Category: Faith and Family on the Internet

Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas — One Month Away!

Marry Me at Christmas

Los Angeles is already starting to decorate for Halloween, which is more than a month away, so why wouldn’t Hallmark launch its annual Countdown to Christmas movie event exactly a month from today?

On Friday, Oct. 27 until Dec. 31, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries go wall-to-wall with holiday-themed movies, including a total of 33 original movies between the two channels.

Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas features new movies every Saturday and Sunday (except. Oct. 29) at 8 p.m. ET/PT — click here for the full rundown — starting on Oct. 28 with “Marry Me at Christmas”:

Stars: Rachel Skarsten, Trevor Donovan
Organizing a Christmas wedding is a true treat for bridal boutique owner Madeline Krug. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect dress for the bride and orchestrating an exquisite event. What Madeline didn’t expect was to be swept off her feet by the bride’s gorgeous brother, movie star Johnny Blake. Jonny came to the quirky town of Fool’s Gold to support his sister — not to fall in love. Yet Madeline is the most extraordinary woman he’s ever met. Planning the perfect wedding leads to candlelit dinners and strolls through snow-covered streets. Madeline finds the real Johnny even more captivating than her celebrity crush. Will the action star be brave enough to take on the role of a lifetime?

Here’s the whole thing (you can download the schedule from here):

 

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries begins its celebration, called The Most Wonderful Movies of Christmas” click here for the full rundown, on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT with “Mr. Christmas”:

Starring: Sam Page, Tara Holt
Tom Jacobs has built an entire business around helping clients find the perfect gift for their loved ones. Since his company’s busiest time of the year is the holidays, he’s earned himself the nickname Mr. Christmas. When Tom’s good friend Paul comes to him asking for help in finding a gift for his girlfriend, Jenny, Mr. Christmas finds himself in a bit of trouble. The more he learns about Jenny during his research, the more he likes her, and the guiltier he feels being caught between his heart and his best friend. With Christmas rapidly approaching, Tom dreads his encroaching deadline as it will mean an end to his time with Jenny and perhaps an end to his only chance at being with his one true love.

Here’s the rest (you can download the schedule from here):

Heaven knows we could all use a little cheer!

Image: Courtesy Hallmark Channel

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Roma Downey, Mark Burnett and MGM Launch Lightworkers.com to “Make the World a Better Place”

Back in July, “Touched by an Angel” star turned producer Roma Downey announced that her LightWorkers brand would be launching a new platform, featuring “original video series, compelling editorial and thoughtfully curated content,” intended to uplift and entertain.

Here’s the video, shot at Downey and Burnett’s Malibu home:

Now, it’s here (actually, click here).

So, what’s it all about?

From my inbox:

LightWorkers.com has a robust offering of emotional, shareable and impactful content that highlights entertainment, lifestyle, faith and family. The content, social media and real-life activations aim to offer visitors achievable ways to make positive changes in their communities, both online and off. It will also create new advertising and sponsorship opportunities for brands, including video franchise sponsorship, custom branded videos and original branded series that align with a shared mission of doing good.

LightWorkers.com already has a hit with “37 Seconds of Good News” which spotlights ordinary people doing extraordinary things in this world. Originally launched on social media, the series has already surpassed 21 million views on Facebook. LightWorkers.com will also showcase a wide range of content from new and established personalities, including bestselling author Michelle McKinney Hammond telling it like it is in advice series “Tough But Fair”; Brooklyn Wagner, who brings her blunt and boisterously random perspective to “Welcome to Brooklyn”; and Julianna Strickland and Natasha Feldman who’ll take your thoughtful gift-giving game to the next level with “Giftable.” There are also moving profiles of athletes and influencers in our premium docuseries “I Struggle. I Rise.” and celebrity interviews with friends of the LightWorkers family – Van Morrison, Jeff Probst, Cindy Crawford, Ali Landry, Niecy Nash, Brooke Burke and more – opening up like never before about how they’ve persevered through challenges in their own lives.

“LightWorkers has sparked a movement on social media, where we’ve been able to engage across different platforms sharing positive messages of hope and encouragement. We need these inspirational messages now more than ever,” said Downey, President of LightWorkers Media. “My motto has always been that it’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. My hope is that LightWorkers.com will invite others to do the same, inspiring them to shine their own light within their communities to remind us that there are good people doing extraordinary things everywhere.”

