When I published my review for Teenage Rebel last December, it became my 225th movie review! Since then, I’ve been thinking about what kind of article I should write in honor of this milestone. A few days ago, I saw a video on Youtube titled ‘Top 6 AG Trends that need to *GO* this Decade’. This video focused on how American Girl could correct their mistakes from the 2010s. Created by pinksmartiesag, it inspired me to think about the ways Hallmark can improve in the 2020s. Like any company, Hallmark is not perfect. There are areas where they can grow and find success. During the first year of the 2020s, I have seen Hallmark’s mistakes from the past decade seep into 2020. In this list, I will talk about the missteps that Hallmark should leave behind in the 2010s to have a chance to make better choices in this new decade. Similar to the list-articles I’ve written in the past, everything I talk about is based on my opinion of the things I have noticed as a fan and consumer. The list is meant to be critical in a constructive way, not mean-spirited or negative. When I refer to Hallmark in this article, I am focusing on the entertainment division of Hallmark; which consists of the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Hallmark Drama.
1. Hallmark Channel’s Over-Reliance on the Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com) Genre
In the 2010s, when Rom-Coms made less appearances in the cinema than in previous decades, Hallmark made it their mission to save this genre from extinction. While Hallmark attempted to preserve Rom-Coms, they ended up putting almost all their eggs in one basket. Now, every movie on Hallmark Channel is a Rom-Com, telling the same types of stories over and over again. This decision has caused the films on this network to feel repetitive and predictable. When you look at a typical poster for a Hallmark Channel movie, you already know how the story will play out. Lately, I’ve been watching and reviewing past Hallmark films, which have much more interesting stories. It feels like those were the days when Hallmark would embrace originality and not shy away from taking creative risks. I would like to see Hallmark experiment with different genres and tell a variety of stories in the 2020s. Creativity and imagination should be the rule moving forward!
2. Continually Using the Same Tropes and Clichés
Because Hallmark Channel has focused on the Rom-Com genre, there are several genre related tropes and clichés that are continually used throughout Hallmark’s film library. In my list of The Top 10 Worst Clichés from Hallmark Movies, I talk about some clichés that have run their course. How many times can you tell a story where a woman from a big city goes back to her small hometown before you call it quits? The constant inclusion of these tropes and clichés cause a given film to be more predictable. Even though some creative teams have approached these story-telling concepts in new and interesting ways, it feels like that has been the exception to the rule. It’s time for Hallmark to either put a new twist on these clichés and tropes or abandon them altogether.
3. The Hypocrisy
Ever since 2019, I have noticed Hallmark’s blatant hypocrisy when it comes to certain areas of their entertainment division. For this point, I’ll provide two examples. In my editorial, When Hallmark Made Their Fans Really Upset, I wrote about how, in 2019, Hallmark advertised they would be airing a new movie every Saturday night for an entire year on Hallmark Channel. However, that statement turned into a broken promise as there were some Saturdays when no new movies premiering. I also said in that editorial how Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries kept their promises to air a Christmas movie every Thursday and Friday night in correlation with the 10th Anniversary of Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up. When it comes to subjects that Hallmark cares about, like Christmas, that becomes one of their top priorities. For everything else, it falls to the wayside.
While promoting Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups last year, Mike Perry, the CEO of Hallmark, claimed that “diversity and inclusion are a top priority for us”. But there are times when these words sound empty. The upcoming Hallmark Channel movie, Fit for a Prince, is a perfect example. Based on promotional material directly from the network’s website, we can see this is the same type of “royal” movie, starring the same types of actors in the same types of roles. Remind me how this is diverse? When it comes to story-telling, diversity is more than just a character’s appearance. It’s also about the perspectives, beliefs, and journeys those characters bring to the overall story. In my award post, The Sunshine Blogger Award and The Blogger Recognition Award: Two Awards for the Price of One, I said that I wanted to see Bai Ling join the main cast of When Calls the Heart as Hope Valley’s first female Mountie. One of the reasons why I want this is because it would be a beautiful opportunity for Hallmark to put their money where their mouth is. If diversity is that important to them, then they will take no issue in casting Bai on Hallmark Channel’s most popular scripted show.
4. Hallmark Making Promises They Know They Can’t Keep
As I just mentioned in point number three, Hallmark broke their promise to air a new movie every Saturday night for an entire year on Hallmark Channel. But that wasn’t the only promise the company broke in 2019. In my aforementioned editorial, When Hallmark Made Their Fans Really Upset, I talk about several films that were mysteriously removed from Hallmark Channel’s and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ schedules after being promoted for weeks or months. If Hallmark had any thoughts about moving films out of their respective premiere dates, why would they spend so much time promoting them and setting dates? In the seventh season of When Calls the Heart, Clara and Jesse had entertained the idea of having an outdoor wedding. But when the wedding arrived, their ceremony ended up taking place indoors. According to Kami, from Hallmarkies Podcast, that episode was filmed in November. This begs the question; if the creative team behind the show knew it would be too cold to film any outdoor events, why would they mention the idea of an outdoor wedding in the first place? In the 2020s, it would be nice to see Hallmark stick to their word more often. Broken promises lead to broken trust with the viewers, which is not good for any business.
