At Crown Media’s upfront presentation at New York City’s elegant Eleven Madison Park restaurant, the Hallmark Channel announced that it’s doubling down its efforts to develop original programming by adding a new scripted series to its schedule and two pilots to its development slate. “The recognition factor for our network is not what it should be, considering how strong Hallmark is,” said Bill Abbott, President and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks. “We expect this Upfront to be groundbreaking for us – and be up 20% in terms of volume.”
Here are some highlights of what the network has coming up:
- The network’s first original scripted series, Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, stars Andie MacDowell as a small-town family court judge whose work life directly impacts her day-to-day life. It premieres July 20 as a two-hour movie. New, one-hour episodes will follow on Saturdays beginning July 27.
- When Calls the Heart has been greenlit for 10 episodes. Based on the book by Janette Oke, it tells the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, a young teacher accustomed to her high society life, who receives her first classroom post in a prairie town in the Western Frontier. The movie pilot debuts on October 5, while the series premieres in January 2014.
- Pilot-to-series projects include My Gal Sunday, based on a book of short stories by Mary Higgins Clark, and Dead Letters, developed by Touched by An Angel creator Martha Williamson. My Gal Sunday follows the husband and wife crime solving duo of Sunday and Henry Parker. Henry is an ex-Vice President of the United States, and Sunday is a legal aid lawyer. Dead Letters, follows a quirky quartet of civil servants in the Dead Letter Office of the US Postal System who transform themselves into an elite team of lost-mail detectives.
- The daytime lifestyle show Home & Family has been renewed for a second season. Mark Steines and Christina Ferrare will return to co-host.
- Hallmark has acquired off-network rights to Home Improvement from Disney-ABC. It will begin airing the series in September. It joins the recently acquired The Good Wife, which will air in January 2014, and The Middle, which will air in March 2014.