Talking to the Los Angeles Times, Downey explained how the idea began — and can’t we all relate to her answer?

Downey said she came up with the the idea for LightWorkers.com after being overwhelmed by negative stories while watching the news. The former “Touched by an Angel” star wanted to create a site to highlight people who were doing good in the world, she said. The company started testing the idea with 37-second videos highlighting heartwarming stories, such as a community in India that set up a fridge offering free food to the poor. Those clips garnered more than 20 million views, bolstering the company’s confidence in the concept.

“I have worked on big epic productions, and I believe this is the future,” Downey said. “I’m very excited to be ahead of the curve on this.”

So, congratulations from all of us at Family Theater Productions to Downey, Burnett and everyone at LightWorkers. As Downey says in the introductory video, “Be a LightWorker, and shine a light. Together, we can make the world a better place.”

Image: Courtesy LightWorkers/MGM

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘Maya the Bee’ Controversy: A Question of Trust Between Animator and Audience

Every day, parents sit their children down in front of entertainment that presents itself as child-friendly and child-safe — and the majority of it is — but there’s a catch. Not everyone who works on these shows may have children’s best interests in mind.

Recently, “Maya the Bee,” a popular European cartoon offered on Netflix, became the center of a controversy when a mom noticed a very inappropriate drawing of a male body part etched in the background of a scene, and posted about it on Facebook. She wasn’t dreaming or mistaken — it was there.

Here’s the reaction from the studio, as published in The Hollywood Reporter:

“An absolutely inappropriate image has been discovered in a four-second fly-by scene in one episode of the total of 78 episodes of the series,” said production group Studio 100 in a statement on Friday. “The origin of this image obviously results from a very bad joke from one of the 150 artists working on the production.”

And from Netflix (which pulled the episode):

“This is indeed unacceptable to the Studio 100 Group as owner of the brand and all its partners and doesn’t reflect the quality of its work and its values,” the company’s statement continues. “Legal action has already been started. Studio 100 very much regrets this incident and would like to offer its sincere apologies to all Maya the Bee fans. At the same time the company is taking all suitable technical measures to remedy the situation.”

It’s a little hard to imagine the mindset of an artist who would think it was funny to put such an image in a show intended for small children. But, different sorts of people work on these shows, especially animated ones, and they all have their own sensibilities. I remember doing an interview with a producer turning out animated shows for kids on Nickelodeon. He said that he and his fellow 20-something animators basically did the shows primarily to amuse each other, and delighted in slipping in little jokes.

I don’t know that he or his pals did anything like the “Maya the Bee” animation artist (but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did). But this was before the rise of social media, so if they did, it wouldn’t have gotten the immediate response that the parents who took “Maya” to task on social media did.

In a perfect world, parents would pre-screen every bit of TV that their children watch — but we don’t live in a perfect world. We do, however, live in a world saturated with media. While the producers of “Maya the Bee” may not have had any ill intent, things slip through. This might be a good teaching moments for parents to explain how entertainment comes to be, how it’s made up of writers and animators, voice actors and producers, studios and networks.

The more kids know about the process, the less godlike and mysterious it seems, and the more they realize that people who make TV are flawed human beings like the rest of us. In our world today, there’s far too much hero-worship of those in showbiz, rather than a grounded realization that it’s a business like any other.

And if you see something in a show that caters to children that offends you or your values, speak out. Enough parents doing so caught the attention of both the “Maya the Bee” studio and Netflix, and action was taken.

In this highly competitive media environment, viewers matter. Every producer and network knows that people rely heavily on word-of-mouth, often through social media, to choose programming for their children. Never forget the power you have — and don’t be afraid to use it.

As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but verify.”

Image: Courtesy Netflix

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Bishop Robert Barron Launches New Streaming Platform, Talks Faith at Facebook

Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire apostolate has gone digital with a new streaming platform.

From the bishop’s message that landed in my inbox today:

We are offering a new way to view our content on this cutting-edge streaming site, and you’ll be able to watch any of my programs on any device and at any time.

With a Word on Fire Digital subscription, you will instantly have access to ALL of my video programs.

You’ll also be the first to gain access to new releases, as well as other content that will be added throughout the year.

