Friday, December 25, 2015

A History of the Hallmark Hall of Fame and the Hallmark Channel

Merry Christmas!  In honor of Christmas, we are looking at the crown prince of made for television Christmas movies, the Hallmark Hall of Fame and the Hallmark Channel.  Hallmark today is known for its feel –good, uncomplicated movies, which are typically without excessive violence, language or sexual content.  This is something which is especially lacking in today’s world.
Hallmark Cards sponsored Radio Reader’s Digest, which became The Hallmark Playhouse, (which premiered in 1948) which made radio dramas.  This was translated to the screen in 1951, with the television premiere of Hallmark Hall of Fame.  The first movie was an original opera called Ahmal and the Night Visitors, and subsequently in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s saw the production of many adaptations of books and plays, including Shakespeare plays. 
In the 1980s, due to the guidance of Duane C. Bogie, a producer of the anthology series, the movie series started making original productions, beginning in the early 80s and finally making some of the most well-known original movies in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Promise (1986, winning several awards), Foxfire (1987) and Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991).  Through the 2000s and 2010s, the show would have inspirational true-life stories and feel-good Christmas stories.  The show jumped around networks from 1978 to 2013, until arriving at the Hallmark cable network in 2014.  The last movie broadcast under the Hall of Fame banner on the Hallmark Channel premiered on December 5, 2015, and was called Just in Time for Christmas. 
The Hallmark channel originally began as two religious channels which shared the same transponder slot, American Christian Television System (ACTS) and Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN), forming VISN/ACTS, in 1992.  In 1993, the channel was rebranded as Faith and Values channel, and allowed some secular programs.  In 1996, the network name was changed Odyssey Network (Tele-Communications bought 49% stake in the network the previous year) and saw the major shift away from religious programming.  The year 1998 is finally when Hallmark comes in.  Crown Media, which is owned by Hallmark, and the Jim Henson Company bought majority stakes in the channel (but the Henson Company’s role in the channel only last two years).  Finally, in 2001, with complete ownership of the network, Hallmark re-branded the channel as the Hallmark Channel and started making original movies in addition to its backlog of Hall of Fame productions, and broadcasting old feel good sitcoms. 
In the 2010s, Hallmark started diversifying its network, with a revival of a lifestyle and talk show, The Home and Family Show, and a few original scripted series, each in keeping with Hallmark’s feel-good, not excessive content staple.  In 2004, Hallmark also launched the Hallmark Movie Channel, which was rebranded in 2014 as Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, due to the fact its programming included classic mystery shows, such as Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, and Perry Mason.  Hallmark also has nine international channels, which also showcase family oriented programming.

While some may criticize the network’s content as predictable and uninteresting, the Hallmark brand still has staying power, premiering dozens of new movies made exclusively for the network in 2015.  People gravitate towards the programming because it has feel-good, wholesome content, which in this world of more and more TV shows going toward inappropriate content, is a very good thing.  If you’re in the mood for a feel-good, wholesome story, you can’t do better than the Hallmark Channel or the Hallmark Hall of Fame.  Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Ultimate Weird Al Parody List: Original Artists/Songs + Parodies

So just for fun, I decided to make a Spotify “Weird Al” Yankovic playlist, with the original song and then parody next, in order from the first album, “Weird Al” Yankovic to the most recent album, Mandatory Fun. 

Now, I did run into a few problems.  First of all, the original artist songs for four different parody songs were not available on Spotify.  However, whenever I could, I used a cover which sounded like the original artist song.  (1) For the parody song, “I Love Rocky Road” on“Weird Al” Yankovic, the original song “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” originally made famous by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, I used the cover by the Black Jets on ReCovered Hits Volume 2.  (2) For the parody song “I Lost on Jeopardy,” on In 3-D, the original song “Jeopardy” originally made famous by The Greg Kihn Band, I used the cover by N.y. Street Band on DISCO ROCK ’80.  (3) For the parody song, “TMZ,” on Alpocalypse on Even Worse, the original song “You Belong with Me” originally made famous by Taylor Swift, I used the cover by Michelle Lorenzo on Sounds Like Taylor Swift.  (4) Unfortunately, for the parody song, “Toothless People,” on Polka Party, I could not find the original artist song “Toothless People” by Mick Jagger or a cover; so the parody is there, but the original song is not. 

