If Halloween is approaching, that means it's practically Christmas at Hallmark Channel, which released its 2020 slate of holiday-centric movies and special TV episodes on Wednesday.
On one hand, the slate of films for Hallmark's "Countdown to Christmas" and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries "Miracles of Christmas" is full of familiar faces, including Candace Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert and Danica McKellar. On the other hand, there's at least one big addition this year: an LGBTQ holiday film for the channel.
"Mean Girls" actor Jonathan Bennett will star in "The Christmas House," his third Hallmark Channel original movie, alongside Robert Buckley, Ana Ayora, Treat Williams and Sharon Lawrence. The film focuses on a gay couple looking to adopt their first child and airs on Sunday, Nov. 22.
"Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever," said Michelle Vicary, EVP, programming for Hallmark in a statement. "Our movies are rooted in warmth and positivity, meaningful connections, family gatherings, and seasonal traditions — a winning formula we hope will bring our millions of viewers much-needed levity and holiday cheer at the end of a tough year."
In real life, Bennett is also in a committed same-sex partnership; he recently posted on Instagram that he bought a house with his partner, Jaymes Vaughan.
This appears to be the first time Hallmark has made a same-sex couple the main characters in a Christmas film, however, not everyone is happy about the inclusion. One Million Moms, a Christian fundamentalist group, has a petition online decrying the network.
"The once conservative network has recently caved to LGBTQ pressure and has done a one-eighty from the wholesome content the channel once aired, and the network is now catering to the Left," the petition reads.
The same group petitioned Hallmark in 2019 to pull an ad from wedding-planning site Zola showing a lesbian couple kissing. The company initially pulled the ad, but then reversed course less than a week later amid mounting pressure from the LGBTQ+ community and allies.
"The Christmas House" will be in good LGBTQ-friendly company this holiday season; earlier in September Lifetime announced "The Christmas Set-Up," a holiday movie starring real-life same-sex couple Ben Lewis and Blake Lee.
The rest of the Hallmark Christmas lineup seems par for the holiday course.
Several well-known stars are returning to the network this holiday season, including Candace Cameron Bure, appearing in her ninth Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, "If I Only Had Christmas" (Nov. 29). Lacey Chabert — also of "Mean Girls" fame — is appearing in two holiday films this year: "Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas" (Dec. 5) and "Christmas Waltz" (Nov. 28), which will reunite her with "Love, Romance & Chocolate" co-star Will Kemp.
If "Time for Us to Come Home" sounds familiar, it should; it's a sequel to 2018's "Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas," which was based on a Blake Shelton song from 2012, "Time for Me to Come Home." Shelton is an executive producer.
Meanwhile, Holly Robinson Peete also stars in two movies this season: "The Christmas Doctor" (Nov. 15) and the fourth installment of her movie series "Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing" (Dec. 5). "Days of Our Lives" star Alison Sweeney returns to the channel in "A Bright and Merry Christmas" (Nov. 25), while "Wonder Years" actress Danica McKellar appears in her sixth Hallmark original Christmas movie, "Christmas She Wrote" (Dec. 6).
The channel is also planning for all-new, holiday-focused episodes of "Home & Family" and a slew of holiday-related gift items, like the Hallmark Channel Holiday Edition of Monopoly, Christmas-themed tea tins, apparel, glassware and home décor.
"For more than a decade, Hallmark holiday movies have represented the gold standard that many aspire to replicate," Crown Media’s President and CEO, Wonya Lucas, said in a statement. "From our signature movies, to food and wine, to games and decorations, to clothing, music, books, and more, we have created a destination that evokes the spirit and feeling of the season in a way that is uniquely Hallmark."
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