we watch Hallmark movies, 24 hours a day in my house, but we also listen to your podcast every week. And it is such a great companion.

Dan  01:02

Thank you. That’s the goal. The goal is to be able to be listened to by people who watch the movies or don’t watch the movies and try to make it as easy as possible to get you in the door. And hopefully give you a festive good time. So I’m glad that it’s working for you.

V Spehar  01:15

It’s very effective, because Natalie, she watches them all sometimes. And I love the recaps that you guys do. So they don’t have to actually watch the Nine Lives of Christmas, for example, nine times you know.

Dan  01:26

Save yourself at 84 minutes. Bran does that synopsis in like, you know, five minutes and it’s pretty much the movie. So it helps everybody.

V Spehar  01:34

So for folks who haven’t listened to Deck the Hallmark podcast, just tell them a little bit about it. What can they expect?

Bran  01:40

Yeah, I mean, we were not revolutionizing any game. We review Hallmark Christmas movies; the stakes could not be lower. But we do kind of have a flowing structure to it. So each episode you’ll get a synopsis. We’ll give you our hot tag what we thought about it, we’ll give you an all the fields moment that was stuck out to us and something gave us some Christmas feels. And then we’ll poke a little fun. We’ll talk about the wait, what’s the movie, the things that didn’t make sense, the classic moments that people like looking out for when they watch these movies. And then what the Hallmark part of the show where we, you know, dream, maybe some things that we still have questions about like, did they end up together? How’s it gonna work out if they live halfway across the country, whatever, stuff like that. And that’s the show every single episode, same thing. And so, but I make it sound like you hate your job. I think it works out really well.

Dan  02:39

One day, we’re all going to take the big mac.

Bran  02:41

But that’s the thing about Hallmark movies that people like is that it’s the kind of the same thing every movie. And so we’ve leaned into that a little bit with the

Dan  02:49

I will say this, the only thing you need to know is that I hate the movies. So like Bran loves them. He’s a big fan. We have for the Hallmark movies we have Brian; we also do Netflix in lifetime we have hosts kind of that join us from around the country in that third chair. But regardless, brand loves them, and I hate them. And so there’s a good level of like good natured bickering and but it’s fun. Like it’s a fun, we hope to bring joy and it’s crazy. And they’re characters and voices. And at the end of the day it is we bring ourselves a lot of joy, but because we laugh throughout the thing, and it’s a miracle to me that anyone listens. And every time I hear someone like say that they listen, I’m like, this is fantastic. It’s like a world we share and I didn’t know it. So it’s a fun time.

V Spehar  03:32

It is a fun time and hallmark is known for their meet cute when the characters meet in a very cute way. And I wanted to know how did you guys meet?

Bran  03:40

Oh, good question. I had my coffee in my hand. We bumped into.

Dan  03:46

We both worked at a school. I taught history. And I was a principal Upper School Principal, like I spent 16 years in education and Bran spent 2, it was not for him. But we met and we were at a small private school and we kind of like I taught high school. He taught middle school and we met but they needed some chaperones for the senior trip to Costa Rica. And somehow we were both you know, Bran was single, I was married no kids and we got we both got roped into going for this 10 day trip to Costa Rica. And next thing you know, we pretty much had to be fast friends, we killed each other. And so we spent 10 days in Costa Rica and the rest is history. It’s been 10 years of Bran having ideas and me telling him why they’re bad and that’s been that’s been our friendship for 10 straight years. It’s true.

V Spehar  04:40

Well and some of Bran’s ideas that you disagree with or the fact that Hallmark movies are fantastic so Bran, what is it that you love about Hallmark movies?

Bran  04:49

I want it started as just a pure love of Christmas which I hold to this day. I’ve been obsessed with Christmas since I was a kid I think like a lot of kids you are fascinated and you look forward to Christmas, and the whole season, but for most people you grow up and this like a Christmas is here, but you don’t think about it a lot. Like, I think about it a lot. And when I found out, probably like, you know, 9-10 years ago that there was a channel that switch to Christmas movies at Halloween and like, did it 24/7 I was hooked. Like, I didn’t care if they were good or not the fact that there was a lot of Christmas lights on screen from sunup to sundown, like I was in. And they then like, you know, people started to watch them, watch the movies and talk about them. And I wanted to talk to some friends about it. And so ultimately, that’s how the podcast started. But it really is just my love of Christmas that keeps me going. It wasn’t until I started the podcast that I watched a non-Christmas Hallmark movie. I wasn’t like I think like a lot of people you just assume that Hallmark does Christmas movies. And then they’re like off air the rest of the year. Like it’s like the colors on the screen that’s just beeping for 10 months. No, they make other movies. And so that was news to me. But I do kind of adore those as well. Now that I’m firmly in the Hallmark worlds, I’ve grown to love those and the people that make them makes a ton of fun.

