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I was inspired to review The Nightmare Nanny in honor of my favorite new blog, Musings on Half-Watched Lifetime Movies. MoHWLM recaps/reviews hilariously awful Lifetime movies until they become too boring to finish. Brilliant, right?

I half-watched The Nightmare Nanny a few weeks ago. It’s a standard evil babysitter movie so naturally it opens with a flashback: A young expectant couple is driving along a deserted highway in the middle of the night. They’re all aglow until – BAM – a gruesome car accident puts an end to their nuclear family dreams.

Flash forward to a few years later and we’re meeting another family — a pair of hyper-yuppies with a precocious little girl.

Things aren’t going so well at the office for dad, so stay-at-home Yuppie Mom is contemplating a return to work.

Yuppie Mom is our protagonist. We, the viewers, are expected to relate to a 100-pound woman who:

  • lives in a house that looks like this:

  • is grappling with whether or not to return to work at a high-profile, high-salaried job where she is appreciated and valued
  • complains about having to spend a day interviewing private nannies, then makes a frustrated bitchface the entire time

Enter the eponymous Nightmare Nanny. NN is (natch) the girl from the flashback and (guess what??) she’s a psychopath!

In summary, Yuppie Mom = protagonist, Nightmare Nanny = villain.

This would all make sense except for the fact that Nightmare Nanny is kind of totally awesome. She’s patient, warm, and makes delicious home-cooked meals. Unlike Yuppie Mom, she smiles a lot and actually seems to enjoy playing games and doing kid stuff. Even Yuppie Dad thinks she’s great.

Sure, she has a tendency to freak out a little (cue creepy string part)...

But she has lasagna on the table when you get home. How bad can she be?

I fell asleep somewhere around the part where NN kidnaps the precocious little girl. An online recap confirmed that the ending follows the standard evil babysitter plotline: Yuppie Mom figures the whole thing out after meeting with some useless cops. Then NN goes on the lam with the daughter in tow, a chase ensures, there’s a tearful confrontation, and yadda yadda yadda… NN commits suicide and the yuppie family reunites.

I’m liking this half-watching thing. It’s like taking just one bite out of a stack of pancakes. Do you really need any more than that?

Other Notes: I absolutely could not believe that this was a new Lifetime movie. I STILL can’t believe it. Everything (well, except the cell phones and stuff) is 80-90s Lifetime, right down to the lead’s horrible pixie cut and power corporate job. I know I always say LMs look out-of-date because they’re produced in Canada (the wayback machine for clothing and hair trends), but this one left me speechless. A pixie cut! Dear god.

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I had big plans for the holidays this year: celebrations in multiple cities, hot beverages of all kinds, a hike in the snow…

But no. Instead I woke up on Christmas Eve with more than the usual amount of malaise and a cough that tasted like a coral reef. I was still convinced I could get over it, so we went forward with our cross-state travel (well, Mr. Max did. I mostly slept in the car with a blanket over my face).

We were supposed to visit with metropolitan-based family on Christmas morning, but by then even I (a person who “ doesn’t get sick”) had to admit that I was really, really, really, sick. Like, too sick open presents. Or move. Or drink.

Instead I slept all day, drifting in and out of fever spells. When I woke up, the TV revealed the silver lining of my unfortunate flu:

The perfect excuse to finally see the Meredith Baxter TV movie that practically defines Television For Women.


A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story is the true-life (according to the title cards) tale of Betty Broderick, the wife of high-powered San Diego attorney Dan Broderick. As a wealthy power couple, the Brodericks are all about swanky balls and country club memberships, and less about, you know, sanity.

Within the first half an hour, Betty ruins Christmas because she got a bad present (a giant diamond ring that’s the WRONG KIND apparently).

Dan responds,  “It’s Christmas. If your Mom wants to behave like a spoiled brat, let’s let her.” Because that’s what you do in front of your children.

It isn’t long before Dan starts palling around with his young new secretary in a convertible.

Dan threatens to leave, and in response Betty burns his clothing in a pile in the front yard. Sensing that this will not end well, Dan moves out, and Betty goes off the deep end in a way that is only plausible in a Lifetime movie.

(I couldn’t get a screenshot of this so I’ll just tell you: she smears a frosted cake on his wardrobe and bed. Points for creativity, right?)

