Jeff & Will celebrate Christmas in July with a special recap discussion of one of their favorite holiday films, The Christmas Setup. This Lifetime Original from December 2020 was the first holiday movie on an American cable network to feature a gay romance as the main storyline. As with all recaps, there are spoilers along the way so keep that in mind if you haven’t seen this movie.
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- The Christmas Setup Movie Recap
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Jeff: Coming up on this episode, it may be July 4th but we’re celebrating Christmas in July as we discuss the Lifetime movie, “The Christmas Setup.”
Will: Welcome to episode 389 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will, and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance reader. It’s great to have you here with us for another episode of the podcast.
Will: For those of you who have been listening to the podcast for any length of time, I don’t think it’s any secret that Jeff and I, you know, kind of, sort of, enjoy the holidays, especially when it comes to Christmas movies. Honestly, I think maybe we should be concerned with how much we watch in the months of October, November, and December.
Jeff: And even eeking into January. I mean, this year we had so many stocked up on the DVR that we were watching Christmas well into January. And I have to admit, I’m super excited because Hallmark Movies and Mystery channel started running holiday films on June 23rd this year leading into Christmas in July, and then the main Hallmark Channel’s doing it all through July.
You’ll just find me parked in front of the TV as much as possible, enjoying all this lovely holiday-ness in the middle of summer.
The Christmas Setup Movie Recap
Will: So Jeff and I decided that now would be the perfect time to take a closer look at one of our personal holiday favorites, “The Christmas Setup,” which was the first made for TV Christmas movie to air on an American cable network that featured a same sex couple as its main characters.
Hooray for representation. Am I right?
Jeff: Absolutely. It was so amazing to see two guys front and center in a movie. It had been teased in some other movies. We’d see some side characters that had boyfriends, but they were way off in the background. And here it was front and center. Thank you, Lifetime for bringing this to everybody’s TV screens.
Will: So we loved “The Christmas Setup” and it’s safe to say we loved it even more as we rewatched it for this special recap. So what do you say, should we dive into “The Christmas Setup?”
Jeff: Let’s do it.
Will: Now it first aired in December of 2020 on the Lifetime network. It was directed by Pat Mills and was written by Michael J. Murray who has penned several other feel good Christmas favorites, like “Christmas Tree Lane” and “Christmas Around the Corner,” and that one takes place in a bookstore so, you know, that’s a personal favorite of mine.
Jeff: Mine too. I could watch that every Christmas season.
Will: And if “The Christmas Setup” could be called 2020’s gay Christmas movie, Michael J. Murray also wrote 2021’s lesbian Christmas movie, “Under the Christmas Tree,” which also premiered on Lifetime.
Jeff: “Under the Christmas Tree” was an absolute delight. If you missed it, it definitely needs to be on your holiday to watch list.
Will: So the main character of our story is Hugo. And he is played by Ben Lewis, an actor who has had a lot of TV credits, “Degrassi Next Generation” and “Arrow” among them. Hugo’s main love interest in the movie, Patrick, is played by Blake Lee, who just so happens to be Ben’s husband in real life. And like his hubby, Blake has a lot of TV credits, appearances that include the most recent season of “Cruel Summer,” which is currently airing on Freeform and Hulu.
Hugo’s mom, Kate is played by none other than Fran Drescher. And if you don’t know who that is, I mean, what have you been living under a rock for the last 30 years? Fran has been in the biz for a very long time. Her first screen credit happens to be 1977’s “Saturday Night Fever.” She has a very brief scene where she asks Tony Minero to dance.
Jeff: I don’t even remember that.
Will: It’s really hilarious because it’s like, what’s The Nanny doing there. But, actually the timeline makes perfect sense. Of course, of course, The Nanny was dancing the night away.
Jeff: Well, absolutely. She would have been.
Will: So funny.
Jeff: Now I need to go back and watch that movie cause I don’t remember that scene at all.
Will: Now there were numerous other film and TV credits that followed, but her big breakout role came in 1993 with the TV show “The Nanny,” where her big personality and distinctive voice, not to mention that laugh, left a lasting impression on audiences for six seasons and 145 episodes.It was amazing to see her on screen again in this movie.
