Andie MacDowell’s ‘The Way Home’ Is the Way Forward for Hallmark Channel

The first word that comes to mind when most people think of Hallmark Channel is Christmas. The network has made its name (and a lot of its money) on its annual holiday fare that guarantees light-hearted, family-friendly fun, whether you are watching ironically or not. The patented formula of its Christmas movies is a comfort for the droves that watch every year, but Hallmark frequently gets overlooked when it puts down the tinsel and Santa cookie cutters.

This should be the year that changes, because Hallmark has one of the best shows on TV. The multi-generational time-travel drama “The Way Home” is the brainchild of Marly Reed and mother-daughter showrunners Heather Conkie and Alexandra Clarke. It’s one of Hallmark’s biggest hits —and with good reason.

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Andie MacDowell and Chyler Leigh anchor the series about an estranged mother and daughter who reconnect decades after a family tragedy with the help of a mysterious pond on the family farm that allows them to travel backward in time.

The first season focused on two storylines, taking Leigh’s Kat Landry and her daughter Alice (Sadie Laflamme-Snow) back to the ’90s to explore what happened when Kat’s little brother disappeared and how the family patriarch Colton (Jefferson Brown) died shortly after. The second season, which aired this year, added an 1814 storyline that, essentially, added an entirely new world into the series.

The scope of “The Way Home” and how it handles the mechanics of time travel is impressive for any sci-fi show. What makes the series so special is how it uses those elements to bolster the characters’ stories. Yes, this is a show where a magical pond takes people back in time, but even more, the show is about grief, reconnecting and facing the past. It is charming and addictive in equal measure, unlike anything else on TV at the moment.

In the ambitious Season 2, each of the characters is facing their own origin story. Kat is sent back to 1814 to see the founding of her hometown and must reckon with her family’s complicated history as she continues the search for her little brother. Alice is confronted with the fact that  her parents did not have a storybook romance, while their neighbor and time travel guide Elliot (Evan Williams) grapples with his connection to both his biological and surrogate fathers.

Even though the characters are on seemingly separate journeys, the truths they discover about themselves during their separate adventures through the pond inevitably bring the family closer together in the present day. And the series keeps people hooked by introducing new twists and Landry mysteries just as burning questions are answered.

Each of the characters are flawed people. They are stubborn, angry and impulsive. They’re human, which anchors the more extraordinary aspects of the show. The pond doesn’t drive the characters but provides a lens through which they can see each other more clearly. The masterful way in which “The Way Home” uses a magical pond to tell such character-rich stories is what deserves the accolades.

It would be a real shame for Emmy voters to overlook this show due to the Christmas goggles that they view Hallmark through. “The Way Home” exemplifies what Hallmark is truly about — powerful family stories that compel and engage a massive audience. The series is breaking the mold for Hallmark Media and may be the most underrated show on TV. “The Way Home” is the way forward for Hallmark. TV Academy, take note.

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