The Five Required Cliches For A Successful Lifetime Movie
You know, one thing I really miss is having time to flip through the cable channels. If the television gods are feeling charitable, you never know what you might get. Every once in a while, you find something as couch-worthy as Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, but there is one thing guaranteed to pique my interest anytime, anywhere. Dears, that is the Lifetime television movie. Once relegated to a special night of its own, the arrival of the Lifetime Movie channel on expanded cable ensures that a Lifetime junkie can mainline the good stuff, 24 hours a day.
Lifetime movies are the equivalent of movie crack. When you can’t really afford to invest in the primo stuff, you can make due with the poor man’s cinematic offering. You may try to quit them, but you never truly forget about them. Once you watch a few minutes of one, it is like you never quit at all.
This happened to me last weekend. My husband and I found a movie called Maid of Honor about 10 minutes after it started (on said Lifetime Movie channel.) I was immediately enthralled by a crazy bitch housekeeper type who eavesdropped and overheard the man of the house tell his kids he was getting married, which subsequently caused her to suffer a psychotic break. Four hours later, my husband had long ago retired, but I had managed to mow through Maid of Honor, followed by Web of Desire, and I had to peel myself off the couch to avoid getting sucked into the next one. With visions of the highly promoted re-airing of the camp classic Mother May I Sleep With Danger, I crawled into bed, satiated for the time being.
What exactly makes a lifetime movie so intriguing? I don’t know for sure, but they always share a few tell-tale characteristics.
Has Been Actors
The Lifetime network is a who’s who of who used to be the shit back in the day. This is where older actors are kindly put out to pasture (by Hollywood standards, old can mean 40 years old). If you are past your prime, or never quite had that “it” factor to begin with, you’ve found your own personal nirvana. Lifetime has made Donna Mills, Tori Spelling, Dana Delany, Jenna Elfman, Gail O’ Grady, Tiffani Theissen, Tracy Gold and Kellie Martin high rotation heavy hitters for the network. Am I Annoying has a more comprehensive list.
For the ladies, we have Mark Consuelos, Grant Show, Eddie Cibrian, Matthew Modine, Dean Cain, and Gregory Harrison. See, equal opportunity offenders.
As you might imagine from the aforementioned list of “actors”, there are some questionable thespian talents on full display here. Subtlety is a lost art form, as the actresses in particular resort to histrionics, arched brows, and squinty eyes to convey their emotions. In Maid of Honor, every time Linda Purl heard something that displeased her, she would open her eyes super wide and stare into space. Needless to say, it was awesome.
Paper Thin Plot
Actually, a few plots are simply shuffled through a series of locations and characters. As an astute male blogger put it on This May Concern You:
Every single, solitary story has the same plot: Girl falls for man. Ignores overt signs of his craziness. Permits her own delusions of grandeur for the sake of blossoming “love.” He beats (robs, rapes or lies to) her (might even kill her). She finds some way to overcome the situation (if she’s not dead). The relationship ends. He goes to jail … or she righteously kills him.
The only things that change are the characters names, races, ages and job descriptions. And the man is never the protagonist. He’s always the cause for drama.
Well said, Damon, except sometimes the roles are reversed, as in Maid of Honor. Also, in a desperate move to become relevant and/or sensational, Web of Desire combined the intrigue and danger of chat rooms with bisexuality and blackmail. The times, they are a changin’ indeed.
Double Entendre Title
Maid of Honor (made of honor, get it?), Will You Merry Me?, Grave Misconduct, Love Sick: Secrets of a Sex Addict, Love Notes, Mind Over Murder…Need I say more? How about some of the downright silly titles, like Mother May I Sleep With Danger? (like she’s really going to ask permission), Cheater’s Club, Lying to be Perfect, The Wives He Forgot, or I Dream of Murder. How can you not want to watch these?
Characters Talking Out Loud
Admittedly, this makes the taxing job of trying to figure out the paper thin plot easier from my vantage point on the couch. Every Lifetime movie I came across featured a scene with a character investigating the bad woman/man in the movie. If they come across a news clipping or other damning piece of evidence, they always read it aloud, while at the computer, even if they are in a public library. They also employ the soap opera technique of thinking out loud, like saying “What are you up to, John Smith, what are you up to?” even if they are in a house completely alone. Remember, they are presumably investigating the other person for being crazy. Right.
Oh well, I don’t care. These movies are endlessly entertaining, I don’t have to leave my house, and they are free. I’d rather watch Mother May I Sleep With Danger than Leap Year any old day. Now “Where is that remote?”…