Hallmark Channel said today it is boosting its original programming efforts, adding another scripted series to its schedule and two pilots to its development slate. The network unveiled during parent Crown Media’s upfront presentation in NY that it has greenlighted 10 episodes of When Calls The Heart, based on the book series by Janette Oke. The movie pilot is set to premiere October 5 and the series will debut in January 2014. It joins Hallmark’s first original scripted series, Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, the Andie MacDowell-starrer that premieres July 20 as a two-hour movie, followed by new one-hour episodes on Saturdays beginning July 27. Set in the Western frontier, Heart centers on young teacher Elizabeth Thatcher (Poppy Drayton) who trades high society life for a classroom post in the prairie, determined to prove she is brave enough to live on her own. She learns through her aunt’s secret diary that she had been a pioneer woman herself, and uses it as a guide to embark on her own adventures.
Hallmark also announced today that it has given an early Season 2 order to the daily daytime lifestyle show Home & Family, which in November saw the departure of original host Paige Davis. Mark Steines and Davis’ replacement Christina Ferrare will return to co-host. The network also said it has acquired off-network rights to Home Improvement from Disney-ABC Domestic Television and will air the hit ’90s sitcom beginning in September. It joins recently acquired series The Good Wife, which will air in January 2014, and The Middle, which is set for March 2014.
Here are the network’s descriptions of the pilots in development:
MARY HIGGINS CLARK’S MY GAL SUNDAY
Based on the book of short stories by Mary Higgins Clark, “My Gal Sunday” follows the husband and wife
crime solving duo of Sunday and Henry Parker. Parker, an ex Vice President of the United States and Sunday, a legal aid lawyer are celebrating their first wedding anniversary when Parker assists Sunday in snaring a murderer and he takes a bullet in the arm in the process. As they later head off on a romantic weekend getaway, they are kidnapped and taken to a remote, abandoned farmhouse where the kidnapper demands the release of a dangerous, notorious former hit man. Both Parker and Sunday assume the ex Vice President must be the target but as time ticks down and Parker becomes desperately ill from his untended wound, Sunday musters all her brilliant skills and bravado to confront and expose the kidnapper realizing that she is his true target of vengeance.
Created by bestselling author Martha Williamson, “Dead Letters,” follows a quirky quartet of civil servants in the Dead Letter Office of the US Postal System who transform themselves into an elite team of lost mail detectives. Their determination to deliver the undeliverable takes them out of the post office into an unpredictable world where letters and packages from the past save lives, solve crimes, reunite old loves and change futures by arriving late but always miraculously on time. The intrepid bunch is led by the charming and handsome (but idiosyncratic) Oliver who still considers the stamped and mailed letter to be the gold standard of human communication. His hapless team of lost letter experts, free spirited Rita and oddly intuitive Norman, are thrown for a loop when a beautiful, no nonsense technophile named Shane is mistakenly transferred to their inner sanctum. Shane inspires the lovable crew to step up in a risky and unorthodox way, beginning with a chance to clear the name of a wrongfully accused man and reconnect him with the love of his life.