Category Archives: habits

Sit-Com Stars in Hallmark Movie

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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

movie.

 

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

meetings.

 

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

character.

 

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

Christmases ago.

(Yes, the plot for “Melissa and Joey,” resembles the one of “Who’s the

Boss?”)

 

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

actors.

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.

 

Reversing Roles

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Many times during one’s life, you may find someone older helping you and teaching

you. Especially as a young child, most of us were lucky to have parents and role models.

Sometimes, in unfortunate situations, there are children who have to become adults

far too soon. They become the ‘caretakers’ of siblings, they may even take care of their

mother, as my Dad did at age 11. The mentors in his life, teachers and a minister, are

who really ‘saved him.’

Here are some thoughts about a day with my Mom:

As my Mom slides more easily backwards in time, more comfortable in her childhood

outlook and way of looking at things, I see this in a brighter, happier light these days.

Reverting to a time where things always seem new and one can exclaim, “I have never

seen the sky so brilliant in a sunset!” or “The leaves are so lushly colored, freshly painted!”

It makes me smile more. I appreciate this way of thinking and it helps me embrace her,

hold her hand and guide her across dangerous paths where cars may not judge her slow,

plodding movements.

She loves her dog, it is like children want to give their dogs ‘treats’ every time they are

‘good.’ I have to remind her that Nicki only should eat twice a day, but don’t worry too

much as she is 12 years old. She can refuse if her belly is too full, she also can run around

and wear off the calories… Mom is very good at taking her on two long walks a day. We

go to the edge of a woods, where she uses her cane to remove prickly sticks and makes a

path less treacherous for her ‘little girl.’

Life, to my Mom, is full of excitement and she arises late with sleepy eyes, needing a cup

of black coffee, a tablespoon of peanut butter and I have brought her pancakes (one

morning), oatmeal a couple of mornings, but mainly she rubs her hands together in

anticipation to see if there is a sweet roll or Danish from the dining room. Her ‘expectant’

air about her is catching.

There have been some ‘stories’ told about my Mom, like a child who is part imp and part

angel. She has used a sharp tone when someone mentions Nicki needing to be brushed.

She has been insulted when she wore her pajama pants in the dining room. ‘After all,

many wear their sweat pants.’  She doesn’t like it when she forgets what day it is, nor

does she appreciate lectures about times for things. The rascal is quite independent and

I have less fear of her being ‘hurt’ each time I hear her strong-willed letters she has sent

off to the Director of the building. She has written about the sumac bushes around  the

lake, telling the staff that they should be trimmed, they hinder the residents view while

sitting on the patio. She feels her ‘rent’ should cover gardening and pruning. She wrote

another letter abut the rose bushes, their mites or bugs. She notes, “They need dusting!”

People who are not able to hear well should be paired with others who cannot. She is not

happy when she needs to repeat herself, just as children who must explain themselves

give up and throw their arms up. She misses the bus, when she feels they should ‘Wait on

her.’  Patience is expected by her of others, even when hers is limited at times.

My Dad had admired her ‘spunk’ and her strength of character. He would find it here, still

in large quantities of self-assurance. She still delights in mischief and would still capture

his heart, were he still on Earth….

 

While the rain dripped down upon the branches outside her balcony, she stopped several

times yesterday to exclaim over their appearance, using these words:

glistening,

glowing,

shining,

trembling

branches.

When the rosy-colored purplish hued sky was about to lay the sun to rest,

she had a radiant face aglow watching it from her balcony.

She turned to me, more than three times yesterday to say,

“I have never seen the Fall leaves so special!”

“This view is the Best one I have ever had!”

I could picture her, as a girl, fully appreciating nature’s wonderful changing, colorful

palette. I also thought of her bravery while children taunted her and for some reason

knew to call her, “Zema Puss.” Yes, she had had arthritis and eczema but had always

been beautiful inside and out. She had undaunted courage given her by her parents.

 

Giving the teen-aged servers candy in the dining room, this is one of her ways of

showing she includes the next generation. She may forget where her eyeglasses,

keys, purse, checkbook, medical card and other ‘meaningless’ items are, but she

takes the time to every season or holiday to spend money to make up bags of

candy for the ‘kids.’ She also says a few French words to the one who is studying

French, a much longer passage of Spanish to the one who is in her third year.

She asks Zach, who has this movie star quality, about his theater productions

and his college courses in drama and English. I have no clue why she is able

to retain this information and use the whole concept I used while raising three

teenagers: “They must have ‘selective memory!'”

As she leaves the dining room, she grabs packages of sugar, Sweet n Low packs,

and a handful of mints at the Hostess Station. She may be one of the best ‘pack rats’

around. She even gives that sly glance sideways, to see if anyone notices how big a

wad of those peppermints she has stuck in her pockets.

 

Mom is a quieter, less sure woman at night, as she turns on the light in the closet,

leaving the door askew, pushing the nightlights on in the bathroom (one), kitchen

(two), living room, (three and four), and the hallway (five). She looks down at her

little shadow, Nicki, and says,

“She gets scared of the dark. Hope it is okay to have so many of these on, Robin.

Will you be able to find your way to the bathroom?”

When I look down at Nicki, I almost perceive a gentle shrug of the shoulders, as

if her dog is saying,

“Let her have this habit. No big deal. Give this to her.”

Later, when I need to use same nightlights to guide me to the bathroom, I tiptoe

in to gaze upon her sleeping, serene countenance. A moment of remembrance of

doing this ritual with my own children, now my grandies when they sleepover. I

imagine her doing this for each of her three children, as we slept peacefully.

I kiss her forehead and whisper, “Sweet dreams, Mama.”

 

Holding my hand, we go to the doctors. I hope this one will go smoother than the

one this summer, when frustrated with her purse’s zippers, she threw her photo

ID and her medical card at the poor, slightly impatient receptionist, who repeated

the request instead of just waiting as Mom searched…

As we leave the doctor’s office, after paying her co-pay, I tell her that she doesn’t

have to go to another doctor until next July. She nods, repentant,  turning to tell

the receptionist, “Have a wonderful day and Happy Thanksgiving!”

 

Walking together, we lean in.

I am fully blessed,

counting the time (and steps)

I have left with my mother.