The kiss cam at sporting events can be equal parts awkward, romantic, funny and festive. Perhaps that’s why it has now inspired a made-for-TV holiday romantic comedy, a genre that unabashedly embraces all of those traits.
In “Merry Kiss Cam,” which is streaming on Hulu, artist Jess (Katie Lowes) and bartender Danny (Jesse Bradford) meet at the holidays. He takes her to see the local college hockey team, which is stuck in a losing rut. She thinks a Zamboni is “a horn that you blow when someone gets a goal.”
They end up on the video board kiss cam. She seizes the moment to lay one on him. The home team immediately scores and wins the game. Suddenly, they’re known as the “Lucky Lips” couple and the entire town’s collective sports superstition is tied to their coupledom and continued participation on the Kiss Cam.
“The kiss cam is probably my favorite part of a sporting event, since I’m not a jock. Like how I watch the Super Bowl for the halftime show,” said Maya Boudreau, who wrote the film with her husband, Evan D. Watkins.
“I think it brings in a new viewership that might not watch a holiday rom-com,” she said. “You come for the hockey, you stay for the heart of it. And I think that’s great.”
When Boudreau and Watkins were dating in Chicago, the writers went out to the bar at the Four Seasons in Chicago around Christmastime. It had a Chicago Blackhawks game on. They kissed. The Blackhawks promptly scored a goal.
“An old Chicago dude behind us was like, ‘Kiss again, you guys are good luck!’ And we looked at each other and were like, ‘This is a Christmas movie,'” she said. “I’m from Chicago, so I definitely know the neuroses of Cubs fans and Blackhawks fans.”
The couple wrote their script on spec and focused on the Blackhawks but knew NHL involvement “becomes complicated with the licensing and everything,” said Watkins. It ended up being set in Duluth, Minnesota, thanks to that city’s tax incentives for filming. They did another pass on the script, calling the team the “Duluth Snowhawks” before a deal was struck with the University of Minnesota Duluth to center the story around NCAA men’s hockey fandom.
The team in the movie stinks. Minnesota Duluth made the Frozen Four last season. Ah, the magic of movies.
“I’ve seen on Twitter people saying, ‘The Bulldogs are great! Are they crazy?’ But you have to take a little creative license,” Watkins said.
The kiss cam was the perfect vehicle for their good-luck smooch because it’s a public forum.
“Their relationship isn’t just their relationship, it’s their relationship with the larger town. If they become the lucky charm, then there are great stakes in that. If their relationship starts to fizzle, the fans are a driving force behind them,” Watkins said.
The kiss cam has garnered some criticism through the years. Its focus on heterosexual couples has been called out. Teams like the New York Mets have ended the practice of using the kiss cam for anti-gay punchlines. “Merry Kiss Cam” features gay and non-binary fans getting their moment on the video board, something Watkins and Boudreau included in their original script.
“We wanted everyone to be represented, in all types of relationships and stuff,” Watkins said.
The film plays around with other kiss cam machinations. For example, it’s not just seen inside the arena but featured as part of the television broadcast, as fans at Danny’s bar watch the “Lucky Lips” couple during a stoppage in play. But Watkins thinks they could just be ahead of the curve. “All you need is some company to sponsor the kiss cam as a live commercial,” he said.
Hey, if the kiss cam can inspire a holiday rom-com, why not?