But enough talk about behind the scenes, let’s take a deep dive into why “The Christmas Setup” might become our new holiday must watch tradition.
Okay, so our story opens in the big city. What specific big city, isn’t really the point because we’re not going to be spending much story time there, but in this particular case, the big city is New York and we see lots of B roll. Everything is sparkly and christmassy.
Jeff: You got your Empire State Building and the red and the green.
Will: Of course you do.
Jeff: You can’t have a Christmas movie that opens in New York, without that. I will say this particular movie kept it a little light. We didn’t see Radio City. You got a fly over of Rockefeller Center and the skating rink and stuff. But this one left the establishing shots very quickly to get us right into the action of the movie.
Will: Hugo, our main character. He is at work, at his office. It is late and he is chatting with his best friend, Madeline, on FaceTime.
So I know we’ve just dived in, but I got to take a second to talk about why is everyone in these movies always on FaceTime?
Jeff: Because it’s a movie and we want you to see the other actor.
Will: I mean realistically, I sure as hell never talked to anybody on the phone and I sure as hell am not randomly FaceTiming people I know.
Jeff: I know, I’m the same way. The only time I FaceTime anybody is if I’m on a business trip and I’m calling you because it’s nice to see you when I’m away. But like random friends and other things I don’t know. It’s a nice movie device though, because they even have parents FaceTiming in a lot of these movies to see their kids.
Will: So not only are Hugo and Madeline FaceTiming, he’s doing it on his laptop, which is like, I don’t even know what to say to that.
Will: Granted, I completely understand texting is not very cinematic and I know why they’re doing it. They just need to establish some story and plot and character real quick and FaceTiming with someone is a great way to do it.
So Hugo is worried about an upcoming performance review. She says not to worry. He’s got this in the bag and she’ll see him afterwards. They plan to go skating.
So at the meeting, his boss thinks he’s swell. But when Hugo asks about the partnership position, he’s not really the guy they’re looking for. Hugo says that he has put in a ton of time here. His work ethic is unparalleled, and if he isn’t offered the partnership position, then he will be going somewhere else in the new year.
Jeff: It’s very interesting to watch Hugo here and it sets him up in an interesting way because what you just said makes it sound like that Hugo is this go get ’em, forthright, I want this and you’re going to give it to me. But yet he’s scared to do this. And you can kind of tell that he is scared to do this.
He’s putting himself forward. He’s speaking for what he wants, but yet he’s terrified to do it. And it’s really an interesting dichotomy here that gives us right here in these opening minutes of view, into who Hugo is. And I just loved it. And I cheered for him when he stood up to that big, bad boss man about this.
Will: Yeah exactly. An ultimatum wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but Hugo is freaking out just a little bit. But Madeline is very proud of him and is glad that he understands his own worth.
Jeff: Uh-huh. I am sad that we didn’t get to go skating. I understand why we didn’t because it’s not relevant, but like, did they go to Bryant Park or did they go to Rockefeller Center? I wanted these details as a former person who skated in the city of New York.
Will: Madeline is played by actress, Ellen Wong. I think she’s adorable and she’s funny and she’s got real chemistry with Ben Lewis. It just feels like they’ve been friends forever.
Jeff: It really does. Yeah. The chemistry in this movie, I’ll just say, now I will dig more into it. The chemistry across all these characters is really superior they cast the right people. It was a really, really well cast movie.
Will: The two of them talk about their upcoming Christmas plans. And this year, Madeline is foregoing her family’s traditional vacation in The Bahamas.
Jeff: As one does.
Will: It’s like sure, Madeline, you do you.
And she decides that she’s going to be staying in the city, but Hugo suggests that she come with him, back to Milwaukee for a real old fashioned Christmas.
Jeff: Milwaukee in the winter. Bahamas. I don’t know. I guess The Bahamas would get old if you did it all the time.
Will: They call his mom, Kate, who is of course thrilled. And in Milwaukee, upon Hugo and Maddie’s arrival, Kate immediately feeds them. And while making them pancakes, we get the low down on Hugo’s brother, Aiden. He is in the service and will be home in a few days.