Dan gets a restraining order, but it doesn’t stop Betty’s reign of terror. She starts leaving obscene messages on Dan’s answering machine, drops their kids off in the middle of the night to “live with him,” breaks into the house and spray paints the walls…

…drives a truck into the side of the house, and generally continues to aggressively harass Dan for “ruining her life.” Eventually, she gets a gun and you probably know the rest.


In case you don’t, she totally blows away Dan and his new wife.

And that’s basically the movie, plus the framing device of a still-crazy Betty talking to the camera from jail.

You might be wondering: who exactly is the protagonist? I know the question crossed my mind a few times.

It’s not Dan (because he’s a sleazy lawyer dude who’s sleeping with his secretary). And Betty’s like, a crazy murderer, so it really shouldn’t be her. But since she’s always on-screen, ranting and monologuing, you almost begin to root for her. Even though she’s crazy and actually phenomenally unlikable.

And that is the magic of Lifetime.


Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter

You might think that a TV movie that begins with a couple arguing and ends with murder and handcuffs completes a natural story arc. But that doesn’t stop Lifetime! There’s actually a sequel — descriptively titled Her Final Fury — and it’s (almost) as good as the original.

Unlike most movie sequels, Her Final Fury actually includes the last ten minutes or so of the regular movie. Why? No idea, but Mr. Max says this detail is his favorite part of either (or both?) movie(s).

Shortly after the murder happens (um, again), we see an unnamed suburban couple gossiping about the case in their front yard. “Did you hear who killed her husband?” whisper-shouts the wife with way too much excitement. I love the randomness of this scene. I guess it’s supposed to show us that the murder is big news in town? At least among this particular couple?


The rest of the movie takes place, more or less, in boring courtroom drama land. Betty doesn’t have a lot to do except hang out in jail so the lady prosecutor becomes the de facto protagonist. The first trial ends in a hung jury, but the dedicated prosecutor is undeterred and immediately signs on for trial #2.

Even behind bars, Betty’s up to her usual antics — threatening her older daughter for testifying against her, ranting to the press, and hiring a PR firm to craft her “image.” Eventually, there’s a showdown on the stand between lady prosecutor and crazy Betty. Betty’s no match for the sharp (and powersuited) lady prosecutor, and she’s finally convicted and sent to jail for a long, long time.


Come on Lifetime, it’s been 20 years. Aren’t we ready for Her Final FINAL Fury: The Parole Hearings?

So, it’s halftime for Liz & Dick. What have we learned so far?

1) A turban is the most versatile fashion accessory OF ALL TIME.

2) The best way to charm a woman is to berate her publicly in a restaurant and/or ruin a dinner party. You’ll steal her heart forever!

3) A romance is most effectively summarized using a 30-second montage where the couple enters trailers on a movie set in order to do the nasty.

4) Every scene must include a nightgown and a liquor bottle,

Oh. Oh my.

We got sucked into this movie on a Sunday afternoon, the traditional time for doing laundry and watching 5-hour Lifetime Movies. But! It’s not technically a Lifetime Movie. At least, not originally.

Chloe has real stars in it and appeared in actual movie theaters. It’s got arty camerawork and tense dialogue, but instead of retiring to IFC it ended up on Lifetime. This happened because 1) it is terrible and also 2) it was filmed in Canada.

It stars Julianne Moore…

?????

I know. Everyone has at least one person (real or famous) who makes them feel inadequate and dumpy and Julianne Moore is definitely on my list. The woman has cheekbones that just WON’T QUIT.

They make my face look like a cheese danish.

It’s more than just her looks, though. Julianne Moore is a really good actress who’s made a career of playing intelligent and complicated characters. She’s classy and smart so WTH is she doing in this trashy “erotic” thriller? It’s like if Meryl Streep was suddenly in some stupid, lame, dorky…

….oh.

Ahem, back to Chloe. The main plot follows Julianne Moore, a bored housewife living with her husband and teenage son in a big, sparsely decorated house straight out of Unhappy Hipsters.

The interior designer’s monochromatic color scheme had relegated the children’s toys to the exterior. The architect would not be pleased.

Julianne’s got a pretty sweet life, at least in terms of hegemonic middle class values: she’s a doctor, she’s married to a professor, their kid is a talented, they’re pretty wealthy, the house has a lot of windows, she’s got great cheekbones…

But there’s trouble in paradise. Julianne finds a cell phone picture of the husband hugging a college student and becomes convinced that he’s having an affair. She has a great idea: hire a random call girl to flirt with him and report back to her. This scheme reminds me of those rom-coms where a girl vows to find her platonic male friend (who she’s secretly in love with) a date. WHY, WHAT A PERFECT PLAN THAT CAN IN NO WAY BACKFIRE HORRIBLY.