V Spehar  06:19

Dan, what do you hate about Christmas movies? Or what do you hate about Hallmark? Um,

Dan  06:23

Yeah, so I think the tough thing here is, is that over the years, we’ve been doing this podcast, this is our fifth season, which is wild. And when we started it, I had never seen I minored in film in college, which makes me just that annoying film guy like not a film snob not a film expert, just the annoying guy who like is like I like movies, enough to reference things and Bran knew that and so that was why he wanted me to do this. And I remember watching the first one we ever watched, which is Rocky Mountain Christmas with […]. And I had to like take breaks. And so like I legitimatly had to watch it, like 25 minutes. And then I would just be like, got to put this way you gotta breathe through it a little bit like cleanse my palate with like, you know, an episode of The Sopranos or something.

V Spehar  07:13

Some Citizen Kane before you’re back to the candy game.

Dan  07:17

That’s right. Casa Blanca, like French New Wave cinema. And then back for another 25 minutes. No. So I like I watched the first one in three segments. And come to find out Rocky Mountain Christmas in the world of Hallmark Christmas movies is one of the better ones. Like it’s not a bad like of these movies. It’s not a bad one. And so I think initially, because I love movies, like I, before COVID, I was going to the movie theater 120 times a year, like just going on a late night show after my family goes to bed. And like I love just being in the movie theater. And even if it’s a bad movie, and I was just offended as someone that watches movies regularly, and at what was going on here, and the fact that there was, you know, there’s no, there’s no hot chocolate in that mug, there’s six lights on that tree. No one knows how to bake a thing, like, and so it took me a little while to get over myself. That that is the God’s honest truth. I don’t like these movies anymore. But we’ve come to know everyone that’s involved in them. And I at least appreciates what this is, which is the artistry of making a moment and doing it in 15 days, right? They have 15 days to film this entire movie, and then slap it up on the screen. And occasionally, they’ll find like act some actual magic in there somewhere. And so yeah, I think we’ve watched I mean four or 500 of these movies. I think, I’ve liked under a dozen. But I’ve liked a few like I have like it’s not 0%.

V Spehar  08:48

What’s your favorite?

Dan  08:50

I gotta tell you, Hallmark wise. Two weeks ago, there was a movie called ghosts of Christmas always. And it was outstanding. Guy named Zack hug wrote it’s got Reginald l Johnson. And it’s got Kim Machel in it and it’s got Ian Harding in it. And the end they kind of Hallmark it up and make it this happy story. But for the better part of its runtime. I was very invested. There’s a movie called Snow bride with Katrina law that I think is well executed. There’s one last year unexpected Christmas Bethany Joy Lenz, Tyler Hines, those three Hallmark Christmas movies. And I also think that Bethany Joy Lenz is the best leading lady like she understands exactly what the vibe is here. And so, when she’s in a movie, it tends to have a little bit more gravitas to it. So yeah, it’s not my favorite thing in the world. But I because we’ve met so many fans. We go to these Christmas conventions and so many of these actors, like I don’t like to movies. I don’t they’re not like you can ask Brian. I will routinely boo during the movie like or there’s an audience there. And sometimes I’ll throw things but if the worst part of your job is watching a movie, man In 15 days, it’s a pretty great job and the people that make them are wonderful and lovely. And you know, if I had 15 days to make a movie it would turn out way worse than Rocky Mountain Christmas. And so as soon as I flipped that paradigm, it was like I no longer hate them. I love to hate them.

V Spehar  10:14

Something that I can side with you Dan on that frustrates the heck out of me is there was just a Christmas movie that they did where they were featuring a guy who was in the army and this woman just like went to the army. Like on Christmas. What was that one? I mean, you guys know these better than me.

Dan  10:32

It’s my grown up Christmas list. She shows up at army, she shows up at army ends like, in the woods in the middle of nowhere snow on the ground. She’s like knock army. I’m here to see my husband and breaks every rule of army in the process.

V Spehar  10:53

He’s broken all the rules because he didn’t have the right haircut. They had an improper uniform. It made me crazy. I was like why are they doing this?

Dan  11:00

I will say this Hallmark has a tradition of making movies about the troops and it’s a tradition they really should stop and it’s not because we don’t love the troops we love the troops to make a Hallmark movie about the troops just cuts out at the knees the things that the troops do and the regiment that they follow that make it honorable and sacrificial and so it you know it’s very manipulative a lot of times when they do movies about the troops and when they get army stuff wrong. Oh man like that’s just a salt in the wounds.

V Spehar  11:36

The whole thing, I couldn’t get over it I was I couldn’t even enjoy the movie because I’m like those are barracks the head Christmas like you to what he had like an IKEA bed a first of all, it wasn’t even a bunk bed and the uniform was off and like the whole thing was crazy to me. I’m like anybody who’s watching listen, I imagine that a lot of the audience also has some sort of military connection or some sort of you know, it’s because a lot of folks in the south and a lot of you know families watch these I was like there’s no way that other people aren’t watching this right now. Like why would you so poorly represent the United States Army?

