Dolly Parton brings us a series of made-for-tv movies that are themed around Dolly Parton having written some amazing songs.
Basically, Dolly Parton introduces a movie and talks about the song that inspired it, usually with funny asides, then the movie plays and it’s typically set up like a Hallmark film. There are a handful of B-List celebrities in each episode and there’s usually a musical number or sequence, often performed by or with Dolly herself.
My father is obsessed with Hallmark Christmas films and, because of that, I have sat through an innumerable parade of bad acting featuring B- and C-Listers and the occasional A-Lister who needs money to buy a pony for their child. My mother used to watch a lot of Lifetime movies, which means that I’ve watched a lot of strong women find out that the real solution to their work troubles are in a man’s pants or that the abusive husband they’ve been putting up with is, in fact, an abusive monster and they’re better off on their own. All of these films are generally formulaic, filled with terrible dialogue, and no apparent second takes. However, because I love my parents and sat with them through these films, I also have a soft spot for those ridiculous made-for-TV monstrosities. Fortunately, these are all quite a step up from those, but they still bear the *ahem* hallmarks of the genre.
Dolly Parton introduces the films, which usually includes an explanation of what the song is and where she got the inspiration from. My favorite was “Jolene,” which apparently was a name she liked from a fan, and the idea of the character of Jolene was based on a bank teller her husband flirted with. The story that is presented definitely isn’t what you would think, but it could still reasonably be the basis for the song. That’s pretty much how all of them are, although, if you don’t like Jolene, you probably won’t like the others. The endings aren’t all as happy as Hallmark prefers, but still happier than Lifetime prefers.
It also has awesome background music, because no matter who you are, you probably secretly love Dolly Parton’s songs. Hell, you might not know what they all are, since she’s written over 3,000 of them (no, that’s not a typo), and a lot of them were performed more famously by other artists. Did you remember she wrote the song from Transamerica? She got death threats over writing a song supporting trans women, which is amazing for someone in the country genre.
Overall, just a solid show. If you like made-for-TV films either ironically or sincerely, this show’s gonna work for you. If you like Dolly Parton, it’ll work for you better. That said, the episodes are wildly inconsistent, so pick your poison carefully.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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