Winding down the two weeks of the television press tour, one of the last great gatherings was for the Hallmark network to make some big announcements. During an elegant luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hallmark’s president and CEO Bill Abbott talked about the full schedule of movies, specials, and daytime shows. Bragging about the “incredible talent we have,” Abbott looked around the room at the stars of the upcoming original movies, which are at the core of the Hallmark Channel’s “robust family content.”
The Music Teacher is the network’s first-ever movie musical, premiering this Saturday, Aug. 11. At the gathering was its star Annie Potts, along with executive producer Jonathan Axelrod, Emmy-nominee writer Ron Parker, and Alan Ett, who wrote original songs for the movie. Potts described her role as “a high school music teacher who is dedicated to changing her students’ lives for the better. She struggles to keep her after-school program, which has taught dozens of student to sing and build bright futures. Then something wonderful happens.” Tied in with the movie, Potts reported that Hallmark has formed a partnership with VH1’s Save the Music Foundation to help raise funds for music programs.
Potts talked about the role being a very personal journey for her. “I wanted to be in musical theater,” she revealed, but a serious car accident caused her to change courses. Now, finally she gets to sing and perform “like I always dreamed I would.”
Smart Cookies, premiering Aug. 18, is another great movie with a mission, “to help celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA,” said Patricia Richardson (of Home Improvement fame), who stars with Jessalyn Gilsig (Glee) and Bailee Madison (Just Go With It). The story is about a real estate agent who helps a hapless Girl Scout troop with their annual cookie sale competition. Behind the scenes, one of the executive producers is Jimmy Hawkins, who was a child actor in the ’40s and played Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed’s son Tommy Bailey in the Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Nowadays he’s producing great family friendly movies for a new generation.
Richardsonsaid she was “so delighted to work with him because when you do a production like this, we all become like a family. He’s one of the nicest guys in show business, and when you are working with children, when you have a producer who knows what it’s like, it brings a great quality to the set.”
Over at the Hallmark Movie Channel, Strawberry Summer will premiere Aug. 25, and stars Julie Mond and Trevor Donovan were on hand to talk about their sweet summer movie. Of course even more is coming after Labor Day, because Hallmark loves to celebrate Halloween and the Christmas holidays, said Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming.
But before the pumpkins and the tinsel appear, there’s a celebration of man’s best friend. The joy that comes with pet adoption is the theme of Puppy Love, premiering Sept. 8, starring Candace Cameron Bure, who was on hand with her K-9 costar, a shaggy dog named Bugz.
The movie ties in with the “Pet Project” charity, “an evergreen initiative the Hallmark Channel created. It’s our campaign devoted to celebrating pets and the incredible joy and enrichment they bring to our lives,” Bill Abbott announced.
There are several upcoming movies and specials devoted to putting animals in the spotlight, especially the second annual Hero Dog Awards, airing on Oct. 8 in partnership with the American Humane Association. Abbott said, “This program recognizes and honors the powerful relationship between dogs and people through a national competition that searches out and rescues remarkable dogs that make a difference.”
Hallmark is also bursting onto the daytime schedule in a big way starting Oct. 1, with Marie, a daily talkshow with Marie Osmond, and Home & Family hosted by the enthusiastic Paige Davis and Mark Steines. Equally enthusiastic was the super-successful producer Woody Fraser who is the force behind the scenes of the lifestyle show you can bet is family friendly.