Your move, Hallmark!
Lifetime announced on Monday as part of its virtual Television Critics Association summer press tour that, following last year’s Twinkle All the Way (which featured a same-sex kiss between characters played by Brian Sills and Mark Ghanimé), the cabler has greenlit The Christmas Set-Up, its first movie with a LGBTQ romance as the lead story. The synopsis reads:
Hugo, a New York corporate lawyer and his best friend Madelyn head to Milwaukee to spend the holidays with his mom Kate, who is also in charge of the local Christmas celebrations. Ever the matchmaker, Kate arranges for Hugo to run into Patrick, Hugo’s high school friend and secret crush, who has recently returned after a successful stint in Silicon Valley. As they enjoy the local holiday festivities together, Hugo and Patrick’s attraction to each other is undeniable and it looks as though Kate’s well-intentioned Santa-style matchmaking is a success. But as Hugo receives word of a big promotion requiring a move to London, he must decide what is most important to him.
Additionally, Lifetime has ordered its first holiday movie centered on a Chinese-American family; A Sugar & Spice Holiday will be directed by Jennifer Liao and written by Eirene Donohue.
Suzie, a rising young architect, returns to her small hometown in Maine for Christmas where, her Chinese American family runs the local Lobster Bar. Following the loss of her beloved grandmother who was a legendary baker in their community, Suzie is guilted into following in her grandmother’s footsteps by entering the local gingerbread house competition. Teaming up with an old high school friend Billy, who grew up to be a catch, Suzie must find the right recipes and mix of sugar and spice to win the competition and perhaps find some love in the process.
Casting is currently underway on both movies, with production set to begin this month.
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“We are thrilled to continue our legacy of creating a holiday destination that is welcoming to all at Lifetime,” Lifetime and LMN programming EVP Amy Winter said in a statement. “With more new movies than any one cable network for streamer, I couldn’t be prouder of the incredible talent joining us in front of, and behind the camera, on these new holiday movies.”
Christmas movie rival Hallmark Channel, of course, has been called out for never highlighting LGBTQ couples in its stories. What’s more, Hallmark famously pulled an advertisement for a wedding-planning website that showed a lesbian wedding. At the time, Hallmark claimed, “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.” Days (and much backlash) later, though, the channel reversed that “wrong” decision, saying “we are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.” Weeks later, Crown Media Family Networks Chief Executive Officer Bill Abbott stepped down after 11 years.
Crown Media’s VP of Publicity, however, just last month told Newsweek, “Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us and we look forward to making some exciting programming announcements in the coming months, including announcements about projects featuring LGBTQ storylines, characters, and actors. We are committed to creating a Hallmark experience where everyone feels welcome.”