Hallmark Movies Now: You’ll Find A Lot to Like About the Service and ‘When Hope Calls’
As much as family programming used to be a mainstream part of movies and TV in America, we’ve sometimes degraded the term due to unwarranted stigmas. While maybe you can blame the relegation of family content to the outskirts due to writers who simply didn’t know how to write for the genre, there’s been a contingent of writers all along who knew exactly how to create something refreshing.
Hallmark has capitalized this the most successfully, and they’ve proven the public hunger for uplifting movies and TV shows through their cable channels. With their recently launched Hallmark Movies Now streaming platform, they’ve tapped into another neglected digital arena: Feel-good content to watch on the go, including their first streaming series: When Hope Calls.
Recently, I signed on to Hallmark Movies Now to see what it offered, and it’s likely to be more successful than anybody can imagine in a mad media world. Don’t be surprised to see the platform burgeon exponentially, including being an equal to the upcoming behemoth Disney Plus.
What does Hallmark Movies Now offer?
HMN offers most everything Hallmark has produced in recent years by way of movies, TV shows, and Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations. Of course, to compete, they had to add originals as well. In this case, 99% of the original programming means what’s also available on their cable channels.
Shows like Chesapeake Shores, Cedar Cove (starring Andie MacDowell), and Heartland are some of the examples of programming with a cable-streaming crossover. You can even find older classic family shows like Highway to Heaven (starring Michael Landon), which hasn’t been seen in any streaming format until now.
Producing TV shows directly for a streaming service, though, is always a risky venture. Netflix has a perpetual wellspring of funds to keep producing originals until the cows no longer come home. At Hallmark Movies Now, they’re dipping their toe into the water slowly with When Hope Calls, a spinoff of the popular Hallmark Channel series When Calls the Heart.
After watching the first two episodes, you’re going to find a lot to like in a world that wants to find escape from our recent chaos.
The actor you see on the banner for ‘When Hope Calls’ is the real star
When you sign on to HMN, you’ll find a plethora of promotion for When Hope Calls as their new original series streaming venture. One of the banners features the beautiful, buoyant, and witty actress Jocelyn Hudon who plays Grace. If there’s anyone ready-made to become a bigger star from this series, it’s her after already doing several notable Hallmark movies.
Not that the entire cast of this show isn’t one of the most appealing since This Is Us redefined family programming for mainstream networks. When Hope Calls carries over a side-story from When Calls the Heart where orphaned sisters Grace (Hudon) and Lillian (played by the also excellent Morgan Kohan) reunite after being separated for years. Their union inspires them to start their own orphanage.
They do this by moving to Brookfield, a tiny, tight-knit community within the outskirts of NW Canada in 1916. Within this little Utopia, we see a bevy of instantly appealing characters who love, live, and even plot like living in a big city.
Many of these characters might also feel familiar if any of you remember the classic TV series Little House on the Prairie, starring the late Michael Landon. This isn’t a coincidence since Michael Landon, Jr. is one of WHC’s producers and also directs some of the episodes.
‘When Hope Calls’ will help you find solace about community
The entire cast is loaded with charm and translates it well thanks to compelling situations and smart dialogue. In the first two episodes, you’ll see a funny story involving Grace trying to bargain to buy a cow, a chilling fire in the town, plus some hidden, inside rivalries that prove even Utopia has internal political conflicts.
In addition to the standout charm and comedic ability of Jocelyn Hudon, look out for other good performances by the surrounding cast. RJ Hatanaka and Greg Hovanessian do admirable jobs as the proverbial romantic interests for the sisters. Veteran Canadian actress, Wendy Crawson, is also notable as Tess Stewart. Hanneke Talbot as British nurse Margaret “Maggie” Parsons is another who almost steals every scene she’s in. Even the orphan kids on the show are terrific with sweet and genuine moments.
You’ll find yourself wanting to escape to Brookfield yourself as a bit of a refuge from the craziness the world and pop culture doles out daily. What makes this more promising is there’s a lot of fans called “Hearties” (“Hopefuls” now) who will likely spend $5.99 per month to watch this streaming series every Friday.
Will ‘WHC’ set a precedent?
With Disney Plus going live on November 12, many might think it’ll offer all family programming anyone would ever want. There is quite a difference between the Disney and Hallmark brands, however. At Hallmark, you can expect a little more romance and something for every age demographic.
Thanks to the network placing every successful element of their core programming into When Hope Calls, it’s likely to become the new Little House or Anne of Green Gables for a new decade.
Whether it prompts more family programming like it on HMN or other streaming platforms is beyond measure. HMN will no doubt do more, but the entire industry is really underestimating the desire for more as mainstream TV mostly goes in other directions.
What would only defeat such a thing is creating copycats, much like the This Is Us derivatives we’re already seeing. When Hope Calls is its own niche, meaning any other family show has to find its own way to avoid anyone propagating the false idea family programming has worn out tropes.