Making good on its promise, the Hallmark Channel has announced one of its upcoming holiday TV movies, “The Christmas House,” will feature a same-sex couple as part of its “Countdown to Christmas” lineup.
The film will premiere on November 22 (8 EST/PST) and star former Mean Girls actor Jonathan Bennett (above) as part of a gay couple hoping to adopt their first child.
The official synopsis for “The Christmas House” reads:
“Working through some difficult decisions, Mitchell family matriarch Phylis (Sharon Lawrence) and patriarch Bill (Treat Williams), have summoned their two grown sons — Mike (Robert Buckley) and Brandon (Bennett) — home for the holidays. It is their hope that bringing the family together to recreate the Christmas house will help them find resolution and make a memorable holiday for the entire family and community. As Brandon and his husband, Jake (Brad Harder), make the trip home, they are anxiously awaiting a call about the adoption of their first child. Meanwhile, Mike reconnects with Andi (Ana Ayora), his high school sweetheart.”
Hallmark Channel faced serious backlash last December when the network pulled a commercial that featured same-sex weddings. While the cable channel quickly reversed course and began airing the spot again, the criticism led to an announcement in July that the Hallmark Channel would be announcing “LGBTQ storylines, characters and actors” in upcoming projects.
Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming for Crown Media Family Network (Hallmark Channel’s parent company) said in a statement, “Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever.”
“This year’s movies reflect our most diverse representation of talent, narratives and families,” Vicary added. “Our movies are rooted in warmth and positivity, meaningful connections, family gatherings and seasonal traditions — a winning formula we hope will bring our millions of viewers much-needed levity and holiday cheer at the end of a tough year.”
“The Christmas House” will mark Bennett’s third original movie for the Hallmark Channel. In addition to acting gigs, the out 39-year-old out has been a staple on The Food Network handling hosting duties for Cake Wars and Halloween Wars.
He’s also jumped into some reality TV competing on the 2014 edition of Dancing with the Stars and Celebrity Big Brother in 2019.
Bennett and his boo, entertainment reporter and former host of The Chippendales, Jaymes Vaughan, frequently share their (often shirtless) shenanigans on Instagram.
While we’re on the subject, let’s check out some eye-candy action for Hump Day…
• InstaHunks: When you look like Brazilian tourism expert Kiko Riaze (above), I’ll FIND something in my house that needs to be painted. Follow Riaze on Instagram here.
• HuffPost: L.A. Law star Harry Hamlin said he’s proud of his role in the groundbreaking 1982 gay flick Making Love but believes the film was ahead of its time. “It was like 10 years too early and it completely ended my career. That was the last studio picture I ever did. The door shut with a resounding smash.”
• The Advocate: A month after the Hallmark Channel’s dust-up with LGBTQ people over removing an ad for Zola wedding planning that featured a lesbian wedding, the company’s president and CEO, Bill Abbott, has stepped down.
• Out Music: The Pet Shop Boys new album Hotspot drops tomorrow, January 24, and in advance of that release we get to step behind the velvet rope for their new single “Monkey Business.“
Set in a sexy nightclub and featuring a wild bunch of characters who eventually end up in a champagne fight, the tribe bust their best moves on a dance floor straight out of Saturday Night Fever.
• New York Times: Despite their fiery history on the debate stage, Sen. Kamala Harris of California is considering endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nominee for president. Great – then he can pick her for veep duties and they’ll win.
• BroadwayWorld: In a tribute to longtime GRAMMY executive producer Ken Ehrlich, and to acknowledge the importance of music education in schools to the Recording Academy, GRAMMY Museum® and Ehrlich, artists associated with Ehrlich’s 40-year career will gather to perform “I Sing The Body Electric” from the film Fame. The performance will feature current nominees Camila Cabello, Gary Clark Jr. and John Legend joined by Debbie Allen, Joshua Bell, Common, Misty Copeland, Lang Lang, Cyndi Lauper, Ben Platt, and The War And Treaty.
