Bill Harris, James Patrick Stuart, Howard Benjamin

The last few years, one of the highlights of the TCA Winter press tour has been the “Hallmark moment.” That’s when the U.S. cable Hallmark Channel hosts an elegant dinner for TV press at the stately Tournament of Roses House in Pasadena.
Hallmark doesn’t cross the border but many of its TV-movie offerings find their way north on Super Channel and other Canadian premium services. If you are wondering where the TV-movie went to die, it went to Hallmark. They crank out a few dozen TV-movies a year, many tied to the same seasonal hook as their ubiquitous greeting cards.
The titles alone are enough to cause cavities: Cupid, Chasing Leprechauns, A Taste of Romance, Operation Cupcake, Always a Bride, Puppy Love. This is Chick Flick central, as far removed from WWE Raw as you can get.
The Crown Media company is available in 42 million U.S. homes. A sequel to their highest-rated TV-movie, Luke Perry’s Old West epic Goodnight for Justice, airs this coming Saturday.
The Tournament of Roses House is the perfect setting for a Hallmark party. An elder in a blue blazer sticks a red rose decal on your lapel before you walk in past the solid oak front door. There’s a chamber quartet in the main foyer. Upstairs is packed with Rose Bowl memorabilia. You feel you are at a Republican fundraising convention.
Many of the stars of the upcoming TV-movies are at the event, most a few years removed from their network prime. (Then again, so are many of us who are TCA members.) Ageless Jane Seymour is a Hallmark regular. Valerie Harper was also at last week’s dinner, as was Dean Cain, Kristy Swanson, Candice Cameron Bure (married to  Battle of the Blades‘ champ Valeri Bure), Perry, Adrain Pasder, Joely Fisher, Genie Francis and Ted McGinley.
Former Fox bad boy Jamie Kennedy was also in the Hallmark house, a bit of a shocker. This isn’t exactly his Jackass-y kind of thing, but, hey, work’s work. Kennedy is clearly part of Hallmark’s bid to move beyond their Boomer base.

Upstairs at the Rose House: Go State

Being on Hallmark may have been seen as last stop on the career coral a few years ago but, really, as median viewer ages continue to rise, the entire TCA network press event has turned into an oldies tour. Session after session, one star or another from the past is up on the panel, be it 80-year-old Larry Hagman from the TNT revival of Dallas to Sally Kellerman, 74, among the voice cast of FX’s Unsupervised. Betty White, at 90, was one of the biggest draws of the entire press tour. Actors now go from a Hallmark TCA press event one year to a NBC TCA event the next, as Tom Cavanagh did this tour. (He’s now in USA Network’s Royal Pains.)
Last week at the dinner, I happened to sit next to James Patrick Stuart, one of the stars of A Taste of Romance. The TV-movie, co-starring Teri Polo, was playing that same night.
Stuart wasn’t the biggest name in the room but he was a good fit at our table, especially after me and fellow British Invasion junkie Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun discovered that the guy’s dad was Chad Stuart from Chad & Jeremy.
Here’s how bad it is for 50-ish TV critics who grew up Beatles freaks. Right away I go, “Chad & Jeremy–The Redcoats from The Dick Van Dyke Show!” Harris’s reaction–“Catwoman stole their voices on Batman!”

Dessert: Hallmark really does spoil us

Egged on by press tour legend Howard Benjamin (The Interview Factory), Stuart fed our nerd fix with stories of George Harrison and David Crosby visiting the family home in California in the ’60s and ’70s. That same house was later sold to David Cassidy! Stuart grew up on TV sets, attending tapings of shows like Mork & Mindy and Happy Days as a lad.
The amiable actor broke out on the soap opera All My Children and was in the cast of one of those great Fox sitcoms that should have lasted a lot longer, Andy Richter Controls the Universe.  He has made several memorable guest starring appearances on several sitcoms. One as Elaine’s egocentric boyfriend on Seinfeld and another as a gay ski instructor hot for Nile’s ass in Frasier. He can also be seen in the recurring role as a public defender on CSI.
Chad & Jeremy are still performing, he says. Maybe we’ll see them next TCA tour at the NBC sessions.

Follow @BillBriouxTV

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