On another post, we had just been talking about 1989, when a few
of our favorite funny situation comedies originated. I could not
believe my ‘luck’ when I turned on the Hallmark Channel to find a
movie with a catchy title, “The Christmas Con.” There is an ensemble
cast of six famous actors from more than six situation comedies.
They show their talent and versatility in this meaningful Hallmark
I will sketch the plot in, along with giving you the ‘who’s who’ of t.v.
series actors. If you are a fan of television trivia games, you may be
able to ‘keep up with me,’ in this essay about performers who have
been around television for years: one since 1982. Although the title
isn’t very pretty nor the story as simple as some Hallmark Christmas
movies are, it tells a meaningful story of hope and forgiveness.
There is a collection of outstanding, amusing actors who played
character parts in this story of ‘redemption.’ The movie has two
characters, an ex-convict who needs to change his way of dealing
with people, passing through his life ‘taking’ and never ‘giving.’ The
second character must face his addiction, he has to fall flat on his
face, embarrass himself, go to jail and then, find his way home.
The actor who plays the character of an alcoholic man, came from a
caring family, dramatic show, “Party of Five.” My two daughters loved
the whole cast of this show. They would know this man who later left
this show to play an irascible red-headed doctor. Although, you may
or may not, have known the popular teenaged-cast of “Party of Five,”
he was, “Will Mc Corkle.” Then you may have seen him as the red haired
“pain in the butt” doctor from the serious show, “E.R.” This character
was the head of the “E.R.” as, Dr. Archie Morris. “Archie” was disliked by
most everyone, (nurses and the E.R. hospital staff) which showed quite
a range of talent in this role played by Scott Grimes. It was nice to have
known him as a likable man in the first show, then respect his portrayal
of a ‘by the books’ doctor who sometimes went ‘head to head’ with John
Stamos, who played another type of character on “E.R.” Scott Grimes
went from “E.R.” to act in a few television movies, along with another
series, “Band of Brothers.”
Interestingly enough, Scott Richard Grimes made a ‘soft rock and roll’
album, (also described as ‘popular rock’) called, “Sunset Boulevard.” He
wrote all of the songs and sang them, too. I have not checked this out
but it was favorably reviewed, in its genre.
Then there was the character of the endearing ex-convict with a ‘heart
of gold,’ who plays Santa Claus, making a promise he nearly is unable to
keep for the son of the red-headed man. Scott Grime’s plays a father/
ex-husband who is unfortunately battling alcoholism. His son asks Santa
Claus to bring his mother and father back together again for Christmas.
Santa promises to bring this estranged father back ‘into the fold,’ becoming
part of the trio the boy considers his ‘family.’ The ex-con is played by Barry
Watson, who both my daughters had major ‘crushes’ on, while he was the
oldest son in a family of seven members being raised by a minister, known
as, “Seventh Heaven.” Barry Watson left “Seventh Heaven,” to battle in his
own personal ‘real life drama,’ Hodgkins Disease. My family, son included,
had Barry in our prayers for a few years. His attractive long-haired look in
the family show changed to a gaunt, bald look when he was interviewed
during this period of time. The producers allowed him to ‘spread his wings,’
by being behind the camera, in his writing plots and helping set up scenes.
There is a memorable scene, in The Christmas Con,” which paints a fairly
accurate picture of an A.A. meeting, where Scott Grimes’ meets Santa Claus,
out of costume. I feel capable of analyzing this subject, due to my own personal
experience of being married to an alcoholic, having attended one year of A.A.,
two years of Alanon, and taking my three children to Children of Alcoholics
The man who is Santa/Barry’s best friend is played by, Jaleel White, who
portrayed the dorky, inept character named, “Steve Urkel,” in “Family
Matters.” His character has mended his ways of conniving and trying to
trick others, while also being a good and supportive friend to Barry’s
character. He gets to also romance Barry’s ‘sister,’ in the movie, using his
charming demeanor. He looks ‘nothing’ like Steve Urkel, has grown into
a handsome man.
John Ratzenberger’s in the cast of this Hallmark movie, playing a Grandpa,
and you know where he came from? “Cheers,” where he was “Cliff Clavin,”
the mailman, the one who sometimes kept the bar stool warm for hours.
He was the stocky man’s (“Norm’s”) best friend, “where everyone knew
their names.” This series lasted from 1982 -1993. No wonder we felt these
actors were part of our family! John R. went on to make a few different
television movies, played guest character roles on shows and my ‘grandies’
love him in such familiar children’s animated films as the “Toy Story” series,
“Monsters, Inc.” and “Cars,” where he plays (‘voices’) a rusted-out truck.
Another familiar character, where you may wonder, “Where have I seen
this attractive black woman before?” She has a unique character part,
as a female preacher in a church. By the end of the story, you realize this
does not exist. It is a boarded up church, having been condemned. The
recognizable woman, who you don’t immediately ‘place’ or figure out
where she came from, is talk show hostess, Wendy Williams. She ends
up being a fantastic singer, when she is caroling with church folks in a
neighborhood. I felt she was the Guardian Angel for Barry’s ex-convict
The last famous displaced series player, is the actress, Melissa Joan Hart.
You got to know her as a teenaged witch in “Sabrina the Teen Age Witch,”
if you had children in the 90’s. (This ran seven years, 1996-2003.) Along
with Melissa’s more current role on the show, “Melissa and Joey.” In the
Family Channel show, she is a town councilwoman and Joey (Lawrence)
is playing her ‘stay at home’ Nanny/Housekeeper. Can you believe Joey
was on The Johnny Carson Show, singing at age 5 years old? He is NOT
in this Hallmark movie, but was in one with Melissa Joan Hart, a few
(Yes, the plot for “Melissa and Joey,” resembles the one of “Who’s the
Melissa’s character believes in her brother, the man who has just been
released from prison. You don’t feel he was a dangerous criminal and
are sympathetic to his character. (He had been a ‘grifter’ or ‘con artist,’
hence the name of the movie…)
Melissa and Barry make a believably good sister and brother team.
Melissa Joan Hart debuted as the director of this movie, which is a
new position for her to be in.
When Jameel’s character meets Melissa, he shows his debonair side,
which eventually they become close and they make a ‘cute couple.’
Their characters go about playing the ‘normal’ fantasy of carrying out
Christmas routines, as they decorate Melissa’s house, listen to Santa/
Barry’s quandary. Both Jaleel’s buddy character and Melissa’s sister
character cheer for the miracle of fixing the nearly irreparable marriage
and family together again.
Yes, I told you part of the ending.
The journey makes it worth watching.
The cast of recognizable people who have become part of our ongoing
landscape of television. Those people who come into our living room,
visit and stay awhile. They become more familiar than big screen
There are a few ‘surprises’ and twisting turns leading you to the
expected and satisfying ending. I didn’t tell you anything you didn’t
know since almost all of these movies come out ‘safe and sound.’
Hopefully, instead you will want to watch this more. Since it is the
way they handle the simplistic story, how they fulfill their duties as
characters which will help you admire Scott Grimes, Jaleel White,
Barry Watson, Melissa Joan Hart, John Ratzenberger and Wendy
Williams. In my mind, this is an ‘All Star Cast’ of television experts.
This is a treat to see, savor and remember. It shows me Christmas is
a time for all possibilities imaginable to come true.