The TCA Summer Press Tour Gets an Early Christmas Party

The Hallmark Channel had the “Northpole” movie themed party for the TCA. Yes, that’s Robert Wagner as Santa!

The Hallmark Channel had the “Northpole” movie themed party for the TCA. Yes, that’s Robert Wagner as Santa!

It’s the time of year when the cable and broadcast networks present a parade of stars from the new and returning shows for the fall TV lineup. The pageant is organized for the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, where TV writers from across the U.S. and Canada get to interview television’s talented and creative folks as well as party with the stars for more than two weeks.

Cable started the TCA sessions off with the National Geographic Channel launching the first of many working-parties with NatGeo WILD promoting its popular franchise series Destination Wild, a must-see for armchair adventure seekers. The event took the journalists on a trip around the world on the rooftop of the Beverly Hilton.

But it was the sugarplum coated thoughts of reindeer on rooftops that made the Crown Media Family Networks (Hallmark) party extra special. It was a hot “Christmas in July” celebration, which had a Beverly Hills estate decorated as the “Northpole Manor” — headquarters for Santa and Mrs. Claus. Journalists got the message that the new Northpole movie is the centerpiece of the Hallmark Channel’s programming franchise “Countdown to Christmas.” Cast as Santa and Mrs. Claus are Robert Wagner and Jill St. John. The magical holiday tale also stars Tiffani Thiessen, Josh Hopkins, Bailee Madison, Max Charles, and Candice Glover (American Idol Season 12 winner). Many of the performers were seen enjoying the early holiday bash.

“This very special project will surely become a timeless holiday classic,” said Michelle Vicary, executive V.P. of programming for the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. “Robert Wagner and Jill St. John capture the Northpole essence beautifully with their spirit, grace, humor and undeniable chemistry.” So sure of the ratings success when it airs Nov. 15th, 2014, Vicary has the Northpole 2 sequel in pre-production for the 2015 holidays.

“We’re proud to have the largest expansion of Christmas programming on television. And by creating Hallmark Channel’s first multi-year, multi-film franchise, Northpole not only brings quality, family-friendly holiday entertainment to our viewers, but also is instrumental in providing a smart business model that brings great value and significant opportunities to Hallmark Channel’s business partners,” explained the very jolly Bill Abbott, president and CEO, Crown Media Family Networks. “Northpole 2 will become yet another holiday movie viewers will look forward to and become the heart of Hallmark Channel’s beloved ‘Countdown to Christmas’ campaign.” Also collaborating with the network is Hallmark Cards.

The network is currently celebrating the spirit of the holiday season with a summertime schedule that features fan-favorite Christmas movies airing nightly through July 13th. It’s a great programming stunt and a way to beat the summer heat in front of the TV. Vicary said, “We are thrilled to give our audiences a little Christmas spirit early this year.”

Even Hallmark’s Daytime Emmy-nominated Home & Family lifestyle series with super-likable hosts Cristina Ferrare and Mark Steines caught the spirit. They’re presenting a full week of holiday themed programming through July 11th, with fun baking and decorating projects that seemed to have been utilized at the TCA party.

The second season premiere of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove is set for July 19th on Hallmark, and many of the stars were on hand to talk about the sweet romantic series adapted from author Debbie Macomber’s bestselling novels. Andie MacDowell, as Judge Olivia Lockhart, is always in the middle of the seaside town’s drama, relationships and excitement. Bruce Boxleitner, Dylan Neal, Barbara Niven, Brennan Elliott, Teryl Rothery, Corey Sevier and Sarah Smyth also star.

Another successful Hallmark series is When Calls the Heart starring Lori Loughlin, Erin Krakow and Daniel Lissing, with Michael Landon, Jr. as an executive producer. Also based on a series of bestselling books (by Janette Oke), it follows a young schoolteacher (Krakow) in a 19th century coal mining town as she learns about life, love and loss. It was just renewed for a second season, Vicary announced, which is an early Christmas present for the legions of fans who love the show’s captivating storytelling.

In addition to great storytelling, the Hallmark Channel also has a knack for bringing super-nice stars into their network family — Catherine Bell, Morgan Fairchild, Candace Cameron Bure, Lisa Welchel and Kim Fields are just a few who will be seen in upcoming projects. And the stars sparkled as bright as the Christmas tree on a hot summer night.