A cavalcade of cheesy, holiday-themed made-for-TV romantic movies has become an official part of the Christmas season, with more than 100 productions debuting on channels like Hallmark and Lifetime this year. Approached with the proper mindset, they're a hoot.
But the other evening, as I was watching The Nine Kittens of Christmas ("cat lovers Zachary and Marilee are thrown back together at Christmas when they're tasked with finding homes for a litter of adorable kittens"), I realized that Sarasota has been neglected in this emerging new genre. What would a Hallmark holiday movie set in Sarasota be like? Here are five local holiday films that need to get made tomorrow:
Love in Lakewood Ranch
After being stood up at the altar by her callow New York City fiancé, Chastity returns home to spend the holidays with her parents in Lakewood Ranch and heal. A former equestrian champion, she begins volunteering at a local polo club, where she helps underprivileged children learn to care for horses. That's where she meets Giuseppe, the handsome but complex riding instructor who recently move to Lakewood Ranch from Milan. Can Giuseppe convince Chastity to climb back in the saddle, grab the reins of romance and gallop toward love again?
Miracle on St. Armands Circle
Every Christmas, Oscar, a lonely retiree, spends his days ringing a bell on St. Armands Circle for charity while secretly pining for Diane, the kind, pretty college girlfriend he let slip through his fingers decades ago. But then, one day, Oscar meets a mysterious white-bearded stranger who sends him on a journey through time, back to Christmas 1971, when Oscar and Diane fell for each other while making fudge together at a St. Armands dessert shop. Given a second chance at love, can Oscar change the course of his life and find a sweet ending to his story?
Finding himself stuck in an on-again, off-again relationship that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, Brodie, a charming, well-connected developer, breaks things off with his shallow socialite girlfriend. To keep himself busy, he pours himself into a new work project: construction of a downtown roundabout that requires him to bulldoze a shelter for blind puppies on Christmas morning. But when he meets Crystyl, the shelter's beautiful and compassionate manager, he finds his priorities shifting. Can he zoom to bliss with new love, or will he be condemned to spin his wheels in a neverending circle of unhappiness?
A Very Holmes Beach Hanukkah
When Rebekah, a high-powered Boston executive, comes home to celebrate Hanukkah with her family on Anna Maria Island, she's shocked to learn that the charming, if slightly run down, mid-century home next door is slated to be torn down to make way for a garish, towering hotel house. As she reconnects with Ben, her lovable and generous high school sweetheart, she learns about an obscure regulatory loophole that can prevent the hotel house from being built, but she only has eight days and nights to convince the city commission to take action. As Rebekah and Ben reignite the candles of their dormant romance and spin the dreidel of love, will it land on gimel or leave them both with nun?
A White Sand Christmas
When Alecksys is fired from a popular local reality show after video of a run-in with a toxic fan in a nightclub goes viral, she pledges to leave Siesta Key behind forever. But then she learns that her vulgar, scheming ex-boyfriend has plans to buy up the public beach and convert it into luxury condos, and she finds herself inspired to stay put and fight the project alongside Antonio, a chiseled, big-hearted lifeguard who wants to turn the beach into a sanctuary for sea turtles instead. To succeed, they'll need to raise enough money for the project before midnight on Christmas Eve. Can they save the beach, and seal their love with a kiss, before the sand in the hourglass is all gone?