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Originally published Friday, August 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Older actors savor Hallmark moments

Hollywood is not a nostalgic town. The TV stars of yesteryear might get a star on the sidewalk, but they are often shunned when it comes...

Minneapolis Star Tribune


Upcoming Hallmark Channel movies

"DEAR PRUDENCE," premiered Aug. 23 and repeats at 9 tonight: Jane Seymour plays an advice columnist who isn't smart enough to stay away from murder cases. Look for the character to return in future movies.

"FOR THE LOVE OF GRACE," 9 p.m. Saturday: A hunky firefighter (Mark Consuelos) can't get over his wife's death until sparks fly with a woman he rescues.

"LADIES OF THE HOUSE," 9 p.m. Oct. 18: Three women (Donna Mills, Florence Henderson and Pam Grier) try to renovate a rundown house without killing one another with jackhammers.

"GENERATION GAP," 9 p.m. Oct. 25: Ed Asner, Hallmark's go-to grump, attempts to bond with his rebellious grandson. Needless to say, Gramps hates spunk.

Hollywood is not a nostalgic town. The TV stars of yesteryear might get a star on the sidewalk, but they are often shunned when it comes to what they truly covet: another juicy role.

But in recent years, veteran actors have thrived on the Hallmark Channel, television's most popular "retirement" center. The marquee names — Ed Asner ("Lou Grant"), Corbin Bernsen ("L.A. Law"), Meredith Baxter ("Family Ties") and Greg Evigan ("My Two Dads") — may not get invitations to the Teen Choice Awards, but they're big draws for viewers of a certain age who still think Patrick Duffy is dreamy.

"I think the people watching the Hallmark Channel are happy to see us," said Donna Mills, best known for her role on "Knots Landing."

Mills appears in the coming Hallmark movie "Ladies of the House," alongside Florence Henderson and Pam Grier. "Other networks don't always have places for us, but Hallmark provides a comfort zone for viewers who want to see people they know."

Henderson, who ruled the Brady bunch in the early '70s, said the channel serves an underrepresented, yet valuable, demographic.

"I feel very strongly about the baby-boomer generation, and they're sorely neglected on TV," she said. "We're the fastest-growing segment of the population, and I think advertisers forget that we are the ones with the most money. For that reason, I'm very grateful to Hallmark."

The strategy appears to be working.

The operation has gone from a platform for tired reruns and recycled CBS movies to a well-oiled machine that churns out 30 movies a year, by far the most productive output of any cable or network organization. The channel currently reaches 85 million homes, has finished in the top 10 for more than two years and, for the first time in its seven-year history, is turning a profit.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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