The Hallmark Channel brings to mind holidays, happy endings and now, incongruously, a college admissions scam that involves one of the channel’s favoured actresses.
Lori Loughlin’s surprising arrest this week poses a challenge for the family-friendly brand with heartland roots.
The allegation that Loughlin paid bribes to gain her daughters’ college admissions is unconnected to Hallmark, but her career and the channel have become intertwined. She’s among its so-called “Christmas queens” who topline a slate of popular holiday movies, and stars in the ongoing “Garage Sale Mysteries” movies and the series “When Calls the Heart.”
“It’s a feel-good, family values-type channel, and obviously scandal is the opposite of that,” said Atlanta-based market strategist Laura Ries. “Will people get past that to love the character on screen and not the real person?”
While Hallmark has taken a wait-and-see attitude on Loughlin, there’s more at issue than whether her appeal survives. “When Calls the Heart” tapes in Canada, and a judge ordered Loughlin’s passport to be surrendered in December after grudgingly allowing her to cross the border for work until then.
Loughlin has not yet entered a plea in the case, and her attorney declined comment Wednesday after her first appearance in a Los Angeles federal court.
The actress also reprised her role as Aunt Becky for Netflix’s “Fuller House” reboot of the popular series that originated in 1987 on ABC. But the sitcom represents a fraction of the streamer’s flood of programs, while Loughlin has occupied an increasing amount of Hallmark real estate since she starred in “Meet My Mom” in 2010.
Initially silent when the allegations were announced, Hallmark issued a statement Wednesday, the day Loughlin surrendered to authorities: “We are aware of the situation and are monitoring developments as they arise.”
The Associated Press