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On Monday, as part of its virtual Television Critics Association summer press tour, Lifetime announced that it is developing its first-ever Christmas movie featuring an LGBTQ romance as the lead story.
The announcement comes a year after the channel showed a same-sex kiss between two minor characters in the holiday-themed movie Twinkle All the Way, featuring actors Brian Sills and Mark Ghanimé.
Lifetime, which has become popular over the years because of its women-centric dramas and year-round holiday-themed romance movies, made the announcement just a month after its rival station, Hallmark Channel, announced it was in “active negotiations” to develop future project featuring LGBTQ characters or storylines.
“We are thrilled to continue our legacy of creating a holiday destination that is welcoming to all at Lifetime,” Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network programming Executive Vice President Amy Winter said in a statement, as first reported by TVLine.
“With more new movies than any one cable network for streamer, I couldn’t be prouder of the incredible talent joining us in front of, and behind the camera, on these new holiday movies.”
The proposed LGBTQ-themed movie, The Christmas Set-Up, has been greenlit and is currently working on casting, with production set to begin later this month.
According to Lifetime, the movie’s plot will center around Hugo, a New York corporate lawyer, who heads back home to Milwaukee, with his best friend Madelyn in tow, to spend time with his meddlesome matchmaking mom, Kate.
Kate arranges for Hugo to run into Patrick, Hugo’s high school friend and secret crush, who has recently returned to the Midwest after working in Silicon Valley for years. But just as Patrick and Hugo seem ready to become a couple, Hugo is offered a big promotion that would require him to move to London, leaving him with a difficult decision to pursue his career or a newfound love.
Both Lifetime and Hallmark Channel have been criticized in the past for a lack of LGBTQ representation on screen, even with minor characters.
Hallmark Channel has also received criticism from right-wing groups such as the American Family Association’s “One Million Moms” project, which famously called for a boycott after the channel aired a commercial from the online wedding registry Zola featuring a lesbian couple (the company also had two other ads featuring heterosexual couples airing at the same time).
Caving to pressure from One Million Moms and similar groups, Hallmark Channel pulled the ad, apologizing for being “divisive,” only to later reverse course after Zola pulled all of its advertisements from the channel in protest. Soon after the controversy, the channel’s president and chief executive of 11 years tendered his resignation.
More recently, after the channel’s announcement that it was considering developing LGBTQ storylines, One Million Moms launched a new petition slamming the channel — which some social conservatives had previously embraced because it was one of the few television channels with “wholesome content” that was appropriate for family viewing — and reigniting its calls for a boycott.
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