The call girl is the eponymous Chloe (played by Amanda Seyfried). Kudos to the casting agent for picking an actress that, appearance-wise, seems like she could actually be a young prostitute.


I think it’s the dead eyes.

Chloe starts flirting with the husband and eventually they kiss. She reports this back to Julianne Moore, who gets pissed off because Chloe was just supposed to see if he was interested — not actually do anything.

Too late.

Eventually Julianne gets over it and asks Chloe to continue her fake relationship with the husband. (Which is always shown in flashbacks told from Chloe’s point of view — hint, hint.) At this point the movie veers into bad fake French film territory as Julianne gets all hot and bothered about Chloe seducing the husband.

Julianne! What are you doing? You’re a serious actress! Your cheekbones are better than this!

(At this point, Mr. Max reminded me that Julianne Moore was also in that silly it-was-aliens movie, The Forgotten. But this is a whole ‘nother level.)

So, because this is one of those “arty” movies where characters start randomly having sex with each other, Julianne and Chloe begin an affair of their own.

The age difference is a little distracting, I think.

It’s all very moody and dark. Eventually, in a dramatic plot twist that anyone with half a brain saw coming a mile away, Julianne realizes that the husband has never met Chloe — she was lying about everything. She breaks all ties with Chloe and confesses the affair to the husband and who’s all like whatever, sounds pretty hot. All is well until…

Chloe, bent on revenge, shows up at the house to seduce the teenage son. Julianne gets back just in time to CB, but not before Chloe grabs a hairpin and starts threatening her. (Um, a hairpin? Those are dangerous?)

The thing looks pretty blunt to me.

Chloe demands one last kiss, and Julianne complies, thus scarring her teenage son (who’s still hiding out of sight) for life. Teenage son reveals his presence, startling them both, and causes Chloe to accidentally fall through the big glass window to her death.

Seriously, how is this not a Lifetime Movie?

The movie ends with Julianne embracing the husband at their son’s graduation party. She smiles and turns to her guests and the camera zooms in on Chloe’s hairpin in her hair. (GET IT?! IT MEANS SOMETHING. WE’RE NOT SURE WHAT, BUT DEFINITELY SOMETHING. SOMETHING SMART. BECAUSE THIS IS AN ART FILM. WE THINK.)

Boringness Rating: 0 Hotels. Get out the popcorn because this is the best: an awesome trashy Lifetime Movie + pretty actors + self-importance + a huge budget. You might even consider renting it for the non-cable experience (i.e., sex scenes). Also, be on the lookout for Degrassi alum Nina Dobrev. Go Canada!

Have you ever said to yourself, “You know what this movie could use? An overexposed singer appearing as herself.”

No?

Well, what if the singer co-wrote the script? Or if it also co-starred Bernadette Peters as a fictional country singer’s ghost? How about if we threw in some flashbacks and a few musical numbers?


Believe it or not, someone made this movie. Originally produced by ABC and now retired to Lifetime Movie Network, Holiday in Your Heart stars LeAnn Rimes as LeAnn Rimes, a white-hot singing sensation (explanation: movie is from 1997) on her way to perform her hit single at the Grand Ole Opry.

Oh, are you not familiar with the hit single? Don’t worry – you’ll get a chance to hear it many times throughout the movie. Many, many times.

The glitch in LeAnn’s plan is that her beloved Grandma Teeden has recently fallen ill. Now LeAnn has to choose between being with her poor, ailing grandmother and realizing her selfish career ambitions.

Are we sure this isn’t a Lifetime movie?

LeAnn meets a mysterious country singer played by Bernadette Peters, and (after they quickly sing the hit single TOGETHER) they become fast friends. LeAnn is still brooding over what to do about Grandma Teeden, and Bernadette gets that faraway look in her eyes that means we’re in for a flashback.

The flashback shows us that Bernadette Peters was once a young hot country singer, just like LeAnn. No stranger to sacrifice, she even had to run away from home to realize her dreams.

Then (still in the flashback) there’s a big snowstorm. Bernadette is on a bus that gets trapped in the storm, which would be no big except that Bernadette’s a diabetic who carries around only EXACTLY as much insulin as she thinks she’ll need.