Dan  12:08

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a really good one a good Hallmark troops movie.

Bran  12:12

I’m okay retiring that I think we can all just agree we love the troops and that’s good. We love the troops we don’t need a one of those this year.

V Spehar  12:46

There are like you said real people behind these movies who are awesome who are doing incredible writing and I feel like they’ve been getting better the Hallmark movies have been for all the joking we do getting better. Have you gotten to meet any of the hallmark stars?

Bran  13:00

A lot of I mean, we honestly there’s, you know, a few that everybody talks about as like the big ones like we haven’t met Candace Cameron and we haven’t met […] but we’ve met a lot of like the people that in the Hallmark circle like Hallmark fans love these people like Tyler Hines, […]

Dan  13:21

Andrew Walker, Ashley Williams.

Bran  13:24

That are staples in this specific world. So like the people that don’t watch Hallmark movies that have somebody in mind as to who is in the Hallmark, we probably have not met them. But the people that are actually making them on a regular basis, we’ve met almost every.

Dan  13:40

Signed a handful of actors to long term deals to make four or five, six pictures for them. And we’ve met virtually all of those people. So aside from Lacey, who’s kind of the reigning queen around of Hallmark.

V Spehar  13:57

Who’s the Queen?

Dan  13:59

For us, it’s Nikki DeLoach. You know, Nikki DeLoach is a friend of the show. She’s also a really talented actor, and she teaches acting too, but she’s very gifted. And she has done like, when you think of that Hallmark plot line that everyone thinks is every Hallmark movie, she’s the best at making those come alive. She did a movie called to turtle doves with Michael […]. And it deals with grief and it deals with loss and pain, which a lot of Hallmark movies don’t do and this was in 2019 and she makes it really work and she’s made a ton of these movies. I feel like she’s had a dead relative leave her something in a will no less than a half dozen times. God intended. Amen. And she and like she just is such a natural and she’s so funny, and so kind gives so much money and time to charity. He serves on the board of like the LA Children’s Hospital like she’s the best. We love her so much. And so for us like we stay in Nikki DeLoach pretty hard.

V Spehar  14:56

I actually got to meet a hallmark star on accident one time When I was visiting Nashville, Tennessee and I have to tell you it was kind of like a Hallmark movie for me. We were at an event and Erin Cahill was there because they were filming the secret ingredient or had just wrapped with her husband, Paul. And she was like, Can I take you guys somewhere? Me and my wife and I was like, okay, where are we going? And we went to the, the American Legion, which had like a honky tonk night. And we ended up having like miller lights and […]. And with Erin Cahill, I mean, the Hallmark movies, and honestly, it was the most magical, it was around Christmas time experience I’ve ever had. And it’s so weird when you see these folks who live in these universes that don’t exist and can’t exist, exist in an equally kind of like, odd space like a like a honky tonk in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dan  15:50

Lights and line dancing. I mean, come on.

V Spehar  15:53

It really doesn’t. And so I was wondering if you had any sort of like fun stories about the folks behind Hallmark that we maybe don’t get to know about them. So many.

Dan  16:04

I mean, we’ve gotten to spend some quality time with a lot of these folks. Chris Palazzo, who’s our first he’s been in gosh, gotta be close to 10 of these things, right? With mystery 1 over 10. And he was our first guest on the show in 2018. And we have a legitimate friendship with him. I would not say he’s a friend of the show. He’s a friend of ours, a dear friend and we before COVID, we got to go out to LA. And he took us out for sushi. So like, we, you know, he was like, I’m going to take you to this sushi place in Los Angeles. It’s called Katsuya which I’d never heard of, but we went. And like I’m sitting in there. And we got there before he did. And I see Iron Chef, Alex Guarnaschelli. Like walk in just to go just to go to a table to sit down. And I’m like, Oh, this is a higher class of restaurant than what I’m used to. And so he sits down with us, and he’s just ordering stuff. Like he’s just like, bring us this and bring us this and bring us this and everything. Right. Brandon has even like sushi. Hate it and everything he brings out is freaking amazing. Just like unbelievable. And then afterwards, we went to a bar and hung out and just like spit balled some Christmas ideas with him. And it was cool, man. It was awesome. Like it was a really cool experience. And so we’ve had those opportunities with a lot of people.

