Merry Christmas! In honor of Christmas, we are looking at the crown prince of made for television Christmas movies, the Hallmark Hall of Fame and the Hallmark Channel. Hallmark today is known for its feel –good, uncomplicated movies, which are typically without excessive violence, language or sexual content. This is something which is especially lacking in today’s world.
Hallmark Cards sponsored Radio Reader’s Digest, which became The Hallmark Playhouse, (which premiered in 1948) which made radio dramas. This was translated to the screen in 1951, with the television premiere of Hallmark Hall of Fame. The first movie was an original opera called Ahmal and the Night Visitors, and subsequently in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s saw the production of many adaptations of books and plays, including Shakespeare plays.
In the 1980s, due to the guidance of Duane C. Bogie, a producer of the anthology series, the movie series started making original productions, beginning in the early 80s and finally making some of the most well-known original movies in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Promise (1986, winning several awards), Foxfire (1987) and Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991). Through the 2000s and 2010s, the show would have inspirational true-life stories and feel-good Christmas stories. The show jumped around networks from 1978 to 2013, until arriving at the Hallmark cable network in 2014. The last movie broadcast under the Hall of Fame banner on the Hallmark Channel premiered on December 5, 2015, and was called Just in Time for Christmas.
The Hallmark channel originally began as two religious channels which shared the same transponder slot, American Christian Television System (ACTS) and Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN), forming VISN/ACTS, in 1992. In 1993, the channel was rebranded as Faith and Values channel, and allowed some secular programs. In 1996, the network name was changed Odyssey Network (Tele-Communications bought 49% stake in the network the previous year) and saw the major shift away from religious programming. The year 1998 is finally when Hallmark comes in. Crown Media, which is owned by Hallmark, and the Jim Henson Company bought majority stakes in the channel (but the Henson Company’s role in the channel only last two years). Finally, in 2001, with complete ownership of the network, Hallmark re-branded the channel as the Hallmark Channel and started making original movies in addition to its backlog of Hall of Fame productions, and broadcasting old feel good sitcoms.
In the 2010s, Hallmark started diversifying its network, with a revival of a lifestyle and talk show, The Home and Family Show, and a few original scripted series, each in keeping with Hallmark’s feel-good, not excessive content staple. In 2004, Hallmark also launched the Hallmark Movie Channel, which was rebranded in 2014 as Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, due to the fact its programming included classic mystery shows, such as Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, and Perry Mason. Hallmark also has nine international channels, which also showcase family oriented programming.
While some may criticize the network’s content as predictable and uninteresting, the Hallmark brand still has staying power, premiering dozens of new movies made exclusively for the network in 2015. People gravitate towards the programming because it has feel-good, wholesome content, which in this world of more and more TV shows going toward inappropriate content, is a very good thing. If you’re in the mood for a feel-good, wholesome story, you can’t do better than the Hallmark Channel or the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Merry Christmas!