Here’s how it works…

You can pay a low monthly price to access everything, or you can purchase programs individually, rent them for a limited time, or effortlessly send them as a gift.

I am confident that Word on Fire Digital will be another new way to reach souls with the Gospel via the new media.

Click this link to learn more and watch the new video trailer: http://WOFDigital.org

Click here for the trailer; and here to sign up for a free trial.

Now, you can have Bishop Barron all the time, and share him more easily with friends, family and faithful seekers.

This appears to be part of a new digital outreach by Bishop Barron, who headed to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Sept. 18, to talk about how to discuss faith on social media.

From Catholic News Agency:

Bishop Barron said authentic faith is not opposed to reason; it does not accept simply anything on the basis of no evidence.

He compared faith to the process of coming to know another human person. While one can begin to come to know someone by reason, or through a Google search or a background check, when a relationship deepens, other questions arise.

“When she reveals her heart, the question becomes: Do I believe her or not? Do I trust her or not?” he said.

“The claim, at least of the great biblical religions, is that God has not become a great distant object that we examine philosophically,” the bishop said. “Rather, the claims is that God has spoken, that God has decided to reveal his heart to his people.”

Click here to watch the full Facebook video.

Word on Fire Digital is not the only place to find great Catholic content online. Of course, there’s always the Vatican Website, but that’s just the beginning.

Try the Augustine Institute’s Formed streaming service, which aims to be “Catholic Netflix.” It features hundreds of Catholic videos, movies, audio content and ebooks. You can try a seven-day free trial or subscribe as a parish. Click here.

Catholic TV can be seen on several platforms, including Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, or on your iPhone or Android phone. But it’s also available online, just click here.

Of course, premier Catholic network EWTN is available on cable and satellite TV, but it also posts many of its shows on its Website and YouTube channel, and streams online live, right here.

So, if you can’t find anything good to watch, you can always find something to watch that celebrates truth, beauty and goodness.

And, as you see at the bottom of the post, you can also visit our YouTube and Ustream channels, and coming soon, we’re adding our catechetical Web series “Catholic Central” to the mix. For a preview and to learn more about our great young hosts, Kai (Kaiser Johnson) and Libby (Elizabeth Slater), visit CatholicCentral.com.

Image: Courtesy Word on Fire

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

5 Family-Centric Shows to Check Out if You Love ‘This Is Us’

Cast of ABC’s “Speechless”

As fans of NBC’s tear-producing family drama “This Is Us” wait to see if it’s going to win the Emmy Award for outstanding drama on Sunday — or if that win could change the TV landscape — fans may be wondering if there’s anything like it out there.

Our newest Catholic-mom blogger, Adrienne Thorne, has some suggestions. Take it away, Adrienne…

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that I’m not the only one kind of counting down the days until NBC’s “This Is Us” returns on Tuesday, Sept. 26. What I loved most about the show’s first season was importance it places on family in one’s life — kind of a rare quality in today’s TV landscape.

Or is it?

Statistically speaking, probably. But there are at least a few good choices out there you can watch for a happy helping of family togetherness wrapped in a 22-or 43-minute package.

“Parenthood”

If you’re a fan of “This Is Us,” you’ve probably heard it compared to “Parenthood.” Starring Lauren Graham (Lorelai from “Gilmore Girls”), “Parenthood” is a light drama that is very much about family.

The series begins when Lauren Graham’s character moves herself and her two teenage kids back home to live with her parents and near her three adult siblings. Despite a bit more sexual material than you’d find in “This Is Us,” it’s still a pretty uplifting show with a strong emphasis on the importance of familial love. Take a look at the trailer:

“Malcolm in the Middle”

This one’s a little bit older but still a great choice (and available streaming on Netflix!). You might not think of a comedy as something with similar family themes, but this show about a genius teenage boy (played by Frankie Muniz) in a slightly eccentric family of four boys is actually very family-centric.

Highlights include a pretty good portrayal of marriage between his parents and a lot of lighthearted fun. Low points include some occasional sexual material that might make the show unsuitable for younger members of the family. Read my full review here.

“The Wonder Years”

A coming-of age-sitcom starring Fred Savage (aired in the late ’80s, but set in the ’60s). This one’s not entirely about family, as Savage’s character navigates the rocky waters of middle school drama and friendships, but his family issues play a strong part in his maturation. This show actually surprised me quite a bit with unexpected depth and feels, especially since it’s rather on the older side.

