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25 Days of Bingemas, Day 7: ‘The 12 Days of Christmas Eve’

You’ve heard of Scrooge, but what if we told you that a Scrooge-like character was being played by Frasier in a plot that was very reminiscent of ‘Groundhog Day’?

Getty Images/Lifetime/Ringer illustration

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 seventh day of Bingemas, we turn our cheerful spirits to…

What are we watching?

The 12 Days of Christmas Eve.

Where are we watching it?

Lifetime Movie Club.

Why are we watching it?

Because, per Lifetime, “Brian Conway is a successful businessman … [After he] gets into a car accident on Christmas Eve, Santa gives him 12 chances to re-do the day and repair the relationships in his life to find the true meaning of Christmas.”

How many Vanessa Hudgenses are in this?

Zero Vanessa Hudgenses feature in this movie, but we are treated to one Kelsey Grammer, the man attempting to single-handedly shift the original holiday movie trope from “meet-cute” to “bad dad.” Fortunately for Kelsey Grammer, he stars in this movie with his real-life daughter, Spencer Grammer, who would be great in a meet-cute Christmas movie. Unfortunately for Kelsey Grammer, this movie features a lot of pratfalls, and it’s pretty impossible to see this man’s face contort in pain without thinking about the time he fell through that stage floor like a Juilliard-trained Wile E. Coyote.

How believable are the lead characters’ ostensible careers?

Seven days into Bingemas and we’ve got our second Dickensian allegory. I mean, yes, The 12 Days of Christmas Eve is technically more Groundhog Day in structure, but Brian Conway is a claaaassic Scrooge. Grammer plays a bigwig electronics company owner who makes his employees work on Christmas Eve because his blue-collar electrician dad worked on Christmas Eve, telling him at the time, “We have to earn our gifts in life, through hard work and sacrifice.” Dads working on Christmas is basically the prime signifier of how their kids will turn out. It’s actually the first question most Christmas-related therapists (Christmas Therapist, coming to Hallmark in 2023) ask: “Did your dad work on Christmas Eve? Follow-up: Are you the way you are in spite of, or because of that fact?”

Brian started a multimillion-dollar electronics retail chain because his father told him his own sacrifice was in the name of making sure Brian could be rich one day; Brian’s daughter Michelle became a surgeon instead of going into the family business because she resented her dad working on Christmas Day to make sure they stayed rich. Michelle only works during the daytime on Christmas Eve, because the buck stops with Christmas moms!

Is there a child who’s wise beyond his/her years?

Michelle’s daughter Harkin (as in “the angels, sing”) delivers one of my favorite nuggets of wisdom I’ve ever heard in an original holiday movie: “Mom and J.Lo always say that love don’t cost a thing.” Oh, to live in the world of Lifetime’s most current pop culture references … from 2001.

Is there a building in disrepair, or a business facing financial ruin?

Speaking of 2001, Brian is basically the CEO of Radio Shack, so things are not going great! Sales are down, and Brian has his employees working through Christmas to come up with a new plan to make more money, and instead of helping babysit his granddaughter when Michelle gets in a bind at work, Brian spends Christmas Eve wooing a potential investor. (By the way, it goes completely unaddressed during her many complaints about her dad’s overworking that Michelle is, indeed, also dumping her kid to work on Christmas Eve. They’ll sort through that in her daughter’s 2052 Hallmark Hologram movie, I guess.)

Who’s dead?

The 12 Days of Christmas Eve might just be our deadest holiday movie yet. First, Brian is killed when he crashes his car into a reindeer on the way back from the boring Christmas Eve fundraiser he throws every year. After that, he proceeds to die 12 more times: from head trauma, electrocution, breaking his neck on a patch of ice, plummeting to his death, getting crushed by a chandelier, and so on. The ongoing joke in which people ask him, “Oh no, are you dying?” because he’s being so nice is a pretty solid recurring bit.

Is there a mysterious old man, and does that old man turn out to be Santa?

Oh, we’ve got Santa—we’ve got Santa in sadistic spades. After Brian dies in the original car crash on Christmas Eve, he wakes up in an armchair by a crackling fire, face-to-face with Santa Claus in liminal space. “The angel of death is Santa?” Brian asks. “It’s different for everyone, and ‘tis the season,” Santa replies cheerfully … maniacally. (Please note that if Brian existed in the Ghosts of Christmas Always Extended Universe, he would become a Christmas Ghost alongside Reginald VelJohnson.) Brian isn’t ready to die because he was on the verge of selling his company this Christmas Eve, so Santa tells Brian he’ll give him 12 days to get it right: “If by the time the 12 drummers are drumming, you haven’t figured out the true meaning of life, it’s off to that Christmas tree park in the sky,” Santa says mysteriously … threateningly.

Is there a villain who sows discord?

Santa lives in a real gray area in this movie—quite literally, I think he lives in purgatory. Either way, Santa Claus kills Brian Conway 12 times throughout the film. On the 11th Day of Christmas Eve, Santa straight up gives Brian a heart attack, and you just know he’s been holding on to that one because it’s his favorite. And sure, Santa also saved Brian from dying by giving him the chance to try again, but that chance comes with strings, as all the most villainous pacts do. After he falls over a ledge, dies, and descends to North Pole Hell, Brian asks Santa why he’s doing this to him. “You begged me to live,” Santa replies. “We made a deal.” This guy is Jafar with blush on. It is wild, and I really can’t believe this is a Christmas movie.

Is there any magic?

Of course, the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Brian’s attempts to learn the true meaning of the holiday: the love of family. (Which is kind of crazy, because every original holiday movie not starring Kelsey Grammer would suggest that Christmas is about the love of a hot local carpenter.) After he dies the first time, Brian spends the next 11 Christmas Eves learning how to listen to what his daughter and granddaughter need from him (his time, his attention, his care) and not just what they want (a ton of music boxes and cash over the course of 12 days). I’m a little fuzzy on the morality of using the process of elimination to become a better person and cheat death, but when Brian dies the 12th time, he seems genuinely more remorseful that he hasn’t gotten it right for his family than that he has finally and officially died …

But wait! That’s where the magic-within-the-magic comes in. None of this was ever real, and Santa can seemingly kill and revive Brian as many times as he wants to. He gives Brian one more chance to set things right before Santa Claus, the arbiter of death, kills him for good, but then Brian does such a good job he just lets him live … likely with the looming fear that at any given time, on any given Christmas Eve, Santa could decide to take this all away. Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!