Bran  17:24

Yeah, I don’t smoke cigarettes and would not advise it. But when Tyler Hines is rolling a cigarette next to you and says, Do you want to roll a cigarette with me? You say yes. And so yeah, I rolled a cigarette with Tyler Hines. We walked outside. It was very cold. I hated every second of smoking. But I love that guy. And it was a blast doing that

V Spehar  17:41

It’s sounds cool. It does sound like a cool unique experience. Like who still rolls their own cigarettes Hallmark stars. They’re just they’re in a world of their own

Dan  17:49

right? We had we do a little festival here now called Bramble fest, where all of our big time supporters like Come to Greenville for a weekend and we do it like all these different improv podcast all weekend long. We watch movies together. And this year, Andrew Walker joined us and Antonio kaon joined us for the entire weekend. We’re very thankful and blessed that we get to do those things because people have been very generous of their time. I mean, we ate trash, canned food with Nicky DeLoach that’s true. We were all at the first Christmas con ever. And we’re all there just hanging out sign and stuff and then we’re starving. We’ve not had anything to eat all day and we go to the greenroom and this guy is wheeling a trash can and they had all this concession food that was sitting on the top of the trash can. And Nicki DeLoach. That looks great. So we all took we literally all took a slice of pizza out of the trash can and we ate with Nikita like we had trash came through Nikki DeLoach so and then COVID start and […] but you never know. You never know eat food have a trash can in New Jersey startup.

V Spehar  18:59

I feel like we’re getting into the dark side into how the Hallmark really works behind the scenes. We’re rolling our own cigarettes. You said earlier that a lot of these movies are made in just two weeks. And I was reading that they usually have a very small budget like $2 million, which sounds like a lot but $2 million is what it costs to produce like the episode of like a sitcom sometimes right television show. What do you know about the process of doing a movie in two weeks? I mean, that seems very difficult. When did they do this?

Dan  19:31

So this was fascinating to me. Filmmaking has always been fascinating to me. And basically if they can, the actors get together on set a week before they start filming. And they get basically at the most a week to like meet each other hang out talk about scenes. And then yeah, it’s a tip typically is a 15 day shoot. And then the turnaround time, like Chris told us, they shot rock came out and he got called to make rotten Rocky Mountain Christmas after Thanksgiving. And the movie premiered on television that year, on December 22. So they called the guy to come to Canada. And they shot an entire movie, they edited it, full post production and put it on TV in three full weeks, which is crazy. I mean, the fact that we can produce a podcast every day is impressive. But putting a full movie together, and editing it in that amount of time is absurd.

Bran  20:35

That is the exception. That’s not how they normally do it, that would have probably just a bad day. Like they realized they needed to […]

Dan  20:46

But to your point, that qualitatively they’re getting better. And I think part of that was my guess, under a new leadership, they’ve been under a new leadership since what January of 2020. I feel like they scheduled them way better. Like it used to be, I feel like 30 different projects were filming at one time, and they’re using like everyone, they can find a film and grip and gaff and all that stuff. And now I feel like they try to pace the Christmas movies out over the year, which gives you the ability to give them all the time and attention that they deserve.

V Spehar  21:17

So you note that there’s been new leadership at the Hallmark channel since 2020. And that’s been noticeable because a couple of the stars have left and they’ve gotten knocked for leaving, accused of not wanting to change not wanting to be more inclusive. Can you talk a little bit about who is the new leadership at Hallmark, and I personally think they’ve been doing a great job with making the movies more inclusive, making the characters and the plot lines a little bit more believable to the way the world is now. But what made them change leadership back then?

Bran  21:49

Well, yeah, well, there’s a lot to it, depending on who you talk to. But in December of 2019, there was a commercial that aired during a Hallmark movie that featured a lesbian kiss at a wedding. It was like a one second kiss. A lot of a lot. I mean, a small amount of people got really upset about it. And at the time, the leadership decided to pull that a month later, that CEO left that got fired whoever you talk to. He would say it’s a coincidence, we would say who knows. Months later, they ended up hiring Lucas, who’s been heading it up since. And yeah, they’ve made a lot of changes, not just in the types of stories that they’re telling, but also in like the way that they’re telling them like, for example, we’ve already talked about ghosts of Christmas, always. But it is a movie that just wouldn’t have aired on Hallmark Channel two years ago. Just because it is so outside the box of like, it’s not the traditional big town, girl going back to the small town, like it’s not that story. It’s very different. It’s following a ghost. So it’s just different and but it’s also like a really cool and exciting and I think for people that watched every single one of every week, it’s been really fun to not know exactly what you’re getting into. Whereas a couple years ago, yeah, you by and large, you knew and I still love those movies like that. You know, there’s a part of me that when a standard traditional Hallmark Christmas movie comes on, I’m like, Yeah, this feels right. This feels good to so I think there’s still a place for like small town big town, switch them up. But it’s also nice to have the ghost movies, a movie where three hallmark hunks are in one movie together with Three Wise Men and a Baby.