Hugo’s dad is no longer with us, but Kate keeps busy with various neighborhood projects chief among them. This will be her last year as chairwoman of the Christmas festival, and she’s going out with a bang. There are going to be two whole weeks jam packed with festivities. Projects Hugo and Maddie will of course be helping with.
Jeff: Their names are on the calendar in the kitchen. One of the biggest kitchen calendars I’ve ever seen. You could practically read it from across the room on camera. It’s impressive.
Will: While Kate and Maddie go shopping, Hugo stays at home, working on a to do list his mother has given him. But he’s also waiting for the Christmas tree delivery. And when it arrives, Hugo is quite flustered to see the delivery man is Patrick, obviously someone from his past.
They wrangle the enormous fir tree into the house. And Patrick is all like, I’m not sure if you remember me and Hugo’s all trying to play it cool. It’s not really working, but he’s like, yeah, I think so.
Jeff: It didn’t work at all. Hugo doesn’t do flustered well, so it didn’t play like he wanted it to at all. It didn’t play into his favor that he also was flustered before he was ever at the door, because on the way to the door he managed to fall down the stairs a little bit too, which was obviously, you know, something that Patrick could hear on the other side of the door.
I feel like Patrick does his best to make him feel at ease. There’s a sparkle in Patrick’s eyes from the very first time that we see him. He just sparkles with like this comfy, warm, just general overall demeanor that I just loved from the very first time he walks on the screen.
Will: We learned that Patrick was a few years ahead of Hugo in school, and he’s always had a little bit of a thing for him. He says he likes Hugo’s tool belt. And then he takes off.
When Maddie gets back from shopping, Hugo gets out his high school yearbook and tells her all about his tree delivery encounter with dream boat Patrick, a guy he has always had a crush on.
Good thing he just happened to have left his work gloves behind because now they have a reason to go see him again.
Jeff: It was very interesting things that we learned about Patrick here. We know he was an athlete. We know that he was out in high school and popular, and that was something that Hugo admired at the time. But it also sets up for, like, some of that, I think, what has translated into Patrick’s kind of quiet confidence that he’s got now, which I think lends itself to that kind of energy that I spoke about when he came into the home delivering the tree a little bit to. Patrick knows exactly who he is, and I think that just infuses him with that energy that worked so well in this movie.
Will: That night as our two friends walk through town, they pass the old train station and Hugo explains how Edgar Carroll, a town founder, and the guy who built the station long ago, created the tradition of townsfolk coming to the train station on Christmas Eve and writing out their Christmas wish list. They then gather them all in a mailbag for the last train to the North Pole. But there is a posted sign. The train station is going to be demolished in the new year.
Jeff: And here’s our big plot point for the movie. We must save the train station.
I’m fascinated by this movie and how it treats its location. We know we’re in Milwaukee, which is not a small town. And it’s not a big town. We’re not, it’s not like Chicago or New York or something, but Milwaukee, I would say is probably at least a mid-sized town. But here it’s treated very much as a small town because we’re in this neighborhood.
We might even be at a suburb, not 100% clear. We’re never in what I would probably think is downtown Milwaukee, but they’ve put the trappings of small town romance, a small town Christmas romance in what is this mid-size town I think by focusing on this particular neighborhood and their association and this neighborhood holiday gathering. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition of larger town, smaller town in this one area.
Will: At the tree lot, Hugo and Maddie give Patrick back his gloves and he is a little bit perplexed at how chummy and couple-y Hugo and Maddie are. And the lot is very busy, which is good because all of the proceeds go to Patrick’s charitable organization. Huh? That’s an unexpected development.
It seems before moving back to town, Patrick made it big in the tech industry. He created a very popular app, sold it, and now has a foundation that helps local businesses and the community. Something Kate has been a big part of.
Jeff: Our sweet tech mogul. He’s very cute about his app too. I believe it’s called Cassandra. He described it as like a magic eight ball. It takes in all this data and then it helps you figure out stuff. But the idea of this magic eight ball app, I was intrigued by, and he’s so cute about his app as the movie proceeds in some ways. It’s just adorable. Even though it’s not his anymore, he’s still like very into it.
