The Evolution of the Hallmark Movie Brand

Nader Elhefnawy
2 min readMay 20, 2022

I have to admit that, from a marketing/pop cultural/zeitgeist standpoint, I find what the Hallmark Channel does fascinating — not least because it is both profoundly unfashionable, and at the same time hugely successful (indeed, until recently a relative bright spot in the darkening picture for basic cable).

What interests me in particular is that as TV generally got edgier and darker Hallmark, whose brand has always been associated with “clean,” “safe,” “family-friendly” content, did the opposite — oriented itself to becoming more of all those things, turning itself into the coziest place on the TV schedule, with this becoming obvious when one glances at the romantic comedies that have been Hallmark’s hallmark.

Not so long ago those movies sometimes had a touch of blue collar grit — the heroine perhaps a struggling single mother trying to make ends meet on a waitressing job, in a small town that reminds us of how often young people look to get away from them simply to get on in the world (as in the Elizabeth Berkley starrer Lucky Christmas). We might have a protagonist whose job-and-money situation at least is happier, but has still had her share of bad relationships — the film beginning with the calamitous ending of one (as with AnnaLynne McCord in The Christmas Parade). And the goings-on on screen might not be wholly chaste (with The Good Witch seeing Cassandra Nightingale spend the night with Sheriff Jake Russell — and on the first date no less — three quarters of the way into the film).

All that sort of thing has become much rarer here. The blue-collar grit is gone, the heroine pretty much always an upwardly mobile “career woman” with a spectacular office and wardrobe, or a flourishing “entrepreneur” who, likely owning and operating a business of some type that makes people feel cozy, enjoys a solidly upper middle class — indeed, rich person’s — standard of living (solely on the basis of earnings of, for example, a large and luxurious bridal shop in a town with a four figure-sized population, precisely because such towns are now pretty much always bright and prosperous). She is very attractive, and so far as we know has never been uninterested in marriage or, as a single woman, short of dates, but somehow in middle age has no apparent romantic “history” or associated baggage — like a post- Pillow Talk Doris Day. And the film only progresses to its first kiss in the final shot of the movie. (I might add that it seems that actresses with the sort of associations Elizabeth Berkley and AnnaLynne McCord conjure up for those who recall their earlier roles are less likely than others to get cast in the lead, with Candace Cameron’s being the network’s most visible star for so many years exemplary.)

in the process what was already brightened and fairly sanitized became that much more so — precisely because there were plenty of takers for what was on offer, doubtless to the bewilderment and consternation of prestige TV lovers.

Originally published at https://raritania.blogspot.com.

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Nader Elhefnawy

Nader Elhefnawy is the author of the thriller The Shadows of Olympus. Besides Medium, you can find him online at his personal blog, Raritania.