Hallmark Media is saying ho ho no to adding sex scenes to its Christmas movies — even though Lifetime had success with a steamy story line.
During the 2023 holiday season, Lifetime’s A Cowboy Christmas Romance featured a love scene for a more grown-up audience. When asked whether Hallmark would ever go in that direction, executive vice president of programming Lisa Hamilton Daly said, “In a Christmas movie? No!”
“I think our series occupy a little different space,” Daly told Variety on Tuesday, February 6, after teasing the network’s 2024 lineup at the Television Critics Association press tour. “Our movies are very much leading up to that final kiss. It’s all built up to that. Our series have a different pattern to them.”
Depending on the story line, “some of those kisses go a little longer, they get a little spicier, but we are never going to be anything but pretty much PG,” Daly said.
Hallmark movies, holiday or otherwise, have a tried-and-true formula that includes a slow build to a kiss between the lead characters. While some movies vary in when and how often the pair share a smooch, the network knows what works for them and has no plans to alter their style.
“I consider us to be pretty living room friendly,” Daly explained. “You know your kids are never going to walk in and you’d have to turn it off.”
The executives at Lifetime, however, had a different outlook on adding sex into their seasonal coverage.
“We think that there’s an audience out there that’s hungry for grown-up romance, and we’re looking forward to adding some smolder to the usual holiday sugar and spice,” Lifetime’s senior vice president of scripted content, Tia Maggini, told Variety in November 2023. “We love trying new things, and we’re excited about this new ‘first’ for us for a holiday movie.”
A Cowboy Christmas Romance, starring Jana Kramer and Adam Senn, premiered in December 2023. It marked the network’s first sex scene, and while it showed some skin, there was a lot left to the imagination.
“We’re on this — spoiler alert — he lays me down on some hay, and then we, you know. … And then, you know, obviously, it’s still Lifetime, it’s still family,” Kramer, 40, teased of the scene during a November 2023 episode of her “Whine Down” podcast. “But it was pushing limits there too.”
Kramer, who was pregnant with her third child during filming, revealed that Lifetime “didn’t cut anything.” She said, “I was so happy that they really left it all in there.” (Kramer welcomed her and fiancé Allan Russell’s son, Roman, in November 2023.)
Sarah Drew, who wrote the movie, was set on including the steamy moment in the holiday production. “It all came out so beautifully, but especially the scene in the kitchen. I had written into the stage directions, ‘He pulls her up onto the counter, he shoves things off the table,’” Drew, 43, shared on Kramer’s podcast at the time. “I put it all in there, so I was like, ‘Don’t take the steam and the sex away from me. I wrote it on purpose, I want it in there.’”
Although Hallmark isn’t on board with adding sex to its films, Daly revealed on Tuesday that the network is moving forward with diversifying its programming.
“I think we felt the range of programming that we had to offer this year was so unique and so varied. … I believe we are in a somewhat more competitive world now, where programming needs to be differentiated from each other,” she explained. “It needs to feel more unique and more special.”
Network star Andrew Walker exclusively told Us Weekly in February 2023 that Hallmark’s inclusivity — including same-sex couple stories and highlighting different cultures — is what keeps the talent coming back.
“I think that’s something that Hallmark has really put forward is that they want to tell real stories about real people with that same, like, heart and warmth and familiarity that you get in a Hallmark movie,” he gushed. “I think that’s the beauty of working for this network. It’s just incredible what they’ve done so far.”
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