Will: The next morning, Kate is busy setting up the Santa’s breakfast. They’ll be hosting at the house this year. There’ll be wreath classes and tons of stuff to do. Hugo asks about the train station, and she explains they protested, done just about everything, but to no avail, Patrick and his dad drop off an order from the flower market. And Patrick introduces Hugo and Maddie to his dad as husband and wife.
Everyone has a good laugh over this. They correct Patrick’s mistaken assumption. Hugo is way gay and he and Maddie are old friends.
Jeff: I was surprised that Patrick took that big leap. Yes. When they met at the tree lot, the previous day, Maddie was a little just hanging on to Hugo. Which I thought was a little bit weird, but whatever, they’re very close friends. But, you know, look for a ring or at least go to this is, you know, his girlfriend. But to leap right to wife, that was a big assumption, which was totally wrong of course, but still.
Will: Patrick invites him to the tree lot after it closes so they can have what he guarantees will be the best cup of hot cocoa Hugo has ever tasted.
And this is where we hit the 20 minute mark, the first commercial break in “The Christmas Setup.” And so far, I think they’ve done an excellent job setting up everything that we need to know about what to expect for the rest of the movie. We’ve been introduced to all of our main characters, we’ve had an incredibly adorable cute meet, we’ve established that we have to save the train station. And we got the promise of an adorable first date.
Jeff: Yeah, they really set up all of the stuff here, so very well. It’s exactly what I want to see in those first 20 minutes that pre commercial break. I want it all set up. I want to see everything that’s about to happen. I mean, the only missing piece at this point is getting Hugo’s brother home. And I think that happens right after the commercial break, practically. Aiden shows up for his holiday time. But they’ve really done an extraordinary job. We even have all kinds of backstory on all these characters already to. It’s a very tightly written, well thought out script.
Will: Hugo arrives at the appointed time for their date. But Patrick is off on a Christmas tree delivery. Hugo grabs a beverage from the hot cocoa cart and it is indeed damn tasty. But by the time Patrick gets back, Hugo is no longer feeling it. It seems that they are destined to just be two ships passing in the night.
The next day, while going through some Christmas light strands in the garage, Kate asked Hugo how things went with Patrick. And the fact is it never went anywhere. But who should show up at that particular moment? Patrick, apologizing for the previous night. And he would still like to try it.
Jeff: I really like Kate and I don’t often like the meddling mom character, because sometimes it can be a bit much. And even Fran Drescher, who tends to go over the top occasionally and does so in appropriate ways in this movie, really plays the mom trying to set up her son. I think really to the best way possible.
She wants Hugo happy. She wants him with the right person. She recognizes that can be Patrick. No doubt, because of the amount that her and Patrick have worked together on community events. She does a lot of things in this movie, but she in particular plays this thing of the sort of meddling set up mom really well.
Will: Kate, seeing an opening, asked Patrick to assist Hugo with adding a few more strands of lights to the roof line. That is if he doesn’t mind.
Jeff: Meddle, meddle, meddle, meddle, meddle.
Will: Right? So up on the rooftop they go. And since the date that they didn’t have was a bust, this is a perfect moment in the getting to know you phase of our hero’s journey towards love.
They’re able to joke about Hugo growing up to be a lawyer, ugh, a lawyer. Insert joke here. Before he accidentally knocks over the ladder, stranding them. Though not for too long because it is time for the Christmas crafting montage. Along with kids and a bunch of neighborhood families, they make Christmas wreathes. But, oh no, Santa’s sciatica is acting up. Wouldn’t you know it. So Kate enlist Hugo to play St. Nick for all the girls and boys.
And he does a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” during story time. Afterward as Hugo and Patrick are cleaning up the festivities, Patrick asks Hugo if he wants to try hanging out again. He knows Hugo will only be in town for another week and might not want to put himself out there. But Hugo, says, yes anyway.
Jeff: Every good Christmas movie has a montage. This one played its montage perfectly. Poor Hugo, he gets drug up in front of people so many times in this movie and he doesn’t really like the spotlight in that way at all. But he always comes through perfectly when it comes time to read or to do some of the things that he has to do later in the movie.