All other original songs were from the artist that made them famous.  Enjoy this ultimate “Weird Al”/original artist playlist! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Original Broadway Songs from Disney Theatrical Productions

                We’ve all had the original songs from the Disney movies stuck in our heads forever.  For anyone who has seen the Disney version over and over again, that must be certainly the case.  Some of the biggest hits from the animated and live action films have also been adapted to Broadway.  These theater adaptations typically add a few songs just for that particular production.  So here’s one song from each Broadway play and where it fits into the narrative of the play.
                “Me” is sung (mostly) by Gaston and Belle in Beauty and the Beast.  After her father Maurice leaves for an invention fair, Belle is left alone at the house.  Gaston arrives and sings to Belle that she is about to become some “He-Man’s” property, and proceeds to describe Belle messaging her feet while several “strapping young boys” play with the dogs in a rustic cabin.  To Gaston, getting married is evitable.  Belle responds at the end with “I just don’t deserve you,” and when Gaston still doesn’t get it, she says, “But thanks for asking.” 
                “They Live in You” is sung by Mufasa in the Lion King.  After Mufasa rescues the reckless Simba and Nala from graveyard, he tries to instill in Simba more respect for his surroundings.  He sings about how the old kings of the Pride Lands live in “you,” “me,” “the creatures,” even his “reflection.” Later on, an adult Simba (who ran away after his father died) reunites with Rafiki, who sings that “He” (meaning his father) “lives in you” even though his father is dead.  At the end, Simba sings that “he lives in me.” 
                “Practically Perfect” is sung by Mary Poppins, Jane and Michael in The Hunchback of Norte Dame – just kidding, Mary Poppins.  Soon after the father tears up the note that Jane and Michael make for the perfect nanny, Mary Poppins arrives and goes to the children, singing how she is “practically perfect” with no faults, proper and not too harsh or mean.  The children are slowly won over and even at the end, when they protest to be told to clean up, Mary Poppins sings to them that she is not “fair” but that her aim that both of them be “practically perfect”, like her.
                “I Want the Good Times Back” is sung by Ursula near the beginning of The Little Mermaid.  Ursula sings about how she used to be given half the sea, but admitted she ruled ruthlessly, and for that she was banished.  Obviously unhappy about being dethroned, she sings about wanting to rule again, eating and maiming anything she wants.  She turns her sights to Ariel, who she believes will take the throne, and tells her minions Flotsam and Jetsam to watch her closely. 
                “A Million Miles Away” is sung by Aladdin and Jasmine in Aladdin.  After Aladdin rescues Jasmine in disguise from the soldiers outside the palace, they find themselves in Aladdin’s poor hideout.  Aladdin asks Jasmine, “Have you ever imagined what it would be like to take off and never look back?”  Jasmine agrees, and he sings about joining a caravan and vanishing into the night, where they’ll be “a million miles away.” Jasmine agrees and they sing together about leaving on a ship.  Jasmine and Aladdin find themselves bonding over their shared desire to go away and never come back.

                These songs, while not in the original movies, are still insanely catchy and bring more depth to the story.  They are awesome additions to the Broadway plays and fit right in alongside the original classic songs.  All of the songs are available to listen to on youtube and itunes and spotify.  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Romance is for Other People Trivia Contest (Win $25 Amazon Gift Card!)

Here is the Romance is for Other People Trivia Contest!  Winner receives a $25 gift card from AND a sample chapter from my next book, My Protector: The Legend of James and Sophia. The first person to email the correct answers to (or message my Facebook author page, Lee Wolf) will win!  Some of the questions are trick questions, so read them very carefully!  I’ll give you a hint about the first question to get you started: the answer is Chapter 1, Page 1.  UPDATE: We have a winner for the $25 gift card...but you can still send in the correct answers and receive the sample chapter!  

Romance is for Other People Trivia Contest
1. What was on the poster advertising the homecoming dance?
2. What were the professions that Lydia’s and Chris’ dads said they were going be at the circus when Chris and Lydia attempted to ask to go to the homecoming dance?
3. What were the names of the teens that were at the Midsummer Night’s Dream callbacks with Chris and Lydia?
4. How long had Chris and Lydia been at the dance before Lydia called her dad?
5. What was Chris’ response when Jeremy offered to give him and Lydia a ride in his car to their home?
6. What were the first lines of Romeo and Juliet that Chris says in the school hallway to Lydia?
7. When Chris and Lydia were talking with Theater Director Louse, who was the second person to convince Louise that they could handle the kissing scenes in Romeo and Juliet?
8. Where did Lydia put the pictures of her and Chris that were on her poster board after she took them down? 
9. What was Chris’ Aunt Joan’s boyfriend’s name?
10. What was inside the locket that Jeremy gave Lydia on the last day of school before Christmas? 
11. What unexpected thing did Jeremy do to win Lydia over after he showed her the poster and gave her the flowers in the gym? 
12. What was playing on the radio in the restaurant when Lydia and Jeremy almost kissed?