Lifetime, Not Hallmark, Will Be First to Feature LGBTQ Romance in Holiday Movie

Amy Winter - Publicity - H 2020
Allen Cooley/Courtesy of Lifetime

Lifetime will feature an LGBTQ romance at the center of one of its holiday movies, marking a first for the cabler. 

The network plans to air 30 new movies during its annual "It's a Wonderful Lifetime" block and is touting some added diversity in the lineup, including a story about a Chinese American family and one starring disabled actress Ali Stroker. Tiffany Haddish will also executive produce a movie called Christmas Unwrapped

"We are thrilled to continue our legacy of creating a holiday destination that is welcoming to all at Lifetime,” said Amy Winter, executive vp and head of programming at Lifetime and LMN. "With more new movies than any one cable network for streamer, I couldn’t be prouder of the incredible talent joining us in front of, and behind the camera, on these new holiday movies."

Lifetime's push to further diversify its holiday slate comes in the wake of criticism of its Christmas movie rival, Hallmark Channel. Former CEO Bill Abbott was pushed out in January following Hallmark's removal of a commercial featuring a same-sex couple (the channel later backtracked and apologized for the move). New CEO Wonya Lucas is expected to up the diversity of the slate, but Lifetime will be first out of the gate in centering LGBTQ characters in one of its movies.

The LGBTQ story will be at the heart of The Christmas Set Up. The movie will follow Hugo, a corporate lawyer in New York who heads home to Milwaukee for the holidays, where his mother arranges for him to run into his secret high school crush, Patrick. As their mutual attraction grows, Hugo is faced with a decision to accept a promotion in London or remain in Milwaukee. 

Haddish has joined Christmas Unwrapped as an exec producer. The movie stars Amber Stevens West as a reporter who learns the true meaning of Christmas when she investigates a beloved man (Marco Grazzini) who insists the gifts he gives to people in his town come straight from Santa Claus.

Lifetime's other newly announced holiday movies are:

- Christmas Ever After, starring Tony winner Stroker as a successful romance novelist who spends every Christmas at her favorite bed and breakfast — but this year is facing a deadline and writer's block. Inspiration strikes in the unlikely form of the B&B's new owner (Daniel DiTomasso).

- A Sugar & Spice Holiday, in which rising architect Suzie returns to her Maine hometown, where her Chinese American family runs the local lobster bar. Following the loss of her beloved grandmother, who was legendary for her baking, Suzie is guilted into entering the local gingerbread house competition. 

- Dear Christmas, starring Melissa Joan Hart as an author and host of a podcast that shares stories about holiday love with her listeners — but who has never really had a romance herself. That changes when she heads home to spend Christmas with her family and meets a local firefighter (Jason Priestley).