Will: While helping Hugo get ready for date night round two, Maddie offers some advice to the lovelorn, meaning Hugo. In a Christmas buffet analogy, she explains that some guys are just side dishes or desserts with empty calories. Patrick is a main dish, a total Turkey dinner.
At the tree lot, Patrick has gone all out. Underneath the twinkle lights he set up a holiday picnic with Hugo’s favorite foods. They talk about the past how Hugo admired Patrick for being out in high school, and how career has taken them on different paths, and how Patrick is glad to be back. There’s a queer youth center now. And a thriving drag community. Patrick is happy to be in Milwaukee, making things better for the next generation.
Jeff: This scene illustrates one of my favorite things about my favorite trope of second chance romance, because they’ve got this bit of shared history. In this case, they’re talking about these favorite sandwiches that they’ve got and yes, Hugo remembers working at the sandwich shop where Patrick always used to come in and yes, he remembers Patrick’s favorite sandwich and Patrick remembers his. And it’s this really sweet reconnection sharing of their history, and then we get to, you know, talk about the gaps that they have go. Hugo being the attorney. Patrick being the tech maven. It’s just really nice as essentially, first date redo kind of happens. This was, was really, really nice. And just so sweet under the twinkle lights of the tree lot.
Will: Talk of the past and future, sends Hugo out to his dad’s old woodshop where he repairs a chair that was part of a dining set that they made once a long time ago. Kate is thrilled to see the set returned to its former glory and asks how the date went. Hugo reminds her that he’s not 16 and doesn’t need her meddling in his love life. That’s not going to stop her, but.
Jeff: Like I said, this is not an annoying trait like it can be in some movies. Somehow, Fran Drescher skates a fine line. Her performance here is that it’s more loving than anything else.
Will: Hugo’s older brother, Aiden, arrives home from the Air Force and Maddie notices that he is fine.
Aiden is played by actor Chad Connell, and he is tall and handsome and Canadian. And if you’ve watched any Christmas movie ever, you know exactly the type of guy I’m talking about. But there is no rest for the weary. There are enough Christmas themed activities for the whole family, including caroling to which Kate has invited Patrick.
Before going out, Kate insists everyone get in the spirit by putting on an old-timey hat. And Hugo is none too thrilled about the stove pipe top hat that he has to wear. But Patrick assures him that he looks adorable, which he kind of does.
Jeff: Yeah, they all do.
Will: In the middle of fa la la-ing, Hugo receives a phone call. It’s his boss with the news that they will indeed be making him partner and that means he’ll be spearheading the new London office,
While decorating the train station for the big Christmas Eve party, Hugo pulls Maddie aside and tells her about the promotion. Patrick drops off Kate’s Christmas tree order and she keeps finding projects for her children to do Hugo with Patrick, Aiden with Maddie. It is not subtle, but she is getting the job done.
I was never really sure how much she was actually meddling with Maddie and Aiden, or if she caught that initial spark and just kinda rolled with it. I don’t think it was in her Christmas plan to do that, but that maybe it was just like, oh, look, I saw how you looked at each other. Let me work on that too. It’s still super cute though, because Maddie and Aiden are cute together.
While decorating the tree. Patrick asked if Hugo would ever consider moving back to Milwaukee. And he admits that he’s considering some changes and whether those involve London or Patrick, that has yet to be determined.
They go upstairs to explore Edgar Carroll’s office, which remains as he left it—part memorial part time capsule. They peruse old ledgers and photo albums and find that Edgar left the bulk of his estate to someone named Ashby. Photos show the two of them traveled the world together.
Newly inspired by the love story of the man who was such an important part of the town’s history, Hugo takes it upon himself to search through historical documents in Carroll’s office to find a way to save the train station.
Jeff: So here’s one of the areas I think that the script of this movie does an amazing job of keeping everything together so you’re not going. “Hmm. Why would he do that?” Way back in the first scene when Hugo is hanging out with his boss, finding out that maybe he’s not going to get the partnership initially, one of the things that comes out right there, almost a throwaway line, is that he was the only attorney who found a certain tax loophole that really helped a client save their business, blah, blah, blah. And so here we are setting Patrick up to be the person who’s going to find the magic thing to solve the train station problem.
