Over the past 10 days or so, I've watched more couples fall in love in small towns than I care to think about.
I've seen Christmas saved from Scrooge-like developers, reluctant Santas, and one crotchety duke — played by the late Roger Moore! — and I've learned that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman, whether or not she's in possession of a good fortune or in want of a husband, is likely to find both in just under two hours.
Maybe Netflix's truly terrible A Christmas Prince was my gateway drug — it was research, honestly — but I'm inclined to blame Matt Lauer for my current addiction to the Hallmark Channel. (Note to friends and family: Cancel the intervention. I'll be entering romance rehab very soon. I just need to see how the "Countdown to Christmas" ends.)
Turns out I was only half-joking when I tweeted Dec. 2 about ending "the week in a fetal position watching the Hallmark Channel." That, you might recall, was the week NBC fired Lauer after receiving a complaint about "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace," and Minnesota Public Radio broke ties with Garrison Keillor. The news since hasn't been getting better.
I did end up turning on Hallmark the night of Dec. 2. Before I knew it, it was very late, and I'd watched more than one first kiss, thanks to the network's habit of not really pausing long enough between movies to let a person think.
I'm apparently not alone. The Hallmark Channel is having a wonderful holiday season. In November, both Hallmark and its sister channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, scored their best ratings ever in total viewers, and that night I fell down the Hallmark rabbit hole turns out to have been the network's highest-rated day ever in TV households.
And though the network spokeswoman who supplied some ratings data suggested no such thing, I don't think it's a coincidence that programming featuring courtships so decorous Jane Austen would've found them slow should be attracting more viewers at a time when some of us could use a break from stories of men behaving badly.
On Oct. 27, just a few weeks after the New York Times broke its story about allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, Hallmark kicked off its annual "Countdown to Christmas" and became the most-watched ad-supported cable network for the entire weekend, reaching nearly 17.6 million unduplicated viewers, up 16 percent from the campaign's 2016 opening weekend.