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Hallmark teams up with the NFL and Kansas City Chiefs to release a holiday romance


NPR famously considers all things, so we couldn't let this busy news week go by without reporting on a new partnership of sorts.


JOHN REARDON: (As Danny) Do you know anything about football?

EMILY KINNEY: (As Laurel) Let's just say I'm learning.

REARDON: (As Danny) Face mask.

KINNEY: (As Laurel) Oh, face mask.


KURTZLEBEN: Hallmark, whose channel is famous for movies like "Love On The Sidelines," is teaming up with the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs to make a romance. It's called "Holiday Touchdown: A Chiefs Love Story." The Hallmark Channel, of course, has a cult and commercial following for its syrupy sweet, cheesy yet delightful dramas where love always wins. For more, we're calling in our resident Hallmark movie expert, host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Linda Holmes. Hey, Linda.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hello, Danielle. I'm so happy to be here.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, the Kansas City Chiefs - yeah, they made big news this year when they won the Super Bowl, but they're also famous lately for romance - namely between tight end Travis Kelce and pop star Taylor Swift.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, yes.

KURTZLEBEN: So I saw this announcement, and I went, wait a minute. Is this just a cynical brand partnership trying to capitalize on an uber-famous couple? I mean, is that a fair take?

HOLMES: Well, I definitely don't think that they would be interested - Hallmark - in specifically the Kansas City Chiefs if Taylor Swift's romance were not with Travis Kelce. However, Hallmark has been doing a lot of these partnerships. A lot of them are with attractions or places. They've done one that was set in Dollywood. They did one that was set at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. And this always involves, you know, coordinating with tourist folks and things like that. So they do do a lot of partnerships as well as a lot of product placement over the years. They - you used to see a Folgers can in, like, half the Hallmark movies that were ever on. So I think it's a combination of both.

KURTZLEBEN: Would you expect Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce cameos in this?

HOLMES: I would be surprised to see her, but not surprised to see him. I suspect that some Chiefs' player or players will show up. That would be kind of what I would anticipate from a partnership like this.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, a lot of people love Hallmark movies because they're comfortable. They're kind of like comfort food. You know what you're getting. So what we know of the plot of this movie - how does it compare to your standard Hallmark fare?

HOLMES: Well, the idea of the plot is that the head of fan relations - or fan engagement, I guess it is - for the Chiefs meets a young woman who she and her family are up for fan of the year in the fan of the year contest. Because romances like this have structural things in common, they are going to meet. They're going to have conflict. They're going to end up together. That's what the genre is. They are always looking for ways to change up the setting and kind of how the people happen to run into each other.

And I will say, contests are very popular as a way for people to meet. You got cookie-making contests, decorating contests. There was one with an ice sculpture contest. So the contest element is actually very common. It gives a kind of a natural climactic moment also.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, while we were preparing to talk about this movie, you alerted us to this book called "Heavy Hitter," an upcoming novel about - it's a familiar story - a pop star falling in love with a professional athlete. And in looking at that, I ran across a few other books that seem eerily like the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce story. What is it about this couple that they have their own industrial complex?

HOLMES: Yeah, I have read and liked "Heavy Hitter," which is coming out in August. It's from a writer named Katie Cotugno. And other than the fact that he's a baseball player instead of a football player, it's very similar to the Taylor and Travis story. But that's kind of what's interesting about it, right? I think what happens is a writer will see a story like this in real life and think, what if that happened in a way that I can kind of control and explore and think about?

There's also a book that I like from a few years ago that's called "Funny You Should Ask," which is about a woman journalist who meets a hot movie star when she writes a profile of him. They take a liking to each other. That was also inspired by a couple of real magazine profiles. So it's not uncommon for real life to inspire romances. I think that's one of the things writers do. They see something, and it kind of sets the mind imagining different things and variations on whatever the real story is.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, your novel from a couple of years ago, "Evvie Drake Starts Over," is itself a romance about a woman meeting a professional athlete. I'm wondering - speaking of brand partnerships - please tell me, when are you writing the NPR Hallmark Christmas romance of my dreams?

HOLMES: Well, they actually have done a couple that involve podcasts, I think. But I will write that movie starting the day they call me. And I will add - at the risk of being this person - my next book does take place in kind of audio and podcasting world. It's called "Back After This," and it's coming out next year, in February. So, you know, I'm getting on it, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: You're not being that person. I'll happily read it. I think a lot of people will.

HOLMES: (Laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: All right. NPR's Linda Holmes, thank you so much.

HOLMES: Thank you.


TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) There was no chance, trying to be the greatest in the league. Where's the trophy? He just comes running... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.