DNYUZ – In the new film The Holiday Sitter, a workaholic city slicker is forced to head home to the suburbs for Christmas. Wacky holiday hijinks ensue, including a whirlwind romance with a good-looking neighbor and a newfound understanding of the true meaning of the season.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s the barebones plot behind hundreds of Hallmark Channel movies (and their knockoffs): those trope-filled rom-coms we can’t help but watch every December, whether it’s ironically, sincerely, or some mix of both.
But in The Holiday Sitter, which debuts on The Hallmark Channel this Sunday, December 11, that classic workaholic protagonist is a man, and so is his good-looking neighbor.
The film marks Hallmark’s first to be centered on a gay romance—yet it’s nowhere near the only diverse story in the company’s 2022 lineup.
The Holiday Sitter stars and was conceived by Jonathan Bennett, best known as the teen heartthrob in Mean Girls.
He knew that the story, about an uncle being asked to watch his niece and nephew while his sister and her husband are out of town adopting a third child, would resonate with queer viewers.
“I am the gay uncle to so many of my chosen-family nieces and nephews,” Bennett tells Fast Company. “If you were to take one thing away from The Holiday Sitter, it’s that Christmas is for everyone, and that chosen families are for everyone.”
The Holiday Sitter is not the first time that queer characters have appeared in a Hallmark movie (Bennett himself played one in 2020’s The Christmas House and its 2021 sequel, The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls). But until The Holiday Sitter, they’ve never been the protagonists.
“Here, it’s clearly the ‘A’ story,” says Lisa Hamilton Daly, Hallmark’s executive vice president of programming, and yet “it’s a classic Hallmark story, too,” which by design.
“Formula is comforting,” she says. She’s fully aware of the home-brewed bingo games viewers play while watching Hallmark movies …