Dan  23:54

I think that there was a misconception on Hallmark as part that Hallmark felt as though they were making movies for people in middle America, who were retreating from the rest of TV to find some sort of weird, like homogenous safe space. And the goal of our podcasts is for like, you don’t have to even celebrate Christmas to hopefully enjoy our podcast. And I think that’s the beauty of it is our goal is to bring joy, that’s all we’re trying to do is bring joy. And if you’re making movies that are all supposed to end happily, then your goal is to bring joy too and by widening the nets of who can see themselves like receiving joy in a holiday movie. That can’t hurt, right? Like by widening the net and saying hey, whatever your background is, you can see yourself having a Merry Christmas and a happy holidays on screen and having that cheesy love connection pay off for you, just like anybody else can. And so when they did that, the quality immediately got better. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I don’t think they said, let’s widen the net. And let’s take a lot more time making these movies. I think when they widen the net, the people that said, yes, we’re all in to do this. They cared more, right. And so when you care about something, and you’re passionate about it, and it’s not just a paycheck that shows, and so when Hallmark finally said, You know what, why are we just making movies for one type of person, when we can make movies for everybody, then the people that were involved inherently did a better job. It’s exciting to watch it happen. And so kudos to hallmark for them getting on board with that.

V Spehar  25:33

I agree. And I think we’ve seen like you said, actors coming to the channel that we wouldn’t have maybe expected to see before because of the diversity that’s in these movies. And like you said, it’s something that can be proud of, I think it was called campfire Christmas and it started Corbin Bleu. I thought that was one of their best works. I loved the director and the screenwriter for that, and I loved Corman’s work in it, it featured a gay storyline that wasn’t just like a side story. It was a main and realistic story, in addition to interracial relationships, and none of it felt like they were checking a box like they really had moved past this. Okay, well, let’s check the box and include diversity is like the best friend who shows up just in two scenes, it really felt integrated, and it felt authentic. And it felt like yeah, I could see that happening. I mean, I don’t know if I could see all of the other things that happened to the movie. Exactly happening.

Bran  26:22

And they’re also bringing in a lot of newer and younger talent too, which is exciting. Like, I think hallmark is still trying to figure out how do we get like the younger demo? Like what does that look like? And you know, they they’re doing a lot of different things. They’re getting younger talent; they’re throwing their movies on peacock just trying to figure out how do we get younger people to watch us that don’t know what linear cable is? And doesn’t they don’t care? Who Lacey subareas like, how do we get to cast and how do we get these movies in front of people? And I think that, you know, it’s they’re doing a good job of that. And there’s a lot of people that we’ve seen over the last year. That’s never done a Hallmark movie that we’re like, we really liked them, and we hope to see more of them. So it’s a lot of fun right now.

V Spehar  27:05

Yeah, I really hope that they get tick tock stars for the next Hallmark movie. I mean, if we’re going to be reaching the news.

Dan  27:10

Let’s just start a hashtag V for Hallmark.

V Spehar  27:15

Don’t think that I didn’t submit myself to a walk on role and Hallmark which you can do at the Hallmark website. You can like when a sweepstakes to be an extra. I’m telling you; they have to need a newscaster and I feel like I would be the person for it. Outside of the podcasts that you guys have that is such fun. Again, it’s called dec the Hallmark. And I literally actually listen to it every week with my wife, we have a blast with it. You also have a book; I’ll be home for Christmas movies. Tell me a little bit about the book.

Dan  28:02

Yeah, so we wrote a book with our good friend and co-host, Alonzo Durante who’s a film critic for The rap in Los Angeles, California. And the book is basically your guide to planning a Hallmark Christmas movie watching party. So there’s 117 reviews of ours that have been kind of reduced into a couple pages to give you the highlights of what you should look out for. And what’s funny about the movie, there’s a couple of essays from Brian and myself and our CO has panda have like why Christmas means so much to us because it does, then there’s recipes and there’s a bingo card where you can like play bingo with the movie of like, if you see an empty cup, or you have a baking montage, or you know see a mom that looks the same age as her daughter or whatever. You can do all that there’s drinking games, there’s cocktail recipes. So it’s got a little bit of everything in it. And it’s a book we’re really, really proud of. And it turned out amazing when we released it last year, almost a year ago to the day and so you can buy that wherever you get books. And then this year, we actually wrote a children’s book as well called, when’s it going to be Christmas again.

Bran  29:07

Kind of under the radar as a self-published joint is different. It’s not going to be found everywhere. But as a passion project for sure. We both have kids and we wanted to write a book. And just the idea of reading a book to your kids that you wrote is fun, but also to see illustrations of them. And it was really fun. They get really excited about it. But it’s a book that was kind of inspired by one of Dan’s kids who’s obsessed with Christmas and also Dan’s coworker who’s also obsessed with constantly asking when’s it going to be Christmas again, and we’re really proud of it. We love it and hopefully people with kids and without kids will pick it up and have a good time with that.

V Spehar  29:45

So as experts on Christmas, how are you guys getting ready for the holiday season?

Bran  29:50

I am, yes been getting ready.

Dan  29:55

Bran and I are neighbors like our houses are maybe 12 feet apart from each other And his lights are already up in his house and have been since after Halloween.