5. An Adoption Ever After Segment During the Seasonal Line-Up Preview Specials
When Larissa Wohl first joined Alison Sweeney in 2019’s “Valentine’s Day & Adoption Ever After Preview Special”, the program was used to not only promote Hallmark Channel’s Valentine themed movies, but also that year’s Cat Bowl, Kitten Bowl, and American Rescue Dog Show. At the time, the cross-promotion made sense. But as Larissa kept appearing in Hallmark’s other seasonal line-up preview specials, as well as the Crossword Mysteries & Friends Preview Special, she ended up overstaying her welcome. Instead of promoting a worthy cause, it felt like she was interrupting the regularly scheduled program to host an infomercial about homeless pets. Most people can get behind the idea of raising awareness for shelter animals. However, using the same tactics over and over again gets repetitive and runs the risk of turning away potential supporters. I don’t know if Hallmark has any plans to air preview specials for the various seasonal line-ups in the 2020s. If they do, I hope they think twice before adding the Adoption Ever After segments to the specials.
6. Hallmark’s Excessive Obsession with Christmas
Hallmark loves Christmas; I get it. But is it really necessary for them to do the following?
- Airing both Christmas line-ups for almost three months
- Showing Christmas movies on three networks throughout the year
- Creating over twenty movies between two channels
- Devoting an entire month to Christmas in July
In my opinion, the answer is absolutely not, as there is a fine line between loving something and going overboard. Because of Hallmark’s excessive obsession with the holiday, they are actually doing more harm than good to their line-ups. In 2019 and 2020, the “Countdown to Christmas” and “Miracles of Christmas” line-ups received less viewership than in years prior. Hallmark’s decision to make more Christmas movies year after year prevents their films from becoming beloved classics. Movies like The Christmas Card, A Boyfriend for Christmas, and The Nine Lives of Christmas were able to achieve long term success because they premiered in years where Christmas line-ups were smaller, allowing these projects to stand out. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, Hallmark needs to pull back the reigns on their approach to Christmas. Give Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries ten movies each, as it would challenge each creative team to create something new and unexpected. Save Christmas films for a week in July and for a month and a half toward the end of the year. Once upon a time, Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups were anticipated events. Now, it has become run of the mill and one of the only things Hallmark cares about.
7. Movie Premiere Twitter Parties
For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, Twitter parties take place for the premiere of new Hallmark programs and movies. Let’s use the upcoming movie Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How to Con a Con as an example. Before the film appears on television for the first time, someone directly connected with the project, either the director, producer, or stars, will encourage viewers to send tweets during the movie. There may even be pop up advertisements for the Twitter party while other films or shows are on T.V. When Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: How to Con a Con airs on March 14th, viewers can tweet about their thoughts on the film, share their theories with other viewers, and have brief conversations with the stars. Personally, I never participated in these Twitter parties because I wanted to give my undivided attention to the film I was watching. The tweets from the Twitter parties are laced with spoilers, which means I have to avoid Twitter after a new movie or television show episode has premiered. From what I remember, Bill Abbott was a big advocate for this kind of interaction with the customers. But in 2020, Bill stepped down as President of Hallmark’s entertainment division. Also, Twitter isn’t as popular of a social media platform as it was five or ten years ago. With all these factors, it makes me wonder why Hallmark would still promote Twitter parties?
8. Giving Movies Unnecessary Hype
I haven’t seen this happen often on Hallmark networks. However, I have seen it happen enough to know that Hallmark needs to discontinue the practice. The two examples I’ll use for this point are 2014’s Northpole and 2019’s Bottled with Love. Before Northpole premiered, it seemed like news about the film was inescapable. Commercials would air constantly, reminding viewers of what they already knew. Even products directly associated with the film, like the North Pole Communicator, were sold at Hallmark stores. Even though the film received a large viewership number and a sequel, the movie has become forgotten. As the years go on, it is rarely featured in Hallmark’s Christmas schedules. As I mentioned in my review for Bottled with Love, Hallmark chose to overhype this film by proclaiming it was “the best movie you’ll see all year”. But when the movie premiered, it was only a “flash in the pan”. Its viewership numbers were fine, but nothing spectacular. I shared the same thoughts on the film itself. What Northpole and Bottled with Love have in common is how Hallmark overhyped these movies so much, they prevented them from being memorable in the long run. I’m hoping this was just a phase within Hallmark’s lifespan.
9. Launching Television Shows from Movies
Since Cedar Cove became Hallmark’s first scripted television show, Hallmark Channel has had three shows that originally started as a movie or a series of movies: When Calls the Heart, Good Witch, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. But the only one that has found continued success is When Calls the Heart. While Good Witch has received more than five seasons, its overall quality has dropped since season three, as I’ve mentioned before on my blog. Meanwhile, Signed, Sealed, Delivered was converted into a movie series after the show’s first season and moved to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. This isn’t a good track record for Hallmark. Instead, they should create shows based on new ideas or well-liked books that are overshadowed by more popular titles.
10. Hallmark’s Summer and Winter TCA Events
Twice a year, Hallmark partners with the Television Critics Association to host a special event where they announce upcoming media related projects. Back in 2018, I wrote a Word on the Street story about announcements made at Hallmark’s Summer TCA Event. Recently, it seems like Hallmark makes their more interesting announcements before or after these events. At each TCA event, announcements consist of projects most fans already knew about. Because of this and the fact that fewer social gatherings are taking place because of the Coronavirus, I question why Hallmark still hosts these events? I wish Hallmark would use those finances, time, and resources toward something more productive.
Have fun at the movies!