There are so many movies where this would not have been set up so well in the beginning to now pay itself off here in the middle. It probably just would have happened that, oh, look, I found this thing. Aren’t I awesome. Here, they’ve set Hugo up to be that person and we don’t have to go like, well, why him?
Will: Hugo and Patrick share an almost kiss. Which is a reliable Christmas movie cliche, but what’s better than an almost kiss. How about a date to see the Northern Lights? In the back of Patrick’s pickup truck they nerd out on various topics; Encyclopedia Brown among them. And when the glow of the lights appear in the night sky, they share their first real kiss.
Jeff: It’s so cute, and I love the nerd out and I love even how Hugo picks on Patrick because Cassandra called Patrick to tell him that the Northern Lights were going to happen cause he had it programmed to sort out when everything was going to be just right atmospherically to do that. Because you know what? The Northern Lights really don’t show up in Milwaukee all that often because of how far south they are. So they set it up really well to give them that Northern Lights moment. Just a really well done scene there gives you all the awwws.
Will: So if all this weren’t enough to keep him busy. Hugo is now working on a project for his mom in his dad’s workshop, and is busy researching the deed to the train station. He mentioned Edgar Carroll’s traveling companion to his mom, who once met him long ago. She thinks the Christmas Eve tradition was started because Carroll just wanted to make the world a better place. And what better time to manifest your wishes, then at Christmas.
Jeff: Which of course connects to what Patrick wants to do about making the world a better place.
Will: During a rambunctious Christmas family game night, a final question pits brother against brother. And Aiden is the one who knows that Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” while living in London and Maddie mistakenly lets slip that that’s where Hugo was moving.
Jeff: Never tell anybody, even your best friend, the information that you don’t want to have slip out.
Will: Kate handles news of this new job opportunity in stride. And Patrick says, he’s happy for Hugo, though he’s not particularly convincing. Hugo explains that he’s kind of scared and not quite sure about the job. Patrick reassures him that it’s okay not knowing what’s exactly around the corner and that they should just enjoy what time together that they have left.
As Kate is putting the finishing touches on the train station, Hugo delivers the good news that the deed on file with the city and Edgar Carroll’s papers don’t match up. There is a very good possibility that they can stop the demolition.
Jeff: We would expect nothing less because we must save the train station.
Will: So I have a question, what’s more festive than a holiday drag performance at an underground lounge in Milwaukee?
Jeff: Well, not very much, cause that was a pretty spectacular thing. I think it was the most festive thing ever. An underground drag performance.
Will: The gang gets together for a fun night out. Hugo delivers the progress that he’s made on the train station. And Patrick knew he would come through and he likes having him around and wishes that he didn’t have to go. There is work that he could do here.
Gladys Claus, the hostess of the evening, opens up the mic and Hugo reluctantly steps on stage for a shaky rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Jeff: It wasn’t that bad! Sure, there were some notes that he had issues with. Frankly, I think I would have had to give Patrick a stern talking to since it was already established back at the caroling that Hugo really just kind of likes to mouth along and not sing. But it turns out Hugo’s not that bad of a singer for open mic night at the drag club. I questioned his choice of song in that it was, you know, it’s one of the more sadder Christmas songs that one could pick.
Will: At first Patrick seems taken by Hugo’s attempt at Christmas cheer, but clearly the lyrics of the song, about wanting something that you can’t exactly have, have him rethinking a few things. He gets up to leave and Hugo follows him. Outside, Patrick says there really is no way that the two of them are going to work. He wishes him the best of luck in London and hopes that he has a Merry Christmas.
Jeff: Patrick’s just wrong. He says he’s making this choice because he’s a numbers guy and he’s run the numbers and it’s not gonna work. He’s wrong. His algorithm’s messed up. He just doesn’t know it yet.
Will: And not to rub salt in any wounds, but Maddie decides to stay in Milwaukee with Aiden through the new year. At least one love matches worked out.
While returning some paperwork to the train station office, Hugo gets a closer look at a photo of Edgar Carroll and Ashby, handwritten and signed by Carroll himself. That night at the big Christmas Eve party, Hugo unveils the project he’s been working on to his mom. It’s a miniature replica of their neighborhood, their house, and the train station included.
