The Hallmark Channel has hired Barbara Fisher as senior VP of original programming, whose first mandate is to come up with a batch of TV movie suppliers to replace the prolific Halmi operation.
The two Robert Halmis, father and son, churned out dozens of movies for Hallmark every year, including a number of two hour mystery-wheel pics with John Larroquette, Lea Thompson and Kellie Martin.
But Halmi is moving on, lured by commissions from Lifetime (12 movies over two years), Spike (also 12 movies over two years), Sci Fi Channel (10 movies, 22 episodes of a new “Flash Gordon” series and “Tin Man,” a big-budget miniseries extension of “The Wizard of Oz”) and ION Media Networks (20 or so movies in the next year).
With Halmi out of the picture, “our doors are wide open,” said Fisher, who’s based in Los Angeles. “I’ve met with producers, writers and directors, and I’m looking for movies in all genres — comedy, romance, Christmas and other holiday and seasonal stories, plus Westerns, fantasies and true stories.”
And even though the mystery wheel will vanish from Hallmark, Fisher said she’ll still look for an occasional suspense drama to link up with the rerun series the network carries, such as “Murder, She Wrote” and “Matlock.”
Because of the Hallmark brand, Fisher said she’d steer clear of the kind of edgy movies that other networks dote on. “All of the members of a family,” she said, “should be able to sit down in front of the television and watch a Hallmark movie without embarrassment.”
“But we’re not Nickelodeon,” she added. “We program to an audience of grown-ups.”
Down the road, Fisher said Hallmark’s goal is to commission scripted series.
Hallmark also has plans to create a Hallmark on Demand service that would allow viewers to watch original movies at their leisure. In addition, the network wants to beef up its Web site to allow more interaction between Hallmark and its viewers, including the possibility of streaming the movies after their run on the channel.
Fisher was most recently a consultant to National Geographic Entertainment. Before that, she served as executive VP of entertainment for Lifetime from 2002-04. In the ’90s, Fisher was president of network programming for Universal Studios and president of entertainment for Universal TV.