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Former Hallmark exec recruits network stars for Christmas special

Debbie Matenopoulos and Cameron Mathison on the final episode of Hallmark Channel's Home and Family.
Debbie Matenopoulos and Cameron Mathison on the August series finale of Hallmark Channel’s lifestyle series Home and Family. The stars have been recruited by former Hallmark exec Bill Abbott to host a special on his new network, GAC Family, called Welcome to the Great American Christmas, which will air on October 24. Pic credit: Crown Media.

As Hallmark releases previews for its upcoming Christmas programming, former exec Bill Abbott has recruited two of the network’s biggest stars to host a holiday special on his new channel, GAC Family.

Debbie Matenopoulos and Cameron Mathison, who hosted Hallmark’s Home and Family program, will appear on Welcome to the Great American Christmas on GAC Family. Set to air on October 24, the special will mimic the setup of Home and Family, with guest interviews, recipes, and craft projects. The Hallmark program was canceled earlier this year.

Matenopoulos and Mathison are only two of several Hallmark stars who have agreed to do projects for Abbott’s new network. Chad Michael Murray, Jessica Lowndes, and Jen Lilley will also appear in GAC Family movies.

In addition to hosting the Welcome to the Great American Christmas special, Mathison will appear in the movie A Kindhearted Christmas, co-starring Jennie Garth, which will debut on November 20 on the GAC network.

Abbott’s departure

Abbott made headlines when he departed Crown Media Family Networks in January 2020. Neither he nor the network gave a reason for his departure, though it followed controversy over a commercial that had aired on the network showing two women kissing.

Crown Media replaced Abbott with Wonya Lucas in July 2020. In June of 2021, Abbott announced the creation of GAC Media, a company dedicated to family-friendly television programming. Last month, the company announced the purchase of two cable networks.

Programming is scheduled to begin on the two networks, GAC Family and GAC Living, on September 27.

Over at Hallmark

Hallmark has faced controversy this year after canceling two of its original programs. The series Good Witch was axed abruptly in July after seven seasons on the air. Home and Family was pulled after nine years.

Good Witch fans mounted a social media campaign to convince the network to reverse its decision. With no sign that Hallmark would budge, Goodies, as they call themselves, began targeting Netflix and then GAC Media, asking them to pick up the show.

Crown Media has not commented on the Good Witch controversy, instead choosing to focus on its remaining programs and launching a new series of movies under the greeting card company’s Mahogany brand.

It recently released a preview of its Christmas programming, which will begin on October 22. In the clip, trick-or-treating children walk up to a house that is decorated for Christmas. The owners open the door wearing Christmas sweaters and hand out candy canes, while a narrator says, “At Hallmark, we celebrate Halloween a little differently.”

The company will air Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel as part of its annual Countdown to Christmas series and on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries as part of its Miracles of Christmas event. Hallmark is already running Christmas movies every Friday evening, and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries is airing them on Thursday nights.

The network has released information on three original movies that will debut, including a musical called Christmas in my Heart, starring Heather Hemmens, Luke Macfarlane, and Sheryl Lee Ralph. Also coming soon are Coyote Creek Christmas, starring Ryan Paevey and Janel Parrish, and An Unexpected Christmas, starring Tyler Hynes and Bethany Joy Lenz.

Welcome to the Great American Christmas will air on October 24 on Bill Abbott’s new network, GAC Family.

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