Jeff: It’s so cute. I don’t know how he had the time to do all that, frankly. I mean, you mentioned everything that he would take it on here on top of the stuff that Kate already had them doing for Christmas, he’s made a ton of stuff. Now, granted, his father had started this project, but from what we’ve seen, that looks like Hugo really undertook a lot of the work to finish it off and create some more of the buildings. But it’s so sweet and so cute.
And frankly, even at this moment, as if you didn’t know the happily ever after was coming, the fact that he’s done this, I think was already cementing him alongside working on the train station that he was going to stay in Milwaukee anyway. But there’s still more good stuff to come.
Will: As MC for the evening, Kate calls Hugo up to the microphone and he speaks to the tradition, started by Edgar Carroll a hundred years ago, and how they should all be proud of the community that they’re all a part of. And how he himself is proud to call this place home.
Patrick walks in during his speech and hears this last part and he’s all like home, huh? Hugo shows Patrick the picture of Edgar and Ashby and says anything worth having is worth fighting for. And he really wants this thing between them to work. Patrick doesn’t need to write a letter to Santa Claus because he’s gotten everything that he’s wished for.
Perfect Christmas snow begins to fall. The North Pole Express pulls up to the station and as the letters to Santa are loaded on board, our heroes wish each other a happy holiday and share a sweet Christmas Eve kiss. A wonderfully perfect beginning to their happily ever after.
Jeff: And that kiss is captured by Kate in a picture, which is a nice kind of throwback to the picture that they had of Carroll and Ashby at the train station. Although those two men were not kissing, but still they were kind of holding hands sorta kind of in those pictures.
One of the things I love about this movie, among so many things that I love about this movie, is the tie back to this kind of history thing. And we talk about this a little bit sometimes when we review historicals on the show that, you know, gay people have existed throughout time. They’ve always been able to find their happy, in many cases through time, because they are out there living lives.
And this was such a nice way to put a little bit of historical context within this movie showing a snippet of gay life from the 1920s. I really like how they worked it into the movie and just made it part of the history of the town and of the people. It was really sweet.
Will: Yeah. Like Jeff, I’ve loved everything about this movie. It’s sweet. It’s funny. It cranks the Christmas schmaltz up to 11, which I absolutely love . But I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up something that many would consider a flaw. Can we guess what those two things are?
Jeff: Oh, dear. I don’t know that I’m going to guess that.
Will: Well, number one, Hugo never actually said no to the London job. And number two, he never technically, definitively saved the train station.
Jeff: That’s a good point about the train station. I knew that he didn’t say no to London, which I was just like, eh, that’ll happen. But you’re right about the train station. He never definitively solved that with the city. We have to make a couple of assumptions there. So much for my idea of the perfect script .
Will: Like I said, I love this movie. You know, I think “The Christmas Setup” has done a wonderful job of giving our two heroes a happy for now ending.
In regards to the train station when Hugo was going through those papers, Hugo found that Edgar Carroll left the deed to the station to the neighborhood association. Therefore the city can’t demolish a building that it doesn’t actually own. So that does give us some hope.
But when Kate is standing at the microphone at the Christmas Eve party, She mentions that this may be the last time that they ever gather at this beloved location. So I think from a storytelling standpoint, it’s implied that the train station is on its way to being saved but as yet to definitively have been done.
Jeff: That’s a good point. I just assume, much like our heroes, that that will turn out fine because it must. It’s a Christmas movie. Or we could just have a sequel.
Will: Which is an interesting point, especially when it comes to this job opportunity for Hugo. In the love story of Aiden and Maddie, Hugo briefly chats with his brother about making a long distance relationship work because Aiden and Maddie do not live in the same city. And Aiden is like, well, when you know, you know, and they’ve decided to take a chance on love. Which is an interesting parallel for Hugo and Patrick.
Traditionally in a Christmas movie like this, Hugo would have definitively turned down the London job to live his happily ever after in Milwaukee. But this story thread of making long distance relationships work opens up an interesting possibility for our two heroes. Possibilities that could be excellently explored in a sequel.
