The Ringer’s 25 Days of Bingemas is a guide for people who love original holiday movies; it’s a guide for people who hate original holiday movies; it’s a guide for people who occasionally watch these movies and want more; its a guide for people who never hope to watch these movies but would like to watch one writer descend into madness as she attempts to differentiate between 25 unique forms of holiday magic, 12 different fake countries, and eight different male leads who make you wonder, Wait, is that the guy from Mean Girls? (It isn’t, except for the one time when it is.) Every day for the next 25 days, Jodi Walker will feature one of this season’s 169 original holiday movies, answering a curated series of questions in order to showcase the genre’s masterful formula, the dedication to chaos, and the commitment to consistently widowing lumberjacks that launched an entire genre of TV movie. On the third day of Bingemas, we turn our cheerful spirits to…
What are we watching?
Steppin’ Into the Holiday.
Where are we watching it?
Lifetime Movie Club.
Why are we watching it?
Because, per Lifetime, “Former Broadway star Billy Holiday returns to his hometown for Christmas after being abruptly fired as the host-producer-judge of hit TV series Celebrity Dance Off. While there, he encounters Rae, the charismatic owner of the local dance studio.”
There are no Vanessa Hudgenses in this movie, but it’s always nice to see Mario Lopez’s ageless face around Christmastime. The man is frozen in amber candy canes. And in 2022, he looks younger than the day he wedged himself inside a doorframe wearing only a towel during an earthquake at Bayside High (there will be no such shirtless scenes in Steppin’ Into the Holiday, a punishable offense). Jana Kramer, whom I know from Dancing With the Stars, also features as a woman with extremely ambivalent feelings about this movie’s version of Dancing With the Stars.
How believable are the lead characters’ ostensible careers?
“Executive producer and judge on a popular dance competition show” is a pretty unrealistic career for your average person, but for Mario Lopez, it’s like you’ve accidentally stumbled into a documentary. I do, however, take issue with the movie’s official plot description that calls Billy a “former Broadway star,” something that is almost never mentioned again. I also take issue with calling Rae, the owner of the local dance studio, “charismatic.” She has what can only be described as … low vibrations.
How problematic is the meet-cute on a scale of “one saved the other from falling in a snowbank” to “one is the other’s boss and they fall in love on a work trip”?
Billy and Rae simply meet—outside of her dance studio, the moment Billy arrives in town after being fired from his job on the dance show. They stare at each other. Billy is immediately enamored. Rae is immediately…exactly the way she was before, during, and after his arrival.
Say, are these two opposites?
Not really! They both like (not love) to dance. They have great hair. They’re nice to kids. They are positively climaxing over the idea of putting on a town talent show to raise money for the dance studio’s New York trip. But, best I can tell, the stakes keeping these two apart are that Rae doesn’t want to fall for a person who’s “made it big,” because she also danced on Broadway for five years, but then decided it wasn’t for her and moved back home to take over her parents’ dance studio. So she thinks making it big is a choice? And that makes her feel some type of way about Billy being famous? I know she’s projecting something, but I’m honestly not sure what, because none of the kooky townspeople we meet in Garnet are psychologists. All I know is that if even a C-list celebrity showed interest in me, there’s a 99 percent chance I’d blow my whole life up—and I think that’s true for most people. Go live in Billy’s mansion that modern dance built, Rae!
Is there a building in disrepair, or a business facing financial ruin?
Garnet may not have a blossoming mental health scene, but you know what it does have? A BIG ASS BARN IN DISREPAIR. When Billy and Rae were growing up, they did all of their dance performances inside this barn (for some reason) that’s now been abandoned, so Billy convinces Rae that they should fix it up for her dance recital. Then he enlists the fire department to do all the manual labor, and they just come in and lay down Chip and Joanna levels of natural hardwood in this place. Garnet, [State Unknown]: positively flush with cash and Broadway stars.
Is there any singing/crafting/baking/blogging?
Is there ever! Once Billy starts producing Rae’s dance recital like it’s his old dance competition show, the singers, dancers, comedians, and other talented townspeople come out of the woodwork. It’s what gives Billy the idea to tell his agent (Cheri Oteri!) that instead of trying to get his old job back, maybe they should pitch a new show about discovering local talent in small towns, which is actually a pretty good idea for a TV show within this pretty bad TV movie.
Is there a child who’s wise beyond his/her years?
There is a child. His name is Junior. He does look like an adorable miniature version of his Tio Billy. Unfortunately, the movie goes to great lengths to make this kid seem like a dumb-dumb. He is always doing TikTok dances and talking about getting famous. Of failing geography, he says, “When I’m famous, I can hire someone to tell me where the countries are.” Which is all fun and games, Junior, until you end up like that woman on Love Island who thought Essex was a continent. Junior does wind up getting a B+ on his next geography test, though, and I’m sure that Auntie Rae will handily crush those dreams about getting famous sooner or later. (This time, she will be right.)
Does anything tip the scales from G to PG?
Yes, when we hear the final joke in the comedian’s stand-up set: “I’m gonna tell Santa I want a man to love and a father for my children—and I need Santa to make sure those two never meet.” Ma’am, what?! There are kids here! Junior is studying his continents!
What is the meaning of Christmas, as stated by the film?
Rae spends literally half of this movie saying that her life mantra is, “I don’t want to live with what-ifs.” She spends the remainder of the movie questioning Billy’s commitment to being with her, given that he’s a famous person who wouldn’t want to live in Garnet, without ever even floating the idea that she could be a non-famous person who lives in L.A. So, after single-handedly coming up with a solution to all of their problems and starting a bidding war for Small Town Talent (coming to ABC this fall), Billy tells Rae that he’s figured out a way to stay in Garnet and he’s demanded that she be his co-host on the show. And only after he’s said he’ll do exactly what she’s wanted all along does Rae pull Billy in close and whisper, “I just want to be wherever you are.”
Oh yeah, I’ve pulled that move, babe—game respects game!
At the end of the movie, does the title make sense?
I’ve waited until the very last moment to address the most bewildering aspect of this film: Billy’s name is Billy Holiday. And no one ever addresses it. His full name is also Guillermo, so he’s choosing to go by the name of one of the most iconic singers of all time. But more than that, if the movie’s name is a pun (the movie’s name is always a pun), then is the suggestion that we are stepping inside of Mario Lopez? In which case, yes, I do think it’s time for an original holiday movie iteration of Being John Malkovich, thank you so much for offering, Lifetime. See you inside Mario Lopez in 2023!