The Hallmark Channel is making good on its earlier promise to include “LGBTQ storylines, characters and actors” in its spate of holiday movies this year.
On Wednesday, the network unveiled its annual “Countdown to Christmas” lineup. By far the most buzzed-about title is “The Christmas House,” Hallmark’s first holiday-themed offering to include an LGBTQ storyline.
“The Christmas House” will follow members of the Mitchell family as they gather for the holidays after “working through some difficult decisions,” according to press notes. The ensemble cast features Jonathan Bennett as Brandon Mitchell, a married gay man who is hoping to adopt his first child.
Best known as swoon-worthy jock Aaron Samuels in 2004’s “Mean Girls,” Bennett is gay in real life. He will star alongside Robert Buckley, who will play brother Mike Mitchell, and Sharon Lawrence and Treat Williams, who will play the siblings’ parents, Phylis and Bill. Brad Harder, whose credits include Jordan Peele’s “Twilight Zone” reboot, will play Brandon’s husband, Jake.
Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming at Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark’s parent company, said Wednesday that the 2020 holiday programming reflects “our most diverse representation of talent, narratives and families.”
“Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever,” she said in a press release. “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.”
News of “The Christmas House” comes weeks after Hallmark announced that network executives were in “active negotiations” to ensure that both its “Countdown to Christmas” and “Miracles of Christmas” lineups are LGBTQ inclusive.
The channel last year sparked outcry from the LGBTQ community after it pulled four commercials for the wedding planning site Zola that featured same-sex couples kissing. At the time, a Hallmark representative said the commercials had been “deemed controversial” and in violation of its company policy, even though Zola’s nearly identical ads featuring straight couples remained intact.
The channel responded to the criticism by offering an apology and returning the commercials to the airwaves.
Both the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime have apparently been engaged in a race to announce an LGBTQ-inclusive holiday offering in recent months. Last week, Lifetime announced that actors Blake Lee and Ben Lewis, who are a real-life married couple, had signed on to star in “The Christmas Setup,” the network’s first film to focus on a gay romance.