It’s time for New York City to stop hogging the Christmas love.
Our suburb to the north has “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Elf” and “Home Alone 2.” But good news: Philadelphia, courtesy of the Hallmark Channel, has a new holiday classic.
“A Royal Christmas” debuted in 2014. It’s about a Philadelphia girl who becomes a princess a la Grace Kelly. But unlike Grace Kelly, she has to deal with the evil queen of Cordinia, who doesn’t want her son to marry a plain ol’ Philadelphian. Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman!) plays the evil queen, and along the way, we hear copious references to hoagies and Ben Franklin.
I decided to watch the whole thing and live blog what I witnessed. So, here it goes! (Also: pray for me).
0:07 — We have rowhouses, people! Maybe they actually filmed this thing in Philly. Or maybe they at least crafted a nice set on the studio to look like Philly.
0:12 — Yeah, forget everything I just said at the seven-second mark. Rowhouses are gone, replaced by the “Main Street” we see in every Hallmark/Lifetime movie of all time. The snow is falling, the wreaths are hanging, the Comcast Tower is (not) towering above, etc.
0:45 — Our protagonist, Emily Taylor, the Philly native, is holding a stack of pancakes in her apartment. Her boyfriend, Leo, arrives holding some wrapping paper and acts like he’s a deliveryman. He has all of the jokes.
2:00 — They are going to have Christmas with her family. Again the streets outside look nothing like Philadelphia. This could honestly pass for Lancaster but nope! Nope, not Philadelphia.
3:23 — Leo and Emily head to Emily’s work, a tailor shop owned by her family for generations. Their last name is Taylor and they’re a family of tailors, lol.
3:37 — Emily’s dad is PHILLY TOUGH for sure. He gives Leo the business: “Hey, Mr. MBA, You know how many of her other boyfriends I’ve approved of? Maybe two percent.” Yeah, crunch the probability of that MBA boy.
Anyway, he’s very excited Leo is going to spend Christmas with the family for the first time.
4:00 — Meanwhile, trouble in paradise. Leo gets a mysterious phone call. Looks like he won’t be be able to spend Christmas on this set that looks nothing like Philadelphia. Sorry, rough, tough, blue-collar Philly dad.
5:16 — Leo invites Emily to a restaurant called Chez Luis to tell her the important news. Chez Luis has never been a restaurant in Philadelphia, but hey, there is one in Brussels.
5:42 — And here’s the big news. Leo is a prince. Prince Leopold of Cordinia, apparently a sovereign state in the south of France that for some reason has people that speak with British accents.
6:28 — Apparently Emily and Leo’s relationship is based on their shared obsession with pancakes.
Emily: “The Leo I know wears jeans and eats pancakes.”
Leo: “I eat pancakes in Cordinia.”
7:25 — Flash forward to Cordinia. A woman is reading a newspaper with Cordinia Christmas Countdown as the headline. She is Queen Isadora, but I will call her by the only name I ever want to call Jane Seymour by: Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.
She’s eating toast with marmalade. I predict this breakfast choice will be a major issue between her and her son’s pancake-obsessed girlfriend.
9:25 — And back to Philly for a second. Emily is heading to the airport with Leo. Her father quickly asks for his autograph because he’s a prince. “This is going right next to Sylvester Stallone’s brother,” he says, and I could truly imagine Frank Stallone going to a tailor with the name of Taylor in Philly and the tailor being excessively proud.
11:05 — Obligatory joke about palace guards who don’t react to anything.
12:00 — Dr. Quinn won’t shake Emily’s hand. This is going well.
12:17 — But Emily brought a gift. It’s, uh, a Philadelphia snow globe that I’m guessing she bought at the PHL International gift shop on the way out of the country. Dr. Quinn proceeds to talk shit on the Liberty Bell — “a cracked bell” — and Ben Franklin — “a bald man with glasses.” “I find it odd that Franklin has been credited with discovering electricity when it was discovered 150 years prior by William Gilbert, an Englishman.”
14:22 — And of course Dr. Quinn tells Leo she’s really pissed he brought this “commoner” back to her kingdom. His life in Philadelphia was supposed to be all about getting his MBA and returning to his life of royalty; tbh though this is kind of the typical route for Wharton guys.
15:26 — Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman has her staff serve haggis for dinner. “Certainly not something you could find at a local diner,” Emily says.
But scrapple is a relative of haggis. And scrapple is served at diners in Philly. Pants On Fire, Emily.
17:33 — Leo gives a tour of the castle. He says his favorite part is the “weapons room,” sounding an awful lot like a Pennsylvanian.
17:37 — BTW, Leo’s voice is a mix between a robot and Lorelai’s father from Gilmore Girls.
24:06 — Emily yells, “Go Philly!” at the palace guards because we need a reminder that she’s from Philadelphia.
24:30 — We’re getting to that point of every Hallmark/Lifetime movie where the plot basically has no reason to go forward and we’re treated to a bunch of set pieces, like horse rides, midnight snacks etc.
25:03 — Emily compares Leo to a rock star, because of his princely fame. He says he has no discernible talent. Her response is, “You can make pancakes.” Seriously did IHOP sponsor this movie?
