On your Hallmark! Get set! Go!
With the longtime queen of holiday cheese dethroned and disgraced, savvy stars are gunning for her crown.
For years, Lori Loughlin ruled over the Hallmark Channel’s merry movie landscape, starring in cheese-tastic flicks, from “Homegrown Christmas” (former sweethearts organize a high-school Christmas dance in their hometown; sparks fly) to “Every Christmas Has a Story” (a small town’s holiday spirit wins over a Grinchy news anchor).
But the former “Full House” actress’ career took a ho-ho-horrific turn this year when she and her husband were charged in the national college admissions scandal.
Her unraveling left a Lori-shaped hole in Hallmark’s holiday programming — but the throne won’t be empty for long.
The top two stars laying claim to Loughlin’s legacy are Lacey Chabert (Gretchen Wieners in “Mean Girls”) and Candace Cameron Bure (D.J. Tanner on “Full House”). Each woman has fronted a whopping eight Hallmark Christmas movies, and they say they’re enamored of the notoriously saccharine films, which drew 85 million pairs of eyeballs from Oct. 25 last year to Jan. 1.
“I love that these movies are wholesome, that they make people feel good,” Bure, 43, tells The Post. Her Hallmark résumé includes “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas,” in which her Scrooge-like character gets locked inside a department store and meets the ghosts of her Christmases past, present and future, and “Journey Back to Christmas,” in which she plays a World War II nurse who is transported to 2016 via “Christmas comet.”
The actress was touched when an elderly man e-mailed her about her Hallmark roles. His wife, Bure says, “was, like, the queen of Christmas, and he didn’t know how he was going to get through the holidays after she passed away . . . He turned on the Hallmark Channel because his wife would always have it on, and it made him feel like she was present. These movies mean something to people.”
Chabert says she also feels honored to be a part of families’ holidays.
“I’m just so happy to be part of something that brings some joy to people and adds a little bit of goodness back into the world,” the 37-year-old tells The Post. Her Hallmark holiday hits include “A Royal Christmas,” in which an American seamstress finds out her European boyfriend is secretly a prince, and “A Christmas Melody,” which sees single-mom Chabert fall in love with a music teacher during a Christmas variety show.
“I have people stop me now and say that one of my Hallmark Christmas movies has become a part of their family tradition,” says Chabert, who wore her own wedding dress in “A Royal Christmas.” “I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.”
Clearly, they’ve both got the sweet cred. But who’s winning over fans?
For Hallmark die-hard Christina Figliolia, it’s Chabert all the way. The 34-year-old singer-songwriter loves the Yuletide yarns so much that she helped to plan Christmas Con in Edison, NJ, this year — at which Hallmark stars, including Chabert, showed up to spread the joy.
“I think the draw to the movies in general is the heart behind it,” says Figliolia. “Hallmark really manages to paint the world we all want to live in, one that’s based on community and friendship and hope. The actors in these movies embody that — the good nature, the heart, the spirit of what we all want.”
She thinks that Chabert checks all of those Hallmarkian boxes.
“She’s just one of the most generous, caring people you’ve ever met,” Figliolia says, “and on an acting level, she’s fantastic.”
Husband-and-wife superfans Andrew and Kathryn Dyce — who have watched more than 60 Hallmark flicks together — agree that those traits are key for a Hallmark star. But there’s more to it than that, says Andrew.
“These plots aren’t reinventing the wheel, but selling them is a total team sport,” says the 32-year-old. “The best stars know that.”
Kathryn, 31, adds, “Taking it seriously and not as a joke matters more than anything.”
The couple, who live in Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba, struggled to choose between Chabert and Bure.
“Candace . . . is on a level of her own, with energy almost nobody could match,” says Kathryn.
“Her most recent leads are a guardian angel, time traveler and herself as an identical twin sister,” says Andrew. “I don’t know if anyone could sell being in a modern fairy tale like her.”
But if you put a candy cane to their heads and forced them to anoint a ruler? They’d go with Chabert too.
“She is my Hallmark baseline,” says Kathryn. “She comes across so sweet and naive as a person, I could never hate a movie she’s leading.”
Andrew agrees. [Bure’s movies] “usually end up being magic first, charm second and Christmas third,” he says. “So the crown may be hers, but I could never bend the knee.”
The success of Hallmark Christmas movies has given rise to new stars — and resurrected beloved ones. Here are some of the top leading ladies adding holiday cheer to the small screen.
From Disney to Damsel
“High School Musical” vet Vanessa Hudgens, 31, got a lot of laughs (at, not with) for her ridiculous accent in last year’s Netflix sleeper hit “The Princess Switch,” in which she plays intercontinental dopplegangers who meet during a holiday baking competition. This year’s film “The Knight Before Christmas” is as silly and saccharine: A medieval hottie time hops to modern-day rural Ohio and meets Hudgens’ Brooke, a pretty and practical schoolteacher.
A fine vintage
She’s gone from twin, to “Inn”! “Sister Sister” star Tia Mowry, 41, kicked off her Lifetime career last year in “My Christmas Inn,” about an ad exec who unexpectedly inherits a cozy bed-and-breakfast. Her sophomore starring role is in this season’s “A Very Vintage Christmas,” in which Mowry plays an antique shop owner trying to return a box of mementos to its owner. Spoiler alert: she herself returns with true love!
Our very own Meghan Markle
The “Once Upon a Time” alum is no stranger to fairy tales, but 31-year-old Rose McIver (in red) is getting her Netflix happy ending as Amber, a journalist-turned-princess. First came love (2017’s “A Christmas Prince”), then came marriage (2018’s “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding”). And this year we’ve got, yes, “The Royal Baby.” Let the bump cradling commence!
Winnie Cooper, a k a Danica McKellar (far right), 44, has five Hallmark flicks to her name; She’s played a governess-turned-queen, a burned-out artist, and even a flirty florist for a Valentine’s Day flick for the network. This year, she‘s in “Christmas at Dollywood,” as a party planner and single mom from NYC who finds love while planning a holiday event for Dolly Parton.
Holiday magic maker
As “Sabrina The Teenage Witch,” Melissa Joan Hart, 43, is casting a new kind of spell in her four Lifetime Christmas movies. Last year’s “A Very Nutty Christmas” starred Hart as a baker who encounters a handsome soldier who may or may not be a real, live “Nutcracker” prince. And this year’s “Christmas Reservations,” is about an event coordinator who reunites with her college sweetheart at a ski resort she owns with her
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