• People: Did Prince Charles diss Vice President Mike Pence as he made his way down an assembly line of world leaders at the World Holocaust Forum?
The Hallmark Channel is having a decidedly difficult December.
The cable television channel announced on Thursday it would stop airing four ads from the wedding planning website Zola which included lesbian brides kissing in marriage ceremonies after virulently anti-LGBTQ organization One Million Moms complained about the spots.
At the time, a spokesperson for the company told the New York Times it did not accept ads “that are deemed controversial.”
The spokesman said the women’s public displays of affection “violated the channel’s policies,” but didn’t elaborate as to why a nearly identical ad featuring a bride and groom kissing was not rejected.
Zola then announced it would pull all of its advertising from the channel.
In a statement released on Sunday, president and CEO Mike Perry said the team at Hallmark Channel’s parent company, Crown Media Family Networks, had “been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused” and that “they believe this was the wrong decision.”
“Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives,” he said. “Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”
Perry added his company would work with national LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD “to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands,” and that it planned on contacting Zola to “re-establish our partnership and reinstate the commercials.”
Hallmark will be working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands. The Hallmark Channel will be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials. pic.twitter.com/p17nJpnjEB
“We were deeply troubled when Hallmark rejected our commercials for featuring a lesbian couple celebrating their marriage, and are relieved to see that decision was reversed,” said Mike Chi, the chief marketing officer of Zola. “We are humbled by everyone who showed support not only for Zola, but for all the LGBTQ couples and families who express their love on their wedding day, and every day.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD, said: “The Hallmark Channel’s decision to correct its mistake sends an important message to LGBTQ people and represents a major loss for fringe organizations, like One Million Moms, whose sole purpose is to hurt families like mine. LGBTQ people are, and will continue to be, a part of advertisements and family programming, and that will never change.”
Amid all the flip-flopping by Hallmark, Freeform, formerly ABC Family which has created LGBTQ-friendly content like The Fosters, The Bold Type, and Good Trouble, tweeted that it would be happy to air Zola’s inclusive ads over the holidays.
“This is what happens when you focus all your energy on exclusion instead of clever plotlines,” tweeted Freeform. “Call us, Zola. We celebrate the holidays with everyone.”
This is what happens when you focus all your energy on exclusion instead of clever plotlines. Call us, @Zola. We celebrate the holidays with everyone. https://t.co/YREKYbhgrv
• Instahunks: Fashion designer Daniel Sheehan calls his white t-shirt the ‘sexiest basic’ you’ll own, but I don’t see anything ‘basic’ in this pic (above).
• Newsweek: The Hallmark Channel has yet to produce any gay-themed Christmas movies, but a petition launched by outraged evangelicals is aimed at thwarting any future attempts at making a film with LGBTQ themes or characters.
• The Hill: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) – “The President doesn’t give a shit about what’s good for our country, what’s good for Ukraine. It’s all about what’s in it for him personally and for his reelection campaign.”
• Advocate: A Republican congressman has introduced a bill he positions as a compromise answer to the Equality Act, but it includes broad religious exemptions.
• Twitter: Donald Trump said today that “it is wrong” that “laws allow a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the 9th month.” #WhoWantsToTellHim?
WATCH: Trump decries the fact that “laws allow a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the 9th month,” and says “it is wrong, it has to change.” It’s unclear if Trump is calling for forced abortions or for delaying births until the 10th month.pic.twitter.com/T4YOw3QD2D
Apparently, Mark Steines left Entertainment Tonight to host Hallmark Channel’s new daytime talker Home & Family with TradingSpaces Paige Davis.
To be honest, I rarely watch the entertainment news shows anymore as I’m here all day reading all the news that it’s pretty much old news by 7pm each day.
I have a little history with Paige Davis as we performed in CHICAGO the Musical together for a time before her Trading Spaces days. I remember reaching out to congratulate her a few times during the TS run, but never received a reply. On to bigger and better I guessed.