A quaint little town with a welcoming climate, charming log-frame cabins and cabins, expansive panoramic views of the mountains, and neighbors who know everyone’s business. With this scenario, it was only a matter of time before “Virgin River” joined the stampede of Christmas programming that crowds the last months of the year.
And that time is now.
Based on the series of 24 novels by author Robyn Carr, Netflix’s wholesome romantic drama follows the journey of Mel (Alexandra Breckenridge), a widowed nurse who moves from Los Angeles to the remote town of Virgin River to start a new job. and restart your life. life. As she adjusts to small-town life and becomes familiar with her neighbors, she falls in love with Jack (Martin Henderson), a military veteran and owner of the local watering hole. The show returns on November 30 to close its fifth season with two Christmas episodes. (The first part of the season consisted of 10 episodes that premiered last month.) It is the series’ first attempt at celebrating Christmas.
‘Tis the season for much more than gift exchanges, cocktails and cozy sweaters: The holidays bring with them a bumper crop of movies and TV shows, and The Times is here as your guide. Through Sunday, we’ll be covering the key titles to watch this season, from the latest Oscar contenders and acclaimed TV dramas to new and old Christmas classics. Hot chocolate sold separately.
Dismiss them all you want, but sappy Christmas movies are a booming business that continues to grow every year. And Christmas-themed television episodes are a time-honored tradition, although they are in short supply this year due to the double labor strike that shut down Hollywood for months. The idea of bringing Christmas greetings to the small fictional town of Virgin River had been floating around for some time, partly fueled by the fact that Carr wrote several Christmas installments in the book series.
“It was an idea that had been floating around for a couple of seasons, but hadn’t really come to fruition,” said executive producer and showrunner Patrick Sean Smith. “But it also feels like a natural extension of the show, given its feel-good sensibility and all those things you want for the holidays that the show manages to do year-round.”
The new episodes are not a standalone installment taken from Carr’s Christmas books. Smith and the show’s writers opted to introduce a jump in time, from Labor Day to Christmas, for the first time and continue pulling on the plot threads of season 5. For the show where time moves slowly but the drama doesn’t… one character, Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley), has been pregnant for several seasons; Smith felt the narrative device was well-earned after a season that included a devastating wildfire, an undercover operation to catch a major drug supplier, and Mel’s miscarriage.
Part 1 of the picturesque drama’s fifth season left viewers with as many cliffhangers as the mountainous backdrop could handle: The father of Charmaine’s twins was revealed to be bad guy Calvin (David Cubitt). But will he finally give birth? The baby talk didn’t end there because Lizzie (Sarah Dugdale) revealed that she is pregnant.
And then there’s Brady (Ben Hollingsworth), who is unknowingly being scammed by his new girlfriend. But the final moments of the season dropped a new bombshell: Mel’s sister, Joey (Jenny Cooper), called to say she found a hidden stack of postcards that seemed to suggest their mother had an affair with a man in Virgin River and that that mysterious man could very well be Mel’s father.
“It was as close to the ending of a Marvel movie as you could get with a kind of Easter egg scene,” Smith said. “But one that pushes you to experience ‘Virgin River’ on vacation and see what it looks like and what it feels like, and draws you there with a cliffhanger.”
“We were originally thinking about pitching it as a Christmas movie,” Smith continued, “but because there’s so much fluidity between the cliffhanger episodes and the show is so serialized, we knew we wanted to answer some of the questions.” it’s from the season. So, it felt substantial and it wasn’t just only good Christmas fun, that’s still there, but we wanted to give the audience some answers… Mel and Jack spend the first half together on this task of finding their biological father, which somehow evolves into this treasure hunt on Virgin “River.”
Smith said he wanted the episodes to have a lighter tone after the heaviness of the season’s first 10 episodes: “Martin has a scene where he’s eating peppermint bark…he ate about 10 pounds.” For Smith, figuring out how to give “Virgin River” a Christmas feel meant thinking about what he would like to see in a promotional trailer.
“Tons of decorated Christmas trees, Muriel. [Teryl Rothery] dancing in a Christmas performance,” Smith said. “There’s always some event the town puts on, so it was pretty easy to consider what the annual competition would be that we could put Doc and Hope in and see them be competitive. “It was a bit of a visual wish fulfillment of what I would like to see that still felt within the parameters of the show.”
Virgin River takes vacations seriously. There’s an ice skating rink, Santa’s Village, a Christmas tree decorating contest, a Christmas market, and a playhouse where a Christmas musical takes place in the city. The biggest question that needed answering, Smith said, was whether he wanted it to look like a Hallmark movie.
“I wanted it to feel like Virgin River perfection,” he said. “I wanted her to be faithful to the characters but for her to still have that idyllic and aspirational part. We have to have hot chocolate, we have to have mulled wine, we have to have the lights, the mountains covered in snow and the fires lit. “It’s not that exaggerated.”
Because when there is hundreds of shows capturing the holiday spirit on Hallmark, Lifetime, Netflix and other networks and platforms, may start to feel a little like painting by numbers.
“We achieved the complete opposite of a simple Christmas,” said Mecca Thornhill, the show’s assistant set decorator. “There are all these really amazing layers to each character. We didn’t go to the same store or decorate the same houses over and over again. Many of us have done Christmas shows before. “I made a famous Christmas movie many years ago.”
Hope and Doc’s house is full of kitsch and vintage pieces. Brie’s modern space is more minimalist, with a muted color palette. At Doc’s medical practice, the vibe was “one that she would have kept in a closet for years and years and years like it was nothing,” Thornhill said.
Work to purchase holiday décor began in September 2022. An additional buyer was hired to dedicate her full time to sourcing holiday items until Thornhill and her team’s schedule allowed more time to delve into preparation before the holiday began. filming. (They had been in the middle of filming the season’s other big event: the Labor Day carnival.)
“It was very difficult to change the subject,” he said. “Christmas is made up of a million little things; You have to get layers and layers and layers to make all the decorations come to life during the holidays.”
But the moment was also a Christmas miracle, Thornhill said. “I think the Christmas decorations start coming out, I’m not kidding, on September 30, earlier every year. We went to a lot of wholesalers in town, but they didn’t really have a lot of products because they were dedicated to some of the retail stores.”
As a result, Thornhill and her team sourced some of their holiday decor from rentals for local events, online retailers, thrift stores, as well as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. And when his team couldn’t find something, they did, like the giant Santa hat that tops the bear statue at Jack’s bar: “It’s hard to find a really giant Santa hat, so I asked one of my dressers to make one with a pompom decoration; There are all these little details everywhere.”
Thornhill’s favorite finds include the antique teardrop-shaped glass ornaments seen on Hope’s tree, which were found in Marketplace, and a small log cabin that is almost an exact replica of Mel’s hanging from her tree.
But for all the Christmas cheer viewers can get from the episodes, Smith said they shouldn’t expect more in the upcoming sixth season.
“It seems like we really embraced it and explored it as much as we could, which I don’t know if it’s something we can do again,” he said. “But if we could have Thanksgiving episodes or Halloween episodes, something beyond the Christmas holidays, then I think that could be an opportunity.”
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