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The World Needs Love. Hallmark Is Cashing in.

Hallmark, like various systems of artificial intelligence, is learning, and easing up on its compositional jargon. In “A Merry Scottish Christmas,” Chabert’s character has a love interest, and in Hallmarkian (and Sirkian) tradition, he is hunky, sensitive and handy. Yet unlike so many Hallmark heroines, she is not leaving a high-powered career in the big city for an ostensibly more substantial small-town life. Chabert’s character thinks she can stay in Scotland if she can run her own medical practice. And the “Party of Five” reunion overperformed. Taking into consideration all ad-supported cable, “A Merry Scottish Christmas” was the most-watched movie of 2023. The core viewers included women in key advertiser-prized categories, and the demographic details go broader than what many perceive to be Hallmark’s viewership: crotchety and cane-shaking “N.C.I.S.” fans.

What has become a cultural juggernaut began as a plan to market postcards. Joyce, Rollie and William Hall were born into Nebraska poverty in the late 19th century, and by 1911, they owned and operated a tiny venture called the Hall Book Store. There they sold, among other printed goods and gifts, “Christmas letters.” One advertisement from the time described the letters as “neat dainty folders of beautiful Christmas sentiments and mottos.” This snow-globe spirit is alive in Hallmark to this day. By the late 1940s, the company was sponsoring a Reader’s Digest radio show on the CBS network, but it soon went into the entertainment business on its own. Its radio show “Hallmark Playhouse” morphed into “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” a series of television specials that began in 1951.

In the early days, the Hallmark specials aired several times a year, and there was always one in December — Christmas-card season. Producing everything from George C. Scott doing Arthur Miller to Cicely Tyson in “The Marva Collins Story,” the still-active “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” with 78 Emmy nominations, is one of the most-awarded series in television history. In 2009 (eight years after taking full ownership of a religious network called Odyssey), the rechristened Hallmark Channel got serious about “leaning into Christmas.”

And Valentine’s Day. In 2015, the network announced five films ensconced in conventional Valentine visuals, traditions and melodrama. Fast-forward to Loveuary 2024, and the network is curating evermore high-concept Valentine’s Day programming. It is airing five films, four of which give Jane Austen’s themes Hallmark quirks. Featuring the network favorites Alison Sweeney (“Days of Our Lives,” “The Biggest Loser”), Will Kemp (“Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce”) and Mallory Jansen (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Loveuary closes on Feb. 24 with a “Bridgerton”-esque adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility,” starring the Hallmark neophyte Deborah Ayorinde (“Them,” “True Detective”). There will be empire-waist gowns, a literary scholar in need of a new attitude and, in “An American in Austen,” a woman exported to the times of “Pride and Prejudice.” Stubbornness, love, truths universally acknowledged: totally on-brand.


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