Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Jan. 20, 2021

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Hallmark holiday fare makes gay couple ‘part of the family’

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When Jonathan Bennett was first sent the script for “The Christmas House,” his initial thought was, “Who’s my love interest? Who’s my girl?”

It’s an understandable instinct. After all, the project hails from Hallmark Channel, whose annual “Countdown to Christmas” lineup of original movies — a seasonal mainstay both lucrative and beloved — included 23 titles in 2019, none featuring a gay couple.

As it turned out, Bennett’s love interest wasn’t a woman at all: Instead, he’ll play half of the first gay couple highlighted in the network’s heavily watched holiday programming. “My jaw practically hit the ground,” he recalled. “And then I read the script, and I was in tears. I thought, is this really happening? This is groundbreaking.”

“The Christmas House,” which premiered Sunday, is part of a bumper crop of queer-inclusive holiday fare this season, alongside Netflix’s “A New York Christmas Wedding” (now streaming), Hulu’s “Happiest Season” (Nov. 25), Lifetime’s “The Christmas Setup” (Dec. 12) and Paramount Network’s “Dashing in December” (Dec. 13). It debuts nearly a year after Hallmark Channel pulled ads for a wedding-planning website that featured a same-sex couple kissing, then swiftly reversed the ban following public outcry. (This August, Hallmark included its first portrayal of a same-sex union in one of its original movies.)

Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming and network publicity, told The Times via email that the movie was written “to reflect the reality of countless families all over the world” and “signals our commitment to expanding our programming through modern storytelling in a way that allows everyone to share in the Hallmark experience. We aim to produce programming that resonates in a powerful, emotional way and reflects the experiences of viewers from all cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, belief systems, and lifestyles.”

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