28:40 — And the plot thickens: A blond named Natasha wearing a red dress is waiting at the palace when they get back from their day on the town. She resembles Ivanka Trump, but maybe that’s just because she seems evil. Natasha says they have spent every Christmas together except for last year and went out for a bit but “mostly stayed in.” I wonder if they’ve ever eaten pancakes together.
31:05 – Emily introduces herself to Leo’s rich, royal friends at dinner as “Emily Taylor from South Philadelphia.”
32:40 — Emily tells the “punny” story of how she and Leo met at the tailor shop: “He came in for a missing button. I needled him into asking me out.”
36:00 — More set pieces: Shopping, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman talking to the butler, other dialogue that is impossible to listen to. How goddamn long is this thing?
There’s another 37 minutes left.
/pours another whiskey neat
38:42 — Emily’s best friends are the butlers and the maids. They are the only ones who are not assholes.
39:18 — A new friend for Emily! The Baroness of Newbury confides that she was totally awkward when she met these miserable royal family members the first time. She even broke a Grecian Urn. Bonding!
42:55 — Leo and Emily are about to kiss in a really romantic way when ex-gf Natasha appears out of nowhere and cockblocks them. Natasha says they had a make-believe engagement when they were kids, and Leo even gave her a ring made of straw.
45:00 — Some sort of Christmas ball is about to happen. I think we’re getting to the final stretch. Please let this be the final stretch.
45:40 — I predict this movie is going to end with Natasha trying to kiss Leo at the ball as Dr. Quinn watches on with pleasure. Emily will become devastated and take the first flight back to PHL. She will do what every real Philly resident does and eat a cheesesteak at Pat’s upon arrival, take one of those horse-and-buggies to the Liberty Bell and then run to the Rocky Steps. There, she will find Leo waiting with an apology and an engagement ring. She will ask if Dr. Quinn finally approved of her, and he will point to the top of the steps where she will be devouring a soft pretzel and wearing a Curt Schilling Phillies jersey. Emily will say she’s really not down with the terrible things Schilling has been saying on Twitter for years, and Dr. Quinn will start talking about the need for stricter voter identification laws, and damn it why can’t anything in this world just be as simple as love between two people?
47:22 — Leo tells the butler he’s going to ask Emily to marry him after the ball. He says he just wants his mother to be happy. Good luck with that.
48:29 — Dr. Quinn Medicine woman chats with Natasha at the ball, and it sounds like they wanted to sabotage her by forcing her to wear that white dress, which no one can possibly fit into.
48:35 — In a scene reminiscent of the cinema classic “She’s All That” when Laney enters the high school party and everyone stares, Emily rolls in wearing the white dress. Take that, Dr. Quinn. Emily is a Philly tailor and got that shit to fit JUST FINE.
53:06 — Leo is about to ask Emily to marry him seems when Natasha cuts in. Emily heads toward the kitchen and announces, seriously, “I would kill for a 6-foot hoagie right now.”
The staff has no clue: “A hoagie?” “A what?”
Emily: “Oh, you’ve never lived until you’ve tried one.”
55:40 – Emily starts making a “Philadelphia hoagie.” She says they need cheese, chicken, salami, pickles and bologna. It actually looks pretty good. (Ed. note: Chicken? Seriously…?) But then Dr. Quinn enters, and she’s pissed. She interrupts the hoagie-making sesh and fires two of the kitchen staffers. She goes on a rampage and tells Emily her son belongs with a royal and not some commoner.
So holy shit: The hoagie, food of dirty commoners, was literally the breaking point.
58:10 — Leo didn’t witness Dr. Quinn’s hoagie-bashing and heads upstairs to ask Emily to marry him. He says he’ll fix everything. But Emily’s not having it. She can’t deal with Dr. Quinn being such a Philly hater: “I’m not ashamed of my people. I’m proud of them.”
59:47 — Dr. Quinn has been eavesdropping outside, and she’s in tears. But it’s too late. They’re breaking up, and she’s prepared to hop on that flight back to PHL. Maybe this thing is going to end as I predicted.
1:05:27 — Leo walks into Dr. Quinn’s office. She is looking at the Philly snow globe and says, “Did you know Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod?” The hate sowed by the hoagie has been undone by respect for a founding father.
1:08:10 — Dr. Quinn decides she’ll go to Philly with Leo to apologize to Emily. She explains that she, too, was once in love with a dirty commoner.
The butler tells Dr. Quinn her bag is already packed. They get really close and look like they’re about to make out, but they don’t. Could he have been that commoner she once loved? OH THE MYSTERY.
1:08:20 — Back to the place that looks nothing like Philly. Emily is working at the tailor shop when Leo appears outside. He’s ready to propose again, “this time as Leo from Philly.” It works!
1:09:47 – Dr. Quinn pops out of a car to apologize and continues to be obsessed with Ben Franklin: “As your Ben Franklin would say: I think you could bring some much needed electricity into the realm.”
1:12 — They go back to Cordinia. Leo dons a tux and Emily a wedding dress. Bells ring. “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” plays.
And I make a 6-foot hoagie and pray the salami coma will erase my short-term memory.