Ah, Hallmark Channel, how I love thee!
The movies on Hallmark and its sister-channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, are my innocent pleasures. When I need a break from the pressures of day-to-day life—which is often—I like to tune into a good, clean romantic comedy or cozy mystery on one of these channels. I’m pretty sure my husband can tell my mood by the movies he finds on our DVR. Hallmark isn’t exactly winning awards for breaking down social walls or holding up a mirror to show us where the problems lie in our world. There are plenty of other channels on TV that will show us how we humans tend to mess everything up. I’ve been known to watch those channels myself. But when the darkness of the world gets to be too much, there’s nothing wrong with letting in a little bit of light and treating yourself to a story with a happy ending or a mystery where the culprit is caught and the problem is wrapped up in a tidy little package. Hallmark is full of happy endings. Even my 4-year-old son knows this. When I was telling my husband about a Hallmark movie I had started but hadn’t finished yet, and stated that I know the male and female leads will fall in love in the end, our son chimed in with: “And they want a Christmas wedding!”
I don’t watch every Hallmark movie, though. The main channel premiers a new movie every Saturday night throughout the year, and even more in the two months leading up to Christmas. The mystery channel only premiers about half as many, but that’s still a lot. I don’t have time to watch that many movies. Not all of the movies are of the same caliber and I have definitely been disappointed from time to time. But there are certain actors and actresses I love to watch. When they are in a movie, I watch it because I know there will be at least one thing to like. They also seem to have a knack for choosing the best projects. So here is a list of those stars who ensure that I will enjoy the movies I choose.
Candace Cameron Buré
She is probably the Queen of Hallmark movies. A Christmas season doesn’t go by without a movie featuring Ms. Buré. She also happens to be the star of my and my husband’s favorite mystery series, the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries. This former teen star has found new life injecting her refreshing sincerity into the many roles she plays on the Hallmark channels.
Ms. Wagner is something of a rising star on Hallmark. She started appearing in Hallmark movies within the last two or three years and is a real joy to watch on-screen. I first noticed her a couple of years ago in the Christmas movie Maggie’s Christmas Miracle, which is one of my all-time favorites in the Christmas line-up. Currently, she is the star of a new mystery series called Mystery 101.
Alicia Witt is Hallmark’s resident redhead. She tends to play bubbly characters and has great chemistry with every leading man she’s up against. She has just the right presence for Hallmark movies.
Yes, former soap opera star Alison Sweeney is a Hallmark staple. Of all of the Hallmark actresses, she’s probably the one I identify with the most. She starred in the Murder, She Baked series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and recently appeared in the three-episode series Chronicle Mysteries. Hopefully, we will see more. Whatever she does, I know I’ll watch it.
A few years ago, Hallmark went through a quirky phase. This was when they made Window Wonderland, one of their funniest and one of my favorite Christmas movies. Paul Campbell is the male lead and he had me laughing almost the whole time. Even when he plays more dramatic roles he manages to create some humor. And even when he’s paired with an actress I don’t particularly like, I still watch the movie because I know he will be a joy to watch. Fortunately, he’s usually paired with an actress I like.
Have you ever noticed those Canadian actors who have small parts in all of the CW series and other shows filmed in Canada? You love to pick them out and see them pop up, but they never quite reach celebrity-status. Luke McFarlane is one of those. Maggie’s Christmas Miracle wasn’t the first time I saw him in a Hallmark movie, but it was the one that solidified his position as a must-watch actor. He has a modest, boy-next-door charm that brightens the movies he stars in. Hallmark doesn’t care too much about mainstream celebrity status when casting their movies, which means we get to enjoy Mr. McFarlane in leading roles in various movies throughout the year.
I’m grateful that the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries exist. So much of what we see on television can depress us and we need a break from that. Yes, they can work on their racial diversity, but in the past couple of years they have taken steps to correct that. Yes, their movies can be cheesy and predictable, but sometimes I like things that are cheesy and predictable. I can usually figure out who the culprit is in a mystery movie based on character reactions, off-hand remarks, and even camera shots, but it’s fun to watch the amateur sleuth make her way to the same conclusion. These movies help me to remember not to take myself too seriously, that a good story can be clean and still be funny, and to look for the good in the world.