SALT LAKE CITY — Sometimes, good things come out of unexpected places. In the case of a popular podcast produced by two Utah TV fans, that unexpected place was a shared distaste for a Netflix show.
“We sort of bonded over our dislike of the Netflix series, ‘Anne with an E,’ and we wanted some goodness in our lives so we decided to talk about Hallmark movies,” Amber Nielsen, one half of the team that hosts “Hallmarkies Podcast,” told the blog, From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring.
Nielsen and her co-host Rachel Wagner “met through our love of a podcast called, ‘Rob Has A Podcast,” she said. “We met at a few events and became friends that way due to our mutual love of ‘Survivor.'”
At the time, Wagner was already running her own podcast, “Rachel’s Reviews,” when the two women decided to get together to commiserate about Netflix’s dark interpretation of “Anne of Green Gables.” “I wanted to talk about ‘Anne with an E,’ … so I reached out on my Facebook page and Amber was interested,” said Wagner.
And that’s how they started. Nielsen’s guest appearance on “Rachel’s Reviews” led the two women to create their own podcast focused on family-friendly programming — specifically Hallmark Channel movies.
Hallmark productions come from several different companies under the umbrella of Crown Media Family Networks. Hallmark Channel produces hits such as “When Calls the Heart” and “Good Witch,” while Hallmark Movies & Mysteries features productions such as “Garage Sale Mysteries” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Additional hits are available via Hallmark Drama and the network’s first streaming production — a spinoff of “When Calls the Heart,” tentatively titled “When Hope Calls,” will première in 2019 on Hallmark Movies Now.
No matter which Hallmark branch people go to for their favorite shows, there is a constant focus on family values and positive interaction.
“Can’t smart, thoughtful shows get produced without relying on gratuitous language, sex, or violence?” Crown Media President & CEO, Bill Abbott asked in an interview with the blog, From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring. “At Hallmark, we think the answer is a resounding ‘yes,’ and our ratings prove the strong appetite of audiences for television appropriate for all members of the family.”
Wagner and Nielsen are among those who spark interest in Hallmark programming. The duo share their thoughts on Hallmark shows while offering a mix of interviews with actors, critics and fellow podcasters. While they rarely agree on which shows or actors are the best, they share a love for the family-friendly programming Hallmark provides for viewers — no matter where they are from.
“I think one of the things that does appeal (to Hallmark’s audience) is it is clean content and I don’t think this is specific to Utah. It is specific to everyone who wants clean family-friendly content,” said Nielsen. “You are going to get a happy ending.”
“The shows in the end are all about marriage and family, and that’s very much a Utah thing,” said Wagner. “Whether you happen to be (a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) or not, that’s a general value for the state and is the general goal of most of these movies.”
“Even a lot of the stuff you see on the Disney Channel is a little questionable and doesn’t hold to the family values,” added Nielsen. “They create parents who are buffoons and children are independent and wild. Hallmark is doing family better than most any other network.”
Among the family-oriented shows the Hallmarkies will cover in the coming months are the new season of “Chesapeake Shores” and “Countdown to Christmas.” The former is an original series now in its third season and the latter is a two-month long string of Hallmark Christmas movies — including 22 new offerings — beginning Oct. 26.
Whether listeners are fans of the heartwarming mysteries of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” the old-fashioned romance of “When Calls the Heart,” or the magical spirit of Christmas movies, the “Hallmarkies Podcast” invites fellow fans to join them and bond over a love of clean programming.
“It is such a respite to go to our little section of the world,” said Nielsen.
* This article originally appeared in the Deseret News on August 17, 2018.