I don’t have a single bad thing to say about A Recipe For Seduction, the KFC-produced Lifetime Christmas movie starring Mario Lopez as Colonel Harland Sanders. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that A Recipe For Seduction is the best Lifetime Christmas movie I’ve ever seen, because it was only 15 minutes long. This is a groundbreaking achievement in fast food advertising and sappy cinematic efficiency. It’s the sort of thing that Quibi was made for, which makes its demise this past October all the more tragic. Had its executives thought to lock in Lopez, Candace Cameron Bure, and what’s-her-face from Party Of Five for a whole suite of Christmas programming, perhaps it could have survived longer than six months.
If you missed A Recipe For Seduction when it aired this past weekend, it’s available to watch online. If you’re too busy to take 15 minutes out of your day to help support Mario Lopez’s career, you can catch it swirling in your own imagination, because every made-for-TV holiday romance is the exact same movie. The Lifetime movie was as salacious as anything airing at noon on a Sunday could be, but the Recipe For Seduction that exists purely in your mind could feature as much extra crispy chicken as you like. Here’s the framework for you to build your finger lickin’ fantasies around.
Meet Jessica Mancera, a pretty lady who is trapped in an unhappy relationship with Billy, a man whose perfectly folded pocket square indicates that he is filthy rich (and his beige cashmere sweater vest lets you know he’s a douchebag). Outward appearances show that Jessica’s family is also filthy rich, but behind closed doors they harbor a devastating secret: their recently deceased patriarch has left them with a mountain of debt, and they are but weeks away from the bank repossessing their 26-bedroom Versailles-inspired manor house. Jessica doesn’t even like Billy, much less love him, but she’s forced to stay in the relationship by her evil mother, Bunny. Jessica would be all alone in this cruel world if it weren’t for Lee, her closest confidant who’s always there when she needs someone to spill the tea or serve lewks for days.
Bunny hosts a dinner party in the family’s grand dining room with 14-foot ceilings, baroque furnishings, gold-accented walls, and multiple Christmas trees, all of which are upstaged by the meal itself: the tastiest, most succulent fried chicken anyone has ever tasted. Though the family is but weeks from being forced onto the street, Bunny has hired a new chef for the household, a strapping young buck named Harland Sanders. Though we don’t get to see him in person in these opening scenes, we can tell that eating the chicken has awakened a fire inside Jessica, and when Billy proposes at the table, she rebuffs him. Bunny is furious, demanding Jessica accept the proposal so Billy’s money can be used to save the family estate. Unfortunately this gold-digging scheme is torpedoed to hell after Harland Sanders enters the room, positively dripping with raw sexuality and chicken grease.
Though Mario Lopez has never been my type, he is indisputably the kind of guy capable of reducing everyone in the room to a puddle of goo. After Robocop, Lopez’s Colonel is unequivocally the most bangable iteration of the mascot so far. However smitten I might be, though, it doesn’t hold a candle to Jessica, who is immediately willing to let her mother live on the street so she can spend the rest of her life with a chicken man who has dreams of saving the world with his “secret recipe,” which is absolutely not a code name for anything.
Overwhelmed by her feelings, Jessica calls Lee for advice, but he’s on his way to a date with a man he met at the farmers market. As fate would have it, Lee’s date happens to take place at the country club bar where Billy is already having a secret meeting about how to get rid of the hunky cook… with Bunny! Intrigue!
Not only is Jessica’s mother scheming with Billy to oust Harland Sanders—she’s also been committing the ultimate betrayal by sleeping with Billy. She promises Billy that if he marries her daughter, she will put out even more, somehow. Why doesn’t this widow just marry Billy (and his bajillions of dollars) herself? This is a question that couldn’t be adequately explored in the 15-minute run time, so I’m assuming it’s because she murdered her husband and the cook who witnessed it, and a second marriage to her daughter’s boyfriend would arouse too much suspicion. Sexy Harland Sanders could be in serious danger, because Bunny seems like she would have no problem ramming a corkscrew through a man’s jugular if he got on her bad side. Thank heavens Lee is there to send Jessica a concerned text, and thank heavens Bunny and Billy don’t notice his familiar face staring at them wide-eyed while they loudly discuss their various deceptions.
Alas, Jessica never receives the text, because her phone has suspiciously gone missing. Lee is forced to drive to the manor house to confront Bunny directly, and he’s swiftly knocked unconscious by a broomstick to the back of the head.
Bunny drags all 200 pounds of him to the manor’s unfinished basement all by herself; meanwhile, Jessica realizes that she can’t marry her extremely rich boyfriend to save her family (followed by a quickie divorce), because she’s in love with a fried chicken man she’s known for less than 24 hours. They share a passionate kiss, unaware Bunny is watching them from behind a glass door, plotting to destroy their budding love. The next morning Jessica is told that Harland ran away in the middle of the night; to quell her heartbreak, she decides to take a long, pensive stroll through the manor garden, flawlessly manicured by servants who are not sexy enough for either mother or daughter to bang. While standing on one of the garden’s several footbridges, Jessica manages to hear a ruckus coming from behind a service entrance and rushes to investigate, only to find her worst nightmares are coming to life.
Harland Sanders didn’t run away at all—he was abducted by Billy and Bunny, duct-taped to a chair in the cellar, and left there so they could kill him at a later time that was convenient for both their schedules. Jessica tells Billy to let the new love of her life go, but Billy says no, and he’s planning to stab Harland to death after he gives a little speech. Jessica becomes more forceful and says, “STOP, BILLY, STOP,” which does absolutely nothing to prevent Billy from grabbing a giant knife and walking slowly toward his romantic rival. Suddenly, he collapses—Lee has escaped from his duct tape prison and clocked Billy in the head with a broomstick! Broomsticks: 2. Giant Knives: 0.
Fast forward to one year later, when Bunny has been committed to a mental institution where she is not allowed access to broomsticks, duct tape, or any forms of office supplies. While she pays for her crimes, Billy goes free because he’s a rich white man. In a final, chilling scene, Billy visits his deranged lover at the sanitarium to announce that he has, at last, “found them”: Harland and Jessica are wed in a lavish ceremony at the manor, officiated by Lee (obviously) and attended by plenty of guests, none of which are Bunny and Billy who, again, are in a mental institution. A lot can happen in 15 minutes.
A Recipe For Seduction delivered everything I could have ever hoped for in a Lifetime movie in one conveniently condensed package, and it gives me hope that my erotic Hamburglar fan fiction might eventually make it to the small screen. Those execs at McDonald’s better be kicking themselves for slapping me with all those cease and desists. They could have had another Citizen Kane on their hands.