Sorry for the lack of screen caps from the actual movie. Someone (involved in the production?) worked very hard to scrape the Internet clean of such things.

At this point in the movie I realized I was dealing with a cinematic identity crisis. This is a movie that can’t decide if it’s a light celebrity romp (like From Justin to Kelly), a ghost story, or the touching, bizarre tale of a diabetic country singer trapped in a snowstorm. What were they thinking?

Then I figured it out.

Behind The Scenes: Holiday In Your Heart

Film Guy #1: Hey, we should do that LeAnn Rimes movie before people lose interest.
Film Guy #2: Perfect. We’ll make it all about the sacrifices she has to make because she’s so fabulously rich and famous. The fans’ll love it. She can even sing that song that makes people remember that they like Patsy Cline.
Film Guy #1: Great. But LeAnn’s people say she’s only available to shoot for a day or two.
Film guy #2: Hmm… I’ve got this script about a 1940’s country singer with diabetes collecting dust. Bernadette Peters was supposed to be attached to it.
Film Guy #1: Perfect! We’ll just drop LeAnn’s scenes in and make Bernadette Peters, like, a ghost or something.

End…scene.

I know, I know, LeAnn wrote the book so it’s technically not possible. But still.

 The book is real. I know, right?

So, you’re probably on the edge of your seat wondering how this movie ends.

No?

At the 11th hour, Bernadette (in the flashback that WILL NOT END) is saved by an elderly diabetic busmate who has extra insulin. When Bernadette wakes up, she finds elderly diabetic busmate DEAD and realizes that he didn’t have any “extra” insulin — he just sacrificed his life to save hers.

In an outstanding example of a classic Lifetime-style WTF plot hole, Bernadette later realizes that the mysterious stranger was actually her estranged FATHER (who it turns out really did love her after all).

After 8 years, would anyone really not recognize their own father? There are no words.

As for LeAnn, she learns a valuable lesson from Bernadette’s tale and chooses to be with her fictional grandma (or does she have a real Grandma T? This fantasy biopic stuff is confusing) because family is what really matters. Grandma Teeden recovers and is back on her feet just in time to see LeAnn perform the hit single. Again.

Overall rating: Keep the mute button handy for the eleventy thousand times they play the hit single. But otherwise, pretty entertaining.

I was determined  to catch at least one Lifetime movie this Thanksgiving holiday, and I ended up getting 1.25. Tuning in a few minutes early for Will You Merry Me, I caught the ending scenes of Deck The Halls, a Gabrielle Carteris vehicle featuring Santa Claus as a love interest. The existence of this movie proves once and for all that Lifetime can make a romance out of anything.

Anything.

The feature presentation, Will You Merry Me, is a Lifetime comedy, meaning that 1) it’s not funny and 2) the synthesizer score is 50% louder.

The story begins with the engagement of Rebecca Fine and Henry Kringle, two bright-eyed young lovebirds living in New York City. Through an amazingly expositional flashback, we learn that Rebecca and Henry moved in together a mere six months earlier, all because neither one would give up the apartment they were both interested in.

It was LOVE.

The happy couple have super-fabulous urban lifestyles — Henry’s a lawyer and Rebecca has some fancy job that involves silk blouses, a smart phone, and Being Important.

See also: Samantha Jones, every chick flick protagonist ever.

To kick off the engagement, Rebecca and Henry’s parents agree to meet everyone in Henry’s hometown. The catch, we’re told, is that the Kringles are small-town Christians and the Fines are L.A. Jews. Uh-oh!

The screenwriters play this up as if it’s the BIGGEST CULTURAL DIFFERENCE EVER, but I could come up with a million better ideas. How about: an engineer and… the amish? A sex therapist and…buddhist monks? Wouldn’t that have been totally awesome?

The Fines arrive at Main Street America, USA, and are greeted by Momma Kringle, who is played by the mom from Dead Like Me. Culturally unaware, but a real people-pleaser, she takes great pains to “include” Rebecca’s parents in celebrating Christmas.

Production note: In this scene, the synthesizer oboe score (henceforth known as “fauxboe”) blared with a wacky klezmeresque melody. Fun!

Rebecca’s parents spend their time engaging in awkward small talk and staring in disbelief at the Kringle’s tacky porcelain junk, blinding christmas decorations, and marshmallow-laden “ambrosia salad.” Just as they’re about to hightail it back to L.A., an unexpected blizzard (or clumsy deus ex machina) grounds all flights indefinitely.


