Just Awful

A_Carol_Christmas_DVDWhile rustling through my pile of potential column ideas for December, I came across one I’d scribbled down a couple of years ago. My friend Donna Smith had mentioned that her daughter Jenny had played a bit part in the 2005 Hallmark movie “A Carol Christmas.”

“It’s not a very good movie,” Donna warned me. “And Jenny’s only in it for a few seconds. So it won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want to write about it.”

On the one hand, I was intrigued. A local girl appearing, however briefly, in a Christmas movie might make for an interesting column. On the other hand, writing about “A Carol Christmas” would mean I’d have to watch it, and I wasn’t sure I had the time or the fortitude to sit through even one more Hallmark movie. So far this month, I’ve watched “Christmas in November,” “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “A Season for Miracles,” “Farewell Mr. Kringle,” “The Town Christmas Forgot,” “The Christmas Angel,”  “The Christmas Secret,” “Christmas Under Wraps,” and others too numerous to mention. No kidding. And December still has 10 days left.

Donna handed over the DVD and I read the blurb on the back of the case. “A Carol Christmas,” not surprisingly, is a retelling of “A Christmas Carol.” It stars Tori Spelling as Carol Cartman, a self-centered and extraordinarily unpleasant TV talk show host who—during an afternoon nap—is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. “Soon,” the blurb says, “this Scrooge-like celebrity is shown the life she should have led…and the fate that might await her if she doesn’t show some holiday spirit!”

“Bah-Humbug,” I muttered as I slipped the DVD into its slot.

Ninety interminable minutes later, the torture finally ended. Donna was right. “A Carol Christmas” is the worst rehash of the Dickens classic I’ve ever seen. And one of the most dreadful Hallmark movies I’ve ever sat through, and that’s saying something.

To make matters worse, I hadn’t spotted Jenny Smith even once.

I’d been told her first appearance was in the scene where Carol is choosing an outfit to wear on the Christmas Eve show. Luckily, that scene is near the beginning of the movie, so I started it over, fast-forwarded and–sure enough–there was Jenny, asking Carol which she liked best–the green turtleneck or the red sweater with snowmen.

I didn’t have the enthusiasm to hunt for her further.

But I did give Jenny a call the next day and had a wonderful chat. Born and raised in Cookeville and active throughout her childhood and youth in community theatre, Jenny headed to the University of Memphis after high school to major in Theatre Performance. She taught drama at a private school for a few years and then decided to try her luck in Hollywood. Though she didn’t make it big during the five months she lived there, she did land a handful of acting gigs, including work as an extra in the shows “The West Wing,” “Judging Amy” and “Scrubs.” Now she’s back in Memphis, employed as director of marketing for the NBC-TV affiliate. Her work has been awarded three Emmys.

I couldn’t end our conversation without asking the awkward question that was the main reason I called. “Jenny…what do you think of ‘A Carol Christmas’ ”?

“It’s just awful,” she said with a laugh. “I’m sorry you had to sit through it.”

To which I replied that I’ll go to almost any length to get a newspaper column. Especially at Christmastime.

(December 21, 2014)



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