The Hallmark Channel is a rare case these days of a media outlet which is successful while being profoundly unfashionable, producing the extreme opposite of “prestige TV.” Rather than downbeat-to-grimdark edgelord material oriented to the obsessions of “the coastal elite” the channel (which has gone through an evolution), has specialized in fluffy romantic comedies with a sideline in cozy murder mysteries — as seen on the affiliated “Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.”
Still, if it has had quite the wave of success the channel seems to be pulling back from the mysteries at least, recently canceling three of its series — the Picture Perfect, Hailey Dean and Matchmaker mysteries, with the cancellation seeming all the more final because the star of the Matchmaker series has signed a multi-picture contract with the channel’s upstart rival, GAC. The same seems likely to be happening with the Aurora Teagarden series, with Candace Cameron Bure, long one of the channel’s most prominent faces, now going over to GAC too. (I would also imagine that the Murder 101 and Martha’s Vineyard series are also done for, with their stars, Jill Wagner in the first case, and Jessie Metcalfe and Sarah Lind in the second, also gone over to GAC. Cameron Mathison, who was in the Murder, She Baked/Hannah Swensen mysteries, is also gone over to that newer channel, likely indicating nothing very positive about that series’ prospects.)
Meanwhile no replacements seem to have been announced — while it appears that premieres of such are fewer and less clearly intended as part of a series (Cut, Color, Murder and Dying for Chocolate look as if they could be launch pads for such, but the IMDB pages for their stars Julie Gonzalo and Nikki DeLoach indicate no sequels in the pipeline, with the same, I might add, going for Lacey Chabert’s Crossword Mysteries). And the portion of the schedule the Movies & Mysteries Channel allots to reairings of its original productions has shrunk in favor of other material (like reruns of the same romantic comedies that are the main channel’s staple).
Of course, basic cable generally has been less enthusiastic about funding the production of original content than before, and it may be that if Hallmark has been a comparative success story that success has plateaued or passed its peak. The numbers are still regarded as strong, but there is room to say that they are down from what they have been in the past, and many have cited possible reasons — as with other channels replicating its successes (responding to its notable success with its nonstop Christmas movies from late October to early January by filling their schedule with Christmas movies during the holidays, too), or blowback over particular decisions (with much complaint to be encountered online about the cancellation of their morning talk show Home & Family, while of course the culture wars are part of the story — they always are these days).
Yet I also find myself thinking about the evidences of a thriller market in decline. The Hallmark mysteries, after all, are commonly based on literary properties. (One wouldn’t guess it at a glance, but Aurora Teagarden comes from Charlaine Harris — the same author whose books were the basis for HBO’s True Blood, in as good a demonstration as any of the big difference between Hallmark and the competition.) If that market is suffering — if people are less interested in such series — then it seems unsurprising that Hallmark isn’t investing in adaptations of such material with its prior alacrity.