Hallmark Channel – which doubles down every year on the romantic, feel-good Christmas spirit – is known for being “family-friendly.” Crown Media, its parent company, had a tough decision to make when the channel recently found itself caught up in a scandal that has gravely insulted families everywhere.
A Hallmark Channel superstar, Lori Loughlin, was recently convicted along with her husband Mossimo Giannulli (in case you hadn’t heard) for paying $500,000 in bribes to get her two daughters into USC.1 Other celebrities, notably Felicity Huffman, were indicted in the scandal as well. It’s torn open a huge gaping wound in a higher education culture where elite schools are incredibly difficult to get into (legitimately, that is) and absurdly expensive.
At least Huffman, to her credit, pled guilty and apologized.2 Loughlin continues to act like nothing happened.
Crown Media decided to cut ties with Loughlin as a producer and star of one of its anchor shows, period drama “When Calls the Heart,” and Hallmark recently announced that the series would be moving forward even without her. It’s not yet clear whether Loughlin’s character has been written out or recast, but “When Calls the Heart” fans (known as “Hearties”) are delighted that the show will go on. Hallmark is staying on-brand with this decision, characterizing the show as a place where “hope always lives.”3
Probably just what the show’s fans, undoubtedly saddened by the news about Loughlin, needed to hear.
In handling their crisis PR, Hallmark was sure to keep the dialogue on the potentially acrimonious split from getting heated – on Instagram, “When Calls the Heart” executive producer Bryan Bird wrote, “Life throws us all painful curveballs, and the only way to survive is to walk through them with courage, grace, a forgiving spirit, and most of all hope.”4 The hint at this “forgiving spirit,” even in the face of the astounding crime, allows Hallmark to move forward without getting sucked into a spiral of negative conflict energy. Well done.
A lot can be learned by witnessing how Hallmark validated its viewers – families and average Americans – by refusing to continue its relationship with someone who’d delivered the average family a slap in the face… while also refusing to pillory, dwell on the negative, or otherwise get caught up in ugliness. Another key word Bird used was “grace” – we could use a lot more of that in today’s world.
1) Guzior, Betsey. “Loughlin Pleads Not Guilty as Hallmark Moves On.” Bizjournals.com, 15 Apr. 2019, www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2019/04/hallmark-series-to-return-without-loughlin.html.
2) Melas, Chloe. “’When Calls the Heart’ Returning in May.” CNN, Cable News Network, 10 Apr. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/04/10/entertainment/when-calls-the-heart-hallmark-return-date/index.html.
3) McDermott, Maeve. “Lori Loughlin’s Hallmark Series ‘When Calls the Heart’ to Return without Her on May 5.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 11 Apr. 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2019/04/11/lori-loughlins-show-when-calls-heart-returns-without-her-may-5/3433192002/.