There is an old saying: "Never try to wrestle a pig. You only end up covered in mud, and the pig enjoys it."
It's time to apply that maxim to other forms of livestock. Let it be known officially, this 2nd day of February, 2020, that Scott and I have forevermore given up trying to prevent Shearson from seeing his shadow on Groundsheep Day! I mean, what's the point? It never works, we only end up lost / broke / institutionalized / arraigned / frozen to the bone, and Shearson...well, given his perpetually stupid grin, Shearson seems to enjoy everything, but I think he particularly enjoys making fools out of us once a year.
This winter, we're trying a different tack. We have a stuffed sheep who can bring winter's full fury upon the earth if he merely happens to look in the wrong direction on Feb. 2, right? Well, let's figure out a way we can make a zillion dollars from Shearson's vapid superpower. And, we think we've hit on just the ticket to turn him into our personal once-a-year cash cow!...er, sheep.
As you know, the Hallmark Channel has hit upon an annual cash bovine of their own: Hallmark Original Christmas Movies. Our family watches them every year around the holidays. Like Plan 9 From Outer Space, or The Room, or any film starring Nicolas Cage, they're so bad, they're good. There's even a popular drinking game for them circulating on the Internet, though we've never tried playing it. We figure we'd all be passed out by the first commercial break.
Anyway, the movies themselves may be a source of mirthful memes, but their revenue sure isn't. According to several industry sources, the Hallmark Channel rakes in nearly $400M in ad revenue annually, and over a third of that comes from their Christmas programming. The movies have collectively been the #1 cable program among women every year since 2013. Most of them are filmed on a shoestring budget during the spring and summer, but as Business Insider observes, snow is non-negotiable to the network. Thus, the various production companies have to figure out ways to cover the landscape with fake snow when it's 70° outside. That eats up a lot of their profit margin.
Enter Stragsco Studios, LLC! We've got everything we need to get a piece of this lucrative action, right in our own back yard. Mullica Hill is a quaint little town, perfect for a Hallmark Original Christmas Movie® The script is no problem -- heck, they just re-use the same five stories over and over, anyway. And fake snow? Hah! We have the world's most reliable real-snow generator sitting on my bookshelf...as long as we can wrap up filming in one day, that is.
We decided to go with the Christmas Love Triangle script, and we hired tried-and-true Hallmark talent for the female leads: Lacey Chabert and Danica McKellar.
Unfortunately, those two pretty much blew our casting budget. Problem was, we still needed a leading man. Let's see, per the standard Hallmark formula, we'd need someone who was cute...
...rugged, yet soft and vulnerable...
...having an authentic small-town/country vibe...
...with absolutely perfect teeth...
...um, yeah, that's really disturbing. And, most importantly: an actor who's taller than the female lead in high heels.
Ahem. Work with us here.
Look, there really wasn't any other choice. Shearson was both "available" and "affordable", so to speak. If we wanted to turn a profit on this venture, then those were the only two attributes that mattered. Besides, it's a Hallmark Christmas Movie. Most of the viewers would be so focused on the women and their wardrobes that they might not even notice that the leading man wasn't exactly a man.
February 2nd arrived, and a camera crew descended upon Mullica Hill to film A Very Wooly Christmas. Of course, we began with the traditional scene in the Christmas tree lot...
Um, wait a minute. There's no snow, fake or otherwise. Shearson! Turn around, you stupid sheep, and look at your shadow! Shearson!!
No luck. He was too preoccupied. We'd have to add snow digitally in post-production. Anyway, we moved on to the next scene, in which the leading man meets the leading lady's adorable and precocious 8-year-old daughter, who's just as pretty as mom and who talks in the sort of sentences that Hemingway might have written.
Sigh... You know, we did put out a casting call for extras, but nobody showed up -- not even Mary Beth! The locals have all been through too many of our Groundsheep Day fiascos over the years. Shearson would have to play a dual role. In fact, as we soon learned, he'd have to play a lot of roles.
Meanwhile, filming of A Very Wooly Christmas continued on schedule, but that stupid sheep still hadn't seen his shadow! Our Special Effects department had to improvise.
Of course, no Hallmark Christmas Movie would be complete without a visit to the ice-skating rink. Lacey and Danica have had plenty of practice at this, but Shearson....double sigh. Shearson just can't do anything right.
Soon came the traditional scene in which big-city Shearson truly understood the joy of a small-town Christmas. His cynicism melted away, and, like the Grinch, his heart grew three sizes.
Except that Shearson mis-read the script. It was, in fact, his brain that grew three sizes...
It didn't help much.
Nighttime started to fall, and it was time to wrap up shooting. In the climactic scene on Christmas Eve, in which the leading man has to make a difficult choice between his two prospective soulmates, we assembled the cast in a charming living room, in front of a beautiful, warm fireplace.
Our hero strode in, with the stage presence of Olivier, and...uh-oh. On the floor, in the light of the fire...is that...? Oh for the love of all that's good and holy, NOT NOW! Shearson! Don't look down! Please!!...
(* whimper *)
In this case, 'late' was definitely not better than 'never'. We had to borrow some de-icing equipment from Philly Airport to get our stars cleaned up. Anyway, in the end, Shearson chose Lacey for the happily-ever-after moment. They were a natural fit. For reasons we're not entirely sure of, she really loved the fact that Shearson enjoys playing fetch. But don't feel bad for Danica, because after all, this is a Hallmark Christmas Movie. We made sure that she, too, enjoyed a happy ending by finding someone just perfect for her.
Like we said: Work with us here.
At any rate, Tom, that's this year's Groundsheep Day saga. We're sorry to report that The Hallmark Channel declined to purchase A Very Wooly Christmas -- their exact words were, quote, "Dude, we do have *some* standards around here." The good news is that The Weather Channel bought the rights. They figure Shearson is a natural for their target audience, which is people who are so deranged that they actually chase after tornadoes and hurricanes. Also, Shearson saw his shadow, but he did so indoors. I think that means we're going to have an early spring outside, but our furnaces are going to break. Win some, lose some.
Until next February,
Nick, Scott, & Shearson
(With the usual photography credits to our housemates, no matter how much they beg us not to mention them.)