Why Trumpy Cable Network’s GAC Family Is Chasing All of Hallmark’s Biggest Stars

lIt’s a phrase that would have surprised people in the 90s: Full room star Candace Cameron Bure is now embroiled in a quest to build the TV empire of former President Donald Trump’s dreams.

Since her ABC sitcom days, the former DJ Tanner has become something of an “it” girl on the Hallmark Channel; since 2008, she has appeared in dozens of cable TV titles. On Tuesday, however, she announced her upcoming move to GAC Family — a Hallmark competitor funded by a group of investors with ties to the former president. Among the group’s previously reported activities? Assembling a far-right Fox News rival.

“I’m very excited to develop heartwarming family and faith-based programming and create the kind of stories my family and I love to watch,” Bure said in a statement to TV Line. “We share a vision of creating engaging, healthy content for an audience that wants to watch programs for and with the whole family.”

Those of us who don’t spend December mulling over made-for-television romances about women wearing infinity scarves and the burly men helping save their floundering candy businesses may not even know what GAC is, but the fledgling network is already having a stir.

Last summer, Thomas Hicks and his investment company, Hicks Equity Partners, led a group of investors that bought cable networks Great American Country and Ride TV. The first became GAC Family; the latter, once a 24-hour equestrian network, is now GAC Living.

In 2020, however, Hicks Equity reportedly had a different corner of the media landscape in mind. First, the group tried to buy out the Trump-friendly One American News Network (OANN), and later that year they watched Newsmax TV.

Rumors that Donald Trump wanted his own entertainment giant to rival Rupert Murdoch and Fox have been swirling ever since he took office. In November 2020, days after the presidential election, Wall Street Journal reported that sources claimed that Hicks Equity had begun exploring “put together a streaming service that would challenge Fox from the right” — a search the paper described as a “longshot” based on the networks’ viewership.

(The Trump campaign declined to comment on the WSJ report, and the White House did not respond.)

Tom Hicks Jr. with his father Tom Hicks, co-owner of Liverpool FC.

Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty

Hicks’ eldest son, Thomas “Tommy” Hicks Jr., is co-chair of the Republican National Committee, a longtime family friend of the Trumps, and hunting buddy of Donald Trump Jr.. In addition to his personal ties to the Trump family, Hicks Jr. . also co-chaired national finances for the Trump campaign and chaired the pro-Trump groups America First Policies and America First Action. BuzzFeed reports that it has raised $75 million in its first two years alone.

A person close to the Hicks family told the log that it is unlikely that Hicks Jr. would join a deal while holding an RNC position.

The news arm that the Hicks group tried to build, the… log reported at the time, was part of a larger vision. A pitch to investors reportedly described “a network of channels aimed at conservatives” that would also include channels aimed at “family-friendly entertainment programming”.

That’s where GAC Family comes in.

To say that promotional material for GAC Family is full of conservative dog whistles would be like saying that Santa has a sweet tooth. For example, the words “traditional values” and “American culture, lifestyle and heritage” come up very often. GAC Media CEO Bill Abbott left his post as head of Hallmark owner Crown Media in early 2020 after the channel was controversial for ripping off a commercial featuring a same-sex couple.

To say that promotional material for GAC Family is full of conservative dog whistles would be like saying that Santa has a sweet tooth.

And yet GAC Media has had little trouble recruiting Hallmark talent. In addition to Candace Cameron Bure and her former fuller house co-star Lori Loughlin, who was serving jail time after she was caught paying her daughters way to college, several trustworthy faces have come aboard, including Wonder years actress Danica McKellar, Chad Michael Murray and Hallmark loyal Trevor Donovan.

Cameron Bure’s involvement goes a little deeper than that of her colleagues. In addition to developing and starring in new productions for GAC Family and GAC Living, the actress will also oversee programming for both networks in an executive role. It seems that Cameron Bure has officially decided to follow in the footsteps of her older brother Kirk Cameron and focus on evangelical-friendly programming at this stage of her career.

As her statement put it, “Great high quality entertainment with a positive message is what my partnership with GAC is all about!”

But when GAC promises “safe” Christmas contentthose of us who don’t fit that equation know what they mean. In the streamer’s movies, white people happen to play almost all the lead roles — and unlike networks that have tried (too late) to embrace inclusivity in their holiday content, there isn’t a same-sex couple or non-Christian party to be found in. The slate of GAC.

When asked why GAC’s holiday offerings focused solely on Christmas, Abbott told the log that the company wanted to “just stick with our knitwear” and work with “more of a typical rate” in the first year.

Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis and conservatives who support Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill continue their fight to label any discussion of homosexuality with young children as “nursing.” While GAC bills itself as a “safe” alternative to one of TV’s most aggressive G-rated networks, DeSantis has branded enemies like Disney:Disney!-exaggerated “awake”. (Yes, the company that gave us the term “exclusive gay moment” and refused to let Oscar Isaac and John Boyega kiss is completely in the pockets of the gays; we love it when big companies don’t give us anything.)

Just like the log labeled the Hicks dream for a Fox News rival as a pipe dream, it seems unlikely that GAC — which I just can’t stop pronouncing “gack” — will become a real challenger to Hallmark in the near future. But that doesn’t make the existence or philosophy behind it any less disturbing.

At least two Hallmark stars have already made it clear that unless GAC proves its commitment to inclusive programming, they are not interested in collaborating.

Paul Campbell, one of the channel’s favorite poinsettias in recent years, tweeted that he will review the company’s output for meaningful inclusion, and that he “won’t shut up about it either.” Chesapeake Shores and frequent Hallmark holiday movie star Emilie Ullerup Campbell supported. However, you have to wonder how much of a difference on-screen recording would really make if the money comes from such a swampy source.

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