The elder Fines and Kringles continue to grate on each other’s nerves, sitcom-style, eventually bottoming out in mutual hatred when Ms. Fine (accidentally…?) runs over a beloved town reindeer.

Nope, I’m not exaggerating. That’s actually what happens.

In the midst of all this wackiness, Rebecca and Henry have a series of arguments: Vegan Rebecca is shocked to learn that Henry sees nothing wrong with his childhood duck-hunting trips. Henry is surprised to hear Rebecca casually tell her in-laws that she expects to stop working while their children are young. “In New York!?” he says, “we could never afford that. We’d have to move out of the city.” Then they fight about the fact that neither one wants to live in the other’s hometown.

Um, is this still a comedy? I’m getting kind of depressed. Don’t most people use TV to get away from family arguments during the holidays?

By the final act it seemed like, for everyone’s sake, the couple should amicably split…lest they risk a cameo by the Lifetime Murdering Staircase.

With Lifetime, it’s always a possibility.

But no — instead we get the usual last-minute dramatic airport scene, all backed by the fauxbo’s emotional strains. Rebecca is about to get on a plane before Henry stops her with a bland chick-flick speech about loving Tofurky and it not mattering if their families are different. They live happily ever after…(although they’ll probably divorce later).

Rating: I watched this one with Mr. Max and his dad, whose sarcastic commentary made the first half seem really interesting. When the food coma took both of them over, it became more boring. In summary, Will You Merry Me is the tofu of Lifetime Movies —  it needs other things around it to make it worthwhile.

One Friday evening a few weeks ago, Mr. Max and I settled onto the couch to unwind the stress of the week away with, as usual, a trashy Lifetime movie.

The movie was Me, Mom, Dad and Her, starring Brittney Wilson as Sydney, a teenager moving in with her remarried father and his pregnant wife Emma, played by Melora Hardin. Oddly, it’s also known by the alternate title Just Breathe.

Jan Levinson, I presume?

The plot: Sydney is a rebellious girl-gone-wild. Sydney’s mom hopes that sending her to live with her dad and stepmom will set her straight, but Sydney hates it and starts acting out even more. Stepmother is newly pregnant and tries to be patient with Sydney as she adjusts.

As time goes by, Sydney’s bad behavior escalates – she smokes in the house around her hugely pregnant stepmom, throws things, binge drinks…and then….

I fell asleep.

What can I say? It was a long week.

When I woke up, a rerun of On The Road with Austin and Santino was blaring on the TV and Mr. Max was in the kitchen running the dishwasher.

“What happened?” I said.

“You fell asleep,” replied Mr. Max.

“No, no…in the movie. Did she kill the stepmom?” I said, rubbing my eyes.

There is, after all, a whole class of Lifetime movies that end in murder, either in a campy-crazy sort of way (Mini’s First Time, Murder in the Hamptons) or a more semi-justifiable (?) kind of way (A Face to Die For, Cries Unheard: The Donna Yaklich Story).

And, at the point where I fell asleep, it seemed like Sydney and Emma were coming to a breaking point — the kind of breaking point where someone gets pushed down the stairs.

Mr. Max and I regularly call big, curved staircases “Lifetime Staircases,” because they’re so often used as accomplices in Lifetime Movie murders. I think they must only have one “murderin’ staircase” on set in Canada that they have to just keep loaning out because, I swear, they always look exactly the same.

Much to my surprise, Mr. Max revealed that Me, Mom, Dad and Her (or, Just Breathe) didn’t end in murder OR attempted murder – instead, Sydney and Emma got over their differences and the whole thing turned into a poignant coming-of-age story.

So, it wasn’t exactly a classic Lifetime movie. But it did give me a great idea for a game: Murder or Not? Basically, you’re given a brief synopsis of the beginning of a Lifetime movie and you have to correctly predict whether or not it ends in murder. You can’t play it if you’ve already seen the movie and no Googling or any other funny business.

Ready to play?

Murder or Not?

A young woman in a blue-collar community dreams of a better life, but is held back by her domineering mother. The young woman falls in love with a local boy who is unable to hold down a steady job. When the woman, her new husband, and her mother all move into the same house, tensions flare.

Leave your guess as a comment and include your predicted murderer and murderee, if applicable. I’ll reveal the correct answer in my next post. Winners receive bragging rights (only, sorry!)