Bran  30:05

That’s right. That’s right. I actually was putting them up before Halloween and Dan drove by got mad at me and I said I’m not turning them on until after Halloween. So just relax. And I have my tree up already. We made our first batch of Christmas sugar cookies over the weekend, have already polished those often really good. Watching Christmas movies as much. I mean, the best thing about this job is that I get to watch Hallmark Christmas movies during the day and still have time at night to watch like the classic Christmas movies that I also love like elfin Christmas Story and there’s just I love it and so every day I’m I have been doing something Christmas Eve for a solid month now. So I’m in it to win it.

V Spehar  30:48

So you’re an advocate of like pre-Thanksgiving. Do you include Thanksgiving? Are you just kind of like oh my god, I can’t wait for it’s like Fourth of July Christmas.

Dan  31:00

[…] fizzling out and he’s like, where’s the haul?

Bran  31:03

I think people that and I you know I’m not trying to upset any large community of people that wait until after Thanksgiving but I’m going to upset you because I don’t think anybody is really that attached to Thanksgiving like yes, we like it. We do like eating but we also eat every day. So let’s like simmer down a little bit. Like what’s the big deal? What is so special about Turkey that it’s like God forbid the turkey hears the Christmas song by Nat King Cole. Before you eat it like why are we so attached to this?

Dan  31:40

I don’t think it has anything to do with a dead turkey hearing me, I’m very clear. I am not a huge Thanksgiving guy. I like Christmas. I just happen to believe that if something is around all the time, it loses the thing that like if you highlight a whole page,

Bran  31:58

I’m just asking for an extra couple weeks.

Dan  32:02

Not an extra couple of weeks you’re putting your lights up before Halloween. That’s an extra like six weeks, you get those six weeks you’re gonna keep going you’re gonna be like Howard Dean.

V Spehar  32:20

It’s a slippery slope Bran, because you could Nightmare before Christmas theme for your Halloween and then you got a couple more weeks.

Bran  32:28

Listen, I know that I’m the exception to the rule here that I do listen to Christmas music all year and I don’t care if you do that or not like my thing is I’m sick of people looking down on me like Dan every day looking at me in disgust because I’m already listening to Christmas music like it’s just uncalled for.

Dan  32:52

Well that’s to say that it’s just not accurate. I want to be very clear. My kids asked to listen to Christmas music every day.

Bran  33:00

They try to act all nice for you V. He’s a monster and I know you can read between the lines.

V Spehar  33:08

Well, we do have some movies to look forward to that are coming up I personally like you mentioned I am looking forward to the Three Wise Men and a Baby because I just think I love when they like almost remake another classic movie but they like Hallmark it. Those are some of my favorite ones. Also[…] I think will be a very funny one. And then there’s some food ones. I’m not sure if they’re new, but I’m excited to watch them. I’m like looking at my wife’s app and deciding like which ones I’m gonna do. Christmas at the Golden Dragon and our Italian Christmas memories. I do love a food holiday theme. Which ones are you excited for?

Dan  33:45

There’s another, My Big Fat Family Christmas is when I’m excited about. It was originally My Big Fat Chinese Christmas. And then they changed it. But it’s directed by Jennifer Lau who directed a movie for lifetime called a sugar and spice holiday. And it was one of the most like culturally apt depictions of another culture. So like you mentioned earlier how it’s not just like a coded gay couple in the movie. And then the next step is having like openly gay people in the movie, but like in complete fish out of water scenarios or people of color. Like I remember watching the movie and it’s like we check the diversity box because there’s a black family that’s like living next to an ice Fisher in Wisconsin. Okay, I don’t know, like out like how accurate that is. And so now we finally gotten to where it’s like, let’s meet people in the culture where they exist and where they’re celebrated. And Jennifer Lau made this movie called Sugar and Spice holiday. And it was amazing. Like I learned about my wife is Asian American and I learned about this great Asian family and the food that they eat, and how they celebrate. And she’s directing this movie for Hallmark this year. And I’m very Are you excited about it because I think even if I don’t necessarily like the movie, The formulaic idea, the movie, you’re gonna get to see people in a time and place that makes sense. And it’s gonna feel organic, and it’s gonna feel like it’s made with integrity. So that’s the one, that one and obviously Three Wise Men in a baby, but that would be a lot.

Bran  35:18

I’m very excited about. But I will throw out that I’m excited about the last one of the year which was Hanukkah and Rye. We’re trying to expand on that a little bit. I love Jeremy Jordan, is that the guy’s name I love Jeremy. I’m really bad with names but I do love him. I think he’s really fun and I’m excited about that he brings a lot of fun and whimsy to it. And also last year’s Hanukkah movie from Hallmark happened to be one of my favorites of the year and I’m just hoping that they can get kick and take gifts of Hanukkah last year was pretty so good. So good. So I’m excited about that and also I don’t know all of them I guess would be the easy thing to say all of them every single one.

V Spehar  35:38

So, we have all the Hallmark merch too because you gotta like you know keep it up so we have like the little pillow we have the sweatshirt that says Like don’t bother me and watching my Hallmark movies. She has like a variance of glasses that say like this is I don’t know my holly juice and different very, very silly stuff and I don’t care I love all of it. I’m here for literally all of it. We have so little joy in this world. Get it all and we have like the official Hallmark popcorn bowl that really does only come out for Christmas in July and actual Christmas to make it special. And popcorn is our go to snack. What do you guys eating when you’re watching?