So I’ve had some time to think about this, and I think the open story threads in “The Christmas Setup” aren’t a flaw. I think there an opportunity, a perfect opportunity for the continuation of Hugo and Patrick’s love story. Do you want to hear my story pitch?
Jeff: Of course.
Will: So my idea for the logical continuation of “The Christmas Setup” would be “The Christmas Proposal” and then after that, we’d get a third movie, “The Christmas Wedding.”
Now, originally I thought that Hugo of course, would make his home in Milwaukee because that’s what you do in a Christmas movie. But I think in a sequel, him going to work in the UK offers up some really interesting story possibilities. Now, to be clear, I do not think the story should be set in London because that’s too expensive for a Christmas TV movie. I do think “The Christmas Proposal” should open in the UK.
Jeff: Get your establishing B roll shots of London.
Jeff: Big Ben, the Eye, Buckingham Palace.
Will: Hugo has had some success in the past year; opening up the new London office. He’s been very successful, but now it is Christmas time and it is time for him to come home to the states and we would then have to come up with a legitimate reason for Hugo to bring one of his London coworkers back home to the U.S. for the holidays.
The details for that particular reason are not important because that coworker needs to be played by Charles Shaughnessy. So that the sequel would give us the “Nanny” reunion that we all need and deserve.
Will: So Charles Shaughnessy would come back to Milwaukee with Hugo and he would realize that Kate was a long ago lost love. Giving him and Fran Drescher an adorable second chance romance story line, while Hugo and Patrick are finding ways to make their long distance relationship work. Ditto for Aiden and Maddie. And, as a backdrop for all this romance, they finally definitively save the train station.
And then best way to follow this particular plot line through to its inevitable happy conclusion, we need a good villain on which to focus our attention. Perhaps that villain could be a city council person who has other plans for the train station. Someone we could set up as a rival against Kate, possibly played by “The Nanny” co-star Lauren Lane. Or if she’s not available one of the kids from the series could come and play Hugo’s old rival from the debate team. Who now wants to see the train station paved over and put up a parking lot.
Jeff: For park-and-ride into the city.
Will: There are plenty of possibilities. All the while our two heroes struggle to find the perfect opportunity to propose to one another.
Jeff: Do we get a double proposal in this?
Will: Why the hell not?
Jeff: Patrick and Hugo need to have their proposal, but also Maddie and Aiden need to have their proposal. We won’t quite get Kate there yet with her new second chance, but those two need to make their proposals. Preferably at the train station.
Will: And this would all of course, eventually lead to a third movie, “The Christmas Wedding,” where Hugo and Patrick tried to get hitched against the backdrop of all of the mad cap festivities that are planned by Kate during the holidays.
Jeff: I would watch all of those movies.
And this is not unheard of. There have been numerous times that we’ve seen these movies spread themselves out over several installments. From Christmas movies to other seasonal thematic movies on the Hallmark Channel. This is not something that’s groundbreaking here. So yes, this should definitely happen to this particular series. And well, it’s not a series yet, but to this particular couple, they need a series of films.
Will: Lifetime, if you’re listening, give me a call.
Jeff: He’s got your story figured out.
All right. So if you want to watch “The Christmas Setup,” you can catch it on demand on the Lifetime website and app, and it is available for rental and purchase on Amazon Prime Video. It’s also available in a DVD collection alongside some other Lifetime original holiday films. So you’ve got multiple ways to check out “The Christmas Setup,” and we highly recommend that you give this delightful movie a try.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. Thank you, Patreon peeps. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. And as always, the show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And if you’d like to keep up to date with the show and recent releases in our genre, check out the Rainbow Romance Reader Report, the weekly dispatch that delivers the latest news right into your inbox every Friday. Go to BigGayFictionPodcast.com/report for more info.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next in episode 390. We’re getting close to another landmark episode, y’all. We’re going to be catching up on what we’ve been reading and watching recently.
Jeff: That’s right. While you’ve been listening to all of the author spotlights and panel discussions of the Big Gay Fiction Fest, we’ve been consuming a whole bunch of media, and we’re gonna tell you all about it next week.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.