As Hallmark Channel continues to weather controversies related to LGBTQ inclusion in its Countdown to Christmas lineup, one of its biggest rivals is setting a major milestone for this year’s holiday films.
Lifetime will air its first movie with an LGBTQ romance as the lead story as part of this year’s annual It’s a Wonderful Lifetime holiday slate, the network said today at the CTAM virtual press tour, which is partially replacing the annual Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, canceled this year due to the pandemic.
It’s a Wonderful Lifetime will feature more than 30 new movies, including A Christmas Set Up, about a New York corporate lawyer who goes home to spend the holidays with his mom in Milwaukee, and runs into an old high school friend, who is also male and was his secret crush while growing up.
This comes after one of Lifetime’s 2019 holiday movies, Twinkle All the Way, included a same-sex kiss between a couple (played by Brian Sills and Mark Ghanimé) as a secondary storyline.
Additionally, It’s a Wonderful Lifetime will including its first holiday movie centered on a Chinese-American family: A Sugar & Spice Holiday. Casting is underway on both films, and production is set to begin later this month, the network said.
“At Lifetime, the holidays are truly for everyone,” said Amy Winter, evp, head of programming, Lifetime and LMN.
That seemed to be a shot at Hallmark Channel, which sparked outrage last December for briefly pulling several ads from wedding planning brand Zola that featured a same-sex couple kissing at their wedding, in response to pressure from conservative group One Million Moms.
Zola responded by saying it would no longer advertise on the network for the foreseeable future. The hashtag #BoycottHallmark trended on Twitter, and GLAAD called the network’s action “discriminatory,” urging other advertisers to reconsider their own involvement with the company.
One day later, Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards Inc., apologized for what he called the “wrong decision,” and vowed to “be more inclusive and celebrate our differences,”
That led to the January exit of Bill Abbott, who had been Crown Media Family Networks president and CEO, overseeing Hallmark Channel, for the past 11 years. His replacement, Wonya Lucas, was hired last month.
However, Hallmark Channel found itself in more controversy last month when it unveiled its holiday movie slate for this year, all of which appeared to lack LGBTQ inclusion.
After another public outcry, the company said in a statement that diversity and inclusion were “top priority” and it would be “making some exciting programming announcements in the coming months, including announcements about projects featuring LGBTQ storylines, characters, and actors.”
Meanwhile, Lifetime has pulled ahead of its rival when it comes to LGBTQ holiday movie representation.