"When Calls the Heart" — Hallmark Channel, Sunday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m. MT.
SALT LAKE CITY — On Feb. 18, Hallmark Channel will give viewers a late Valentine’s Day gift in the form of the season five premiere of "When Calls the Heart" — a rare television show that answers many viewers' yearning for family values in entertainment.
Set in Canada in the early 1900s, "When Calls the Heart" kicked off in 2014 with a tragedy: A horrific mine collapse claimed the lives of nearly every man in the fictional town of Coal Valley. Through successive seasons, the women of Coal Valley have had to work together to overcome personal and community challenges, eventually renaming their town Hope Valley to emphasize their desire to approach life with hope and optimism.
Now entering its fifth season, "When Calls the Heart" features a number of male characters who too have become intertwined with the identity of the community.
Week after week and year after year, viewers tune in to learn the fate of different characters in a setting that has become increasingly enviable given the constant barrage of negative news.
“I love the show because it’s full of kindness, friendship and (family) values,” wrote one viewer, Iman Judah, on Twitter. “It takes away my mind from all politics on other channels.”
There are many aspects of the show that draw viewers such as Judah. Faith is a central theme in "When Calls the Heart," as are other traditional values such as love and forgiveness.
Actress Lori Loughlin plays the character Abigail Stanton — a woman who lost her husband and son in a mining disaster. As the show has progressed, viewers have watched Abigail overcome one trial after another to become the town’s mayor and a business owner — all while treasuring the joys of friendship.
The friendships on screen feel authentic, in part, because they carry over into real life.
“The chemistry and love that a cast has for each other is palpable to the viewer,” Loughlin explained in a recent interview with the blog "From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring." “People at home pick up on the energy and they find themselves wanting to sit down and spend time with those characters.”
Alfonso Moreno is the new showrunner for the fifth season. While the chemistry Loughlin pointed out is essential to the show’s success, Moreno wants viewers not merely to sit with the characters — but to feel comfortable sitting with their families while they watch.
“As a parent, I’ve experienced that sinking feeling when watching something with my kids that suddenly became not appropriate for them,” he said in a recent interview. “These uncomfortable situations have honed my sensibility as to what is and isn’t family-friendly viewing.”
Beyond the presence of positive values and the lack of cringe-inducing content, "When Calls the Heart" aims to strike the balance between content designed for children and adults.
It's a problem in both television and movies: Programs for adults are often filled with graphic content not suited for family viewing, while content for children is often filled with positive values but comes across as a bit too slapstick for adults to become invested.
“What 'When Calls the Heart' offers is a drama that deals with both adult and children issues,” Moreno explained. “We endeavor to amuse and to conjure goosebumps and heartfelt tears.”
Melanie Robinson is one of the many fans who appreciates the opportunity Hallmark creates to watch television together as a family.
“It is a great way for a parent to explain things in life that a child might not see but does happen in the world,” she explained on Twitter.
As showrunner, Moreno does all he can to provide viewers like Robinson with strong examples to review in a family setting.
“It is my job as a storyteller to test our characters by putting them in really difficult positions,” Moreno said. “The more emotionally difficult the circumstance, the more we can experience the better angels of our nature in a resolution.”
Although Loughlin is an actress in the show, she nonetheless takes inspiration from the “better angels” Moreno refers to — including her own character of Abigail.5 comments on this story
When asked what aspect of Abigail’s character she would want to better possess in her own life, the actress had a ready answer.
“She has an endless amount of patience,” Loughlin said. “I’m patient but not to the same degree.”
Fans who are anxiously awaiting the season premiere can relate to Loughlin’s yearning for more patience.
“For those who have — and haven’t — watched the series, I can promise that season five is the most gripping, heartwarming, amusing and emotional season to date,” teased Moreno. “It will be a weekly hour well spent.”