Bran  36:48

Oh, it’s hard. Well, when we watch during the day here at the office, we have a lot of just random stuff that the fans of the podcast have sentence so I don’t feel like we have one specific thing but I’m a sweets guy. So I love cookies.

Bran  37:04

I love it. But I do love standard popcorn big fan of that salt and vinnies.

Dan  37:14

I don’t do this here at the movie theater. I always throw the peanut M&Ms in the popcorn.

Dan  37:23

But I will say like, I’m pretty like the things I like her diet coke, sour candy and Reese’s cups. Like, those are the things that I like, you know, a Diet Coke and a seasonal like a Reese’s Christmas tree. Like I think the seasonal Reese’s cups are better. I think they taste better. Like there’s science behind it. Yeah, cuz it’s fresher. They made them just for that season. Also hedges. Yeah, there’s Yeah, it just feels like it’s a better ratio. So soured like some Sour Patch Kids, some receipt cups and a Diet Coke. I’m thrilled.

V Spehar  37:52

Yeah, the only time I’m meeting a Little Debbie cake is when it’s in the shape of a Christmas tree. And that is once a year and it is such a treat. Or like the cosmic brownies that come out with the.

V Spehar  38:06

Yeah, you can’t help yourself.

Bran  38:08

They only put like five in the box, and I’m like, wow, I’m here. and I eat four and I’m full of it. There’s one more looking at me and I’m like, wow, let’s see.

V Spehar  38:19

Tomorrow I just picked your brand like with a gingerbread house and gumdrops just like all the happy Christmas things enjoying yourself. That’s correct. So we’re gonna, I have a game for you guys to play with me because you guys are on your show. I wanted to make sure that we have a little fun here today too. And the game is called Where are you Christmas? So I’m going to describe to you a tradition from another country and you’re gonna see if you can guess where that is.

Dan  38:45

We’re going to be so bad at this.

Bran  38:48

I am going to be unintentionally offensive.

Dan  38:52

If you name a country brand won’t be able to tell you this.

V Spehar  39:02

In this country a 42 foot high 23 foot wide 3.6 ton straw goat is put on display for all to visit it even has a dedicated live stream so folks around the world can tune in and just like I don’t know make sure it doesn’t like Frosty the Snowman style come to life I guess. Where are you Christmas with a massive straw goats on display?

Dan  39:25

Oh my god, are we playing against each other or are we like, I think we can both give it, this sounds like somewhere in that like this sounds like Finland, Sweden, Norway area I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go Finland.

Bran  39:41

I’m gonna go with Latvia.

V Spehar  39:46

He’s gonna go with Latvia for everyone to be safe, I can already feel that’s a good strategy. Dan, you were the closer one it is Sweden. You almost had it.

Dan  40:03

You can kind of see that’s where that would make the most sense.

V Spehar  40:11

In this next country, Christians make up less than 1% of the population. So there isn’t much Christmas the way that we know it. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no holiday spirit since December 25 1975. Thanks to a wildly popular Kentucky for Christmas marketing campaign. Residents of this country had to KFC for a meal. […] popular. It causes some people to order their boxes months in advance are standing two hour long lines. Where are you Christmas?

Dan  40:40

I’m pretty sure do you know this? I’m pretty sure this is Japan. I could be wrong. And I’m pretty sure this is Japan.

Bran  40:45

I also think that it’s Japan.

V Spehar  40:46

You got it. It’s Japan, which I was like very surprised to learn, but it makes sense to me. I mean, I was like, you know, that sounds good. I’ve never thought of getting KFC instead of like having to like haul out the whole turkey and ham thing.

Dan  41:00

My wife’s mom is from Vietnam and like at their house. Christmas dinner is like my favorite meal. It’s like they start with like egg rolls. And then it’s Alaskan king crab. These are still like appetizers. Like we’re like king crab and egg rolls. And then we have like this hot pot with like this, like these rice paper sheets and like rice noodles and lettuce. And then you can put like beef and shrimp and like peanuts and pineapple and mint and bean sprouts. You make your own spring rolls. Like it’s like the best day. So like I’m here for Asian Christmas dinner like I’m here for the culmination of those too.

V Spehar  41:43

I know at my house, the only meal my mom knew how to make when she married my father at 19 was baked stuffed shrimp and filet mignon. So that’s what we get to have because she knows how to make exactly two things.

V Spehar  41:59

Yes, it’s the only time she cooks in the whole year and it’s the fanciest meal we definitely have all year. Next country in this country children are visited by the 13 Yule Lads after placing their shoes by the window the little ones head upstairs to bed in the morning. They’ll either have received candy if they’re good, or be greeted with shoes full of rotten potatoes if they’re bad. If you thought coal was a terrible gift, wait till you’ve got rotten potatoes in your shoes. Where are you Christmas?

