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James Hibberd

March of the Critics

July 13, 2006 12:36 PM

“The penguins are coming! The penguins are coming!” shouted an excited TV critic.

But, alas, the penguins were not coming … Yet. False alarm. More than a hundred critics were gathered at Hallmark Channel’s TCA pool party waiting for two penguins from Sea World to make their appearance.The penguins were supposed to be on hand to promote Hallmark’s rather improbable acquisition of the hit documentary “March of the Penguins.”Hallmark, the channel best known for warmly lit septuagenarian movies that was recently up for sale, spent unspecified millions to acquire “March” and now is making damn sure everybody knows they have it.

At the party, the movie was projected on a large screen, faux icebergs floated in the pool, DVDs of the movie were handed out and, yes, there were live penguins.

But wait! First, a clip reel. Critics groan – where are the penguins? Instead, Hallmark Channel screened a promotional video of scenes from their upcoming programming.The reel went like this: Old people, old people, penguins, old people, old people, penguins. The reel concluded. And then, a speech.

Programming head David Kenin took the microphone, talked about the channel’s original movie efforts and thanked every Hallmark Channel celebrity on hand. Critics listened politely and munched on their buffet items.One wondered: Is it appropriate or inappropriate to eat seafood at a party celebrating penguins? Really, you can argue this either way.

Kenin finished. And then, finally, the march of the flightless waterfowl.The penguins entered to the tune of “Ice, Ice Baby” — which tells you everything you need to know about how Hallmark Channel throws a party. Sea World handlers put the penguins on a raised platform and critics rushed past the likes of Dick Van Dyke and Steve Guttenberg to get their photo taken with the birds.


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