COLUMN: Why ‘When Calls the Heart’ is a Television Classic
On my blog and my readings at The American Spectator, I have repeatedly (and possibly to the point of beating a dead horse) mentioned how successful the Hallmark Channel has been in the television industry with family-friendly content not seen that much in the modern television industry. One of its most popular shows is When Calls the Heart, a show produced by Michael Landon, Jr. (the son of Little House on the Prairie star Michael Landon) and starring Erin Krakow, Daniel Lissing, Lori Loughlin, and former General Hospital cast member Jack Wagner.
The series – based on the novel by Janette Oke – is set in the year 1910, and follows the life of a young woman named Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow) who gets a teaching job in the small coal-mining town of Hope Valley, Canada – and immediately charms the whole town with her presence. There, she falls in love with a mountie named Jack (Daniel Lissing). Life is simple in Hope Valley, but there are sometimes challenges all the characters have to go through – just like normal human beings do.
This past Christmas, the fourth season premiere – a holiday special – shattered records for the entire series to date, and the channel’s other original shows as a whole. More than 3 million people tuned in, half of those in the crucial 18-49 demographic. The show also lights up social media, and has a very dedicated hardcore fanbase. So, what explains why the show is so successful? What is the allure of watching an old-fashioned folk tale in the vein of other classic television series such as The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie? There’s no nudity, pretty much no strong language or Hollywood celebrity cameos (if you take out former Calvin Klein model Brooke Shields), and definitely no liberal talking points inserted into the show’s dialogue and plot lines and/or gratuitous violence.
First is my theory, the characters in When Calls the Heart are relatable, especially the characters Jack and Elizabeth. The couple have a great relationship, and both come across as the kind of warm and lovable couple everyone wants to be around – especially children. The town in this series is also depicted as the kind of place anyone would like to live in. It’s laid-back, no-nonsense, and everybody seems to know each other.
Yet, there’s another very important reason why the show makes the Hallmark Channel one of the fastest-growing cable networks in the country – its family-friendly story with valuable life lessons in each episode, and its occasional Judeo-Christian themes. In fact, the above-mentioned Christmas special, uses a nativity scene. Quite rare by modern television standards.
This isn’t the first time the Landon family used Christian themes in their programming. In fact, Michael Landon, Sr. used these themes a lot in Little House on the Prairie. It especially came easy to him because of the fact that the Ingalls family were devout Christians themselves. When Calls the Heart, continues that tradition with its characters also practicing Christianity. How often do we see that in television nowadays? As families have all but disintegrated in this country, as mainstream popular culture takes away the innocence of children at younger ages, and as Hollywood celebrities force-feed their liberal views on the rest of us, it’s definitely a welcome relief for more than half the American population who is conservative to finally be able to watch a TV entertainment program that doesn’t insult their values or have an episode drive them away from watching again because it got infected by its network’s liberal culture.
When Calls the Heart depicts a small town with deeply colorful, and yes, regular people, and they’re living typical and relatable lives. What a concept! Here’s a memo to the entertainment industry, there is an audience out there that is hungry for wholesome family entertainment, and is sick and tired of the trash you are force-feeding to us today. Shock value like getting an abortion to the tune of “Silent Night” might sell to the elite media and the progressive zealots they cater to, but content that makes people feel good, and programs with characters that worship – wait for it… God!, that sells to the rest of the country. We need more shows like Heart, now more than ever.