Currently available streaming on Netflix, but hurry if you want to watch it because it leaves in October!

“Life in Pieces”

A current Monday-night sitcom on CBS, “Life in Pieces” — returning for its third season on Thursday, Nov. 2 — reminds me of a comedy version of “Parenthood.” It’s about three adult siblings who live in close proximity to each other and their aging parents. This show is often quite hilarious but does suffer from more crudity than I’d like to see (or technically hear, since most of it is of the dialogue/joke nature). The good thing, though, is that in addition to having an emphasis on the importance of family in your life, this show also has quite a few moments where elements that I thought were going somewhere immoral turned around into a good message, in a pretty clever way. Read my full review here.

“Speechless”

I’ve saved my favorite for last. “Speechless” is a current ABC sitcom — returning for a second season on Wednesday, Sept. 27 — starring Minnie Driver about a family with a special-needs son, who is unable to talk because of his cerebral palsy. Personally I don’t think the premise necessarily sounds super-fun, and yet the execution is top-notch. In other words, it’s absolutely hilarious, not to mention very pro-family, pro-life, and even pretty clean.

I would say this show is a pretty rare gem in today’s TV landscape, and I’m kind of holding my breath for season two, hoping against hope that it stays this good. Read my full review here.

Image: Courtesy ABC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Bishop Robert Barron Takes on ‘David the King’ in New Video

On Sept. 5, Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire apostolate releases “David the King,” a new study program including video talks by the Los Angeles Archdiocese auxiliary bishop and extensive Bible-study materials.

Here’s the trailer:

Here’s a taste of the first lesson:

Click here for a sample of the Lesson 1 study guide.

In addition to the videos, the study program is structured for seven 90-minute sessions on the Davidic themes of Kingship in the Old Testament and their fulfillment in Christ in the New.

From the Website:

Each section of the study guide provides a detailed commentary on the DVD and “Questions for Understanding” based on the presentation, Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Each section also includes “Questions for Reflection” that help you connect the material to your own life and experience.

Each session includes DVD viewing and small group discussion of Study Guide questions. Participants read the commentary in the study guide and prepare the questions before the small group discussion. This preparation can be accomplished either before or after they view the DVD, as the Commentary in each lesson is very detailed.

There is also free training available for study-group leaders.

The entire “David the King” program is available for pre-order, and those who take advantage will receive it in advance of the Sept. 5 launch date.

And, of course, the first set of “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players” is available, with more episodes in production.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Bishop Barron, and I’m eager to see what his long-term effect will be on the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Here’s something he said to me on the topic, shortly after arriving in L.A. in 2015:

Now that I’m here in this great entertainment capital, which includes the whole world, it’s an important question. One thing I’ve tried to do in my evangelical work is to reach out to TV and to movies and to popular culture, and try to find what the Church Fathers called seeds of worth, the signs and echoes of the Faith that you see in pop culture, and to point those out, so as to lead more positively.

It’s easy enough to say that there are all sorts of negativity within media culture — and there is — but my preferred method is to find the points of contact and to emphasize those.

In a more direct way, you can think of [the training and mentorship program]Act One here in Hollywood, trying to bring Christians into screenwriting. That’s a good thing.

My thing, from an evangelical standpoint, is to look out into popular culture, to find the points of contact and thereby draw people closer.

So that’s been my strategy, kind of an affirmative orthodoxy, if you will. It’s a hopeful way to engage popular culture.

Click here for more on how the bishop found himself in Southern California.

Apparently it was a surprise:

“I was in my room on a lazy Sunday afternoon,” he said. “I had finished Mass, and I was back in my room, watching golf. This phone call comes from the apostolic nuncio, [Archbishop Carlo Maria] Viagano.

“I knew exactly what it meant — that’s the only reason he calls people. I knew it what it meant but I was really surprised by Los Angeles. That was nowhere even vaguely on my radar screen, because the whole bishop thing wasn’t on my radar.

“If someone becomes an auxiliary bishop, first, it’s almost always in your hometown. If someone had mentioned Chicago, that would make more immediate sense. So, I never dreamed of being a bishop in Los Angeles.”

Let’s all keep Bishop Barron and his work in our prayers!

Image: Courtesy Word on Fire

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.