I’m sitting on the sofa. I turn the television channel to a popular family-friendly cable network. I know I can count on a happily-ever-after story when I watch this channel during the holidays. Which is why I cannot stop watching these sappy movies.
(SCENE 1: A BIG-CITY NEWSPAPER OFFICE. THE EDITOR IS TALKING TO TIFFANY, A BLONDE REPORTER WHO DRINKS COFFEE FROM A COFFEE-SHOP-STYLE PAPER CUP.)
EDITOR: Tiffany, it’s almost Christmas, and I need you to travel to Quaintville to cover an important story!
TIFFANY: Quaintville? Is that a real town?
EDITOR: Who cares? This is a cable movie, and I’m supposed to be your grumpy but lovable editor, sorta like What’s-His-Name from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
TIFFANY: Ed Asner?
EDITOR: Whatever. All I know is that the script says you’re an independent single woman, but you’re filled with indescribably painful angst and romantic longing.
TIFFANY: I’m on it, Chief.
(SCENE 2: TIFFANY ARRIVES IN QUAINTVILLE, SHE GOES ICE SKATING. SHE MEETS A HANDSOME MAN SKATING WITH HIS DAUGHTER.)
LEADING MAN: Hi. You must be the leading lady.
TIFFANY: How did you know?
HIM: You’re holding a paper coffee cup.
TIFFANY: My contract stipulates that I have to drink coffee from a paper cup in every scene. But sometimes I drink Orange Fanta.
HIM: My contract requires me to wear heavy plaid flannel shirts even though we’re obviously filming this in July and I’m sweating my buttcheeks off.
TIFFANY: Is that your daughter?
HIM: Yes, I’m a widower, filled with indescribably painful angst and romantic longing.
TIFFANY: How did your wife die?
HIM: The script never says.
(SCENE 3: ANNUAL QUAINTVILLE CHRISTMAS PARADE. LEADING MAN AND DAUGHTER ARE WATCHING PARADE WHEN TIFFANY BUMPS INTO THEM.)
DAUGHTER: Look, Daddy! That lady is drinking coffee in a paper cup again! Just like they always do in the TV show “Gilmore Girls.”
LEADING MAN: Totally different network, sweetie.
TIFFANY: Fancy meeting you here.
HIM: Listen, Tiffany, I know we just met, but would you be the bookkeeper at my inn?
TIFFANY: You own an inn?
HIM: And a bakery.
HIM: And I eat corn starch straight outta the box.
TIFFANY: And you’re telling me that your inn has enough customers in this tiny town to survive, even though in each scene the TV-viewing audience only ever sees the same fifteen Hollywood extras dressed as townspeople?
HIM: Pretty much.
(SCENE 4: TIFFANY’S FIRST DAY WORKING AT THE INN. SHE IS KEEPING THE BOOKS.)
LEADING MAN: What’s wrong, Tiffany?
TIFFANY: I’ve been crunching numbers and I’ve discovered that your inn is not making enough money to stay in business.
HIM: Oh, no. Why?
TIFFANY: Because this script needs a crisis before we fall in love.
HIM: What am I gonna do?
TIFFANY: We need to raise money quickly!
HIM: But how?
TIFFANY: You could always sell your daughter on Craigslist.
TIFFANY: That’s what my character did when I starred in a Lifetime Network movie once.
(SCENE 5: QUAINTSVILLE PIE-EATING CONTEST WITH THE WHOLE TOWN GATHERED OUTDOORS.)
TIFFANY: Folks! Can I have your attention?! As you know, we’re all gathered here to raise money and save the inn, which is, according to the script, going bankrupt!
TOWNSPEOPLE: What does this have to do with a pie-eating contest?!
TIFFANY: Duh! This is a major cable network holiday movie!
HENRY WINKLER: I’m Henry Winkler!
(SCENE 6: LEADING MAN AND TIFFANY ARE CURLED ON SOFA DRINKING COFFEE FROM PAPER CUPS BY A FIREPLACE.)
LEADING MAN: I don’t know how to thank you, Tiffany. We raised three million dollars at the pie-eating contest today. Also, I’m looking kinda cute in all this flannel, huh?
TIFFANY: Yes, but I’m conflicted inside. I feel just as confused as I did when I had a recurring role on “General Hospital” and I fell in love with the old fart wearing the eye patch.
HIM: Stephen Nichols? I thought he was on “Days of Our Lives.”
TIFFANY: I get them confused sometimes.
TOWNSPEOPLE: (Standing outside window.) Kiss her already!
HIM: They’re right, we should really kiss before the network starts rolling the pharmaceutical commercials.
(SCENE 7: MIDNIGHT, TIFFANY SITS BESIDE THE LAKE, DRINKING COFFEE FROM PAPER CUP. SHE IS DEEPLY CONFLICTED. THE CRUSTY ELDERLY SHERIFF APPROACHES HER.)
SHERIFF: It’s awfully late to be out here by yourself, young lady.
TIFFANY: Ed Asner? From “The Mary Tyler Moore Show?”
SHERIFF: Yes. And I’m also an accomplished author.
TIFFANY: Aren’t you a little old to be playing the sheriff?
SHERIFF: I’m ninety years old.
TIFFANY: You look pretty good for your age.
SHERIFF: I’ve been doing keto.
TIFFANY: I’m emotionally conflicted.
SHERIFF: I know, that’s why I’m here, to tell you to follow your heart because the only way to find inner joy is to follow your heart.
SHERIFF: Hell if I know. I’m ninety. I’m lucky if I can pee without crying.
(SCENE 8: WEDDING IN THE CHAPEL. TIFFANY IS WEARING A WHITE DRESS, WITH A PAPER CUP OF COFFEE IN HER HAND. LEADING MAN WALKS DOWN THE AISLE.)
LEADING MAN: Wait a minute! I’m the groom. Why am I the one walking down the aisle?
(SAME SCENE; TAKE 2: BRIDE WALKS DOWN THE AISLE THIS TIME.)
TIFFANY: This is the first scene where I’m not wearing one of my eleven cute wool coats that I somehow managed to cram into my Barbie-doll-sized suitcase along with the rest of my entire wardrobe.
LEADING MAN: Lucky you. The producer is still making me wear flannel.
MINISTER: Do you, the Leading Man, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, or in the unlikely event of a sequel, when the script-writers decide to kill you off in a tragic fire at the inn?
HIM: I do.
ED ASNER: I have to pee.
And they lived happily ever after.