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Hallmark Channel sets first original series

'Cedar Cove' to star Andie MacDowell

Hallmark Channel has greenlit “Cedar Cove,” the cabler’s first-ever original series.

Primetime drama, based on a series of novels by Debbie Macomber, centers on Judge Olive Lockhart and the parallels between her job at the Cedar Cove Municipal Court and her personal life. Andie MacDowell has been cast as Lockhart. Dylan Neal will play Lockhart’s love interest, and Carl Binder will helm “Cove.”

“We’ve been one of the leading producers of TV movies,” said Michelle Vicary, exec veep of programming at Hallmark. “Our audience has an expectation for original content. Creating an original series was the next natural step.”

Vicary said the cabler is currently eyeing certain telepics as backdoor pilots for series, including next year’s “When Calls the Heart,” a prairie romance starring “Taken’s” Maggie Grace and “Arrow” lead Stephen Amell. Michael Landon Jr. is helming “Heart,” and Brian Bird is penning and producing.

“People come to our brand for a particular type of experience,” Vicary said. “It’s really about the emotional connection in the form of relationships, romance and storybook tales.”

Vicary anticipates a slate of four original series by 2014.

“Cedar Cove” is exec produced by Dan Wigutow, Caroline Moor and Michael Scott. Hallmark will offer a two-hour sneak peek of “Cove” on Jan. 19 before officially bowing the series in early spring.

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