Previews

Hallmark Channel Series Premiere Preview: When Calls the Heart [PHOTOS and VIDEO]

Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Hallmark Channel jumps into the mid-season fray Saturday night with the series premiere of When Calls the Heart, based on its successful movie last fall. Dialing back to the last scene from that film, the TV series resets with the arrival of new teacher Elizabeth Thatcher to Coal Valley, an outpost still reeling from a mining disaster that claimed 47 men.

The school is the last stronghold of the mothers and widows in town, who have put their own money together and summoned a teacher for their children. Thatcher isn’t what they expect, and the town isn’t what she expects, either. She asks for a week to prove herself before she’s sent packing. Also complicating things is the arrival of a newly stationed young Mountie who’s none-to-happy at his assignment.

Along with a recasting of the leads–Erin Krakow (Army Wives) steps in as Elizabeth and Daniel Lissing steps in as Mountie Jack Thornton–the show has added familiar Canadian faces Chelah Horsdal (Hell on Wheels), Martin Cummins (Dark Angel), Steve Bacic (pick something), Bruce Harwood (The X-Files) and Emily Perkins (Supernatural). Lori Loughlin is the only holdover from the film. Behind the scenes, Michael Landon, Jr. still holds the reins as producer, writer, and director.

Photo Credit: Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Crown Media United States, LLC

Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

The result is a sweet, sometimes awkward, but always heartfelt family-friendly hour that’s reminiscent of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Little House on the Prairie. I like Krakow in the role of Elizabeth–she reminds me of Annabeth Gish circa the Mystic Pizza/Hiding Out years.

I love seeing Cummins and Horsdal in weekly roles. When we interviewed Horsdal in the fall for Hell on Wheels, she joked about being in corsets again but her role here as Cat Montgomery is an alter ego to HoW‘s feisty Maggie Palmer. Here she’s the voice of reason. And Cummins is a tycoon we probably can’t trust, but he’s like Ian Tracey for me–I’m going to watch him no matter what. Loughlin is very good, too, as Abigail Stanton, the stabilizing force behind the town’s women, and she’s building a really nice niche at Hallmark Channel–I still hope we get a sequel to Garage Sale Mystery.

Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Eike Schroter/Crown Media United States, LLC

Here’s a sneak peek of Saturday’s premiere, which airs at 9/8c on Hallmark Channel.

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