Dan  42:27

So we’ve got two guesses, any guesses?

Bran  42:30

I’m gonna go with Ireland.

Dan  42:30

So, I have two guesses to potatoes makes me think Ireland, the shoes make me think the Netherlands. So you take Ireland although I think it could be right I’m going to take the Netherlands.

V Spehar  42:40

Very close it is Iceland.

Dan  42:43

A lot of potatoes and shoes in Iceland.

Bran  42:50

Did you say the 13 Yule lads?

V Spehar  42:53

So they believe in the 13th Yule lads like we have the 12 days of Christmas they have the 13 Yule Lads. It’s some rotten potatoes. In this country carolers leave a tall red candle in a front window overnight. It is a welcoming symbol of warmth and shelter for the holiday season. Where are you Christmas?

Bran  43:19

That sounds like it could be anywhere.

Dan  43:20

It sounds like it could be here. Let’s just say England let’s just say it sounds like something that like Canada or England like it’s sounds like something we would do. So let’s go with an English speaking country let’s say England.

V Spehar  43:41

This one is Ireland. That’s where the red candle tradition comes from, which I’ve never seen so much, but I didn’t notice and for our last one and the spookiest one of all these countries have a legend that a devil like creature called the Krampus joins their St. Nicholas festivities on December 6. Children are asked for a list of their good and bad deeds good children are rewarded with sweets, apples, nuts and bad children worry what Krampus might bring to them on Christmas morning. Where are they terrifying kids with the idea of a devil like creature that could abduct them if they were bad after making them self-sacrifice to any sins that they may have committed throughout the year. Where are they terrifying kids for Christmas?

Dan  44:31

Is Santa getting out of hand, Bran? Getting out of hands? When it’s like you better obey or evil devil Santa is going to ruin you. I’m gonna have to go and like I’m gonna have to go Germany because something in me I believe Krampus is from Germany, but I could be wrong. But that feels right to me.

Bran  44:51

I am fairly certain it is Germany from the movie Krampus where the grandma speaks. That’s right. I believe it is that but there is also just a lifetime Chris movie that takes place in Switzerland where they have something very similar. Krampus Krampus Krampus Krampus but I believe it’s a different name. So I’m gonna I’m gonna go with Dan on this one. We’re gonna go with Germany.

V Spehar  45:14

You are absolutely correct. The only country that could come up with a nightmare like friends in Germany. Yes. From the best Christmas markets you’ll ever experience to the most terrifying holiday tradition of the Krampus. Germany really, you know, great place for Christmas. We are running out of time. So I want to make sure that folks know where they can find you. Where’s the show? Where can they listen? Where can they buy the book?

Dan  45:50

Yeah, you can buy I’ll be home for Christmas movies wherever you buy books everywhere from Barnes and Noble to your local bookseller. Seller, your bookstore. when’s going to be Christmas again, the children’s book that we wrote is available on Amazon Prime. You can buy that it’ll be in your house in a couple of days. You can find us on the socials at Hallmark podcast at Hallmark podcast and you can listen to us by searching for Dr. Hallmark anywhere that you listen to podcasts or by going to Dr. hallmark.com. And it’s always a pleasure. It really is you’ve been wonderful v we thank you so much for listening and for having us on. This has been a blast. It’s been so much fun.

V Spehar  46:27

Yeah, it’s been great hanging with you guys. Do you have a Christmas wish to share with the listeners?

Bran  46:32

Oh, that is so sweet. My Christmas wishes always that just people will be kinder.

Dan  46:39

I’m all for kindness to brands actual Christmas wishes that the Orlando Magic win the NBA finals.

Bran  46:47

Everyone being kind is more realistic than the Magic.

V Spehar  46:53

Everyone is kind to them and lets them win.

Bran  46:56

That is well boy.

V Spehar  47:01

Thanks so much for being here guys. We will see you in Evergreen.

Bran  47:06

Thank you.

V Spehar  47:10

I just love the guys from Deck The hallmark. In fact, I love them so much that I got to be on their show this week. So if you have never listened to their podcast Deck the Hallmark you can find it wherever you’re listening to this one. And I talked about the movie The Holiday Spectacular, which features the Rockettes, it’s super fun. We have a blast. Check it out. And hey, if you got something fun to tell me, leave me a voicemail. Tell me how you’re doing what you’re up to. That number is 612-293-8550. Be sure to tune into this Tuesday’s episode where we dig into the headlines and stories you might have missed. And guess what friends? There is even more V INTERESTING with Lemonada Premium, subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like my chat with Secretary Pete Buttigieg who is working on getting you a better deal from the airlines when they cancel or delay your flight. Did you even know he could do that? Yes. The Secretary of Transportation is one powerful dude. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. And I will see you on Tuesday. Have a great weekend.

CREDITS  48:12

V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.


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