The Hallmark Channel debuted “When Calls the Heart” back in October, with a two-hour movie that brought Janette Oke‘s 1983 frontier novel to life and introduced the forthcoming weekly series.
The series premiered Saturday (Jan. 11) on Hallmark, starring Erin Krakow (“Army Wives” “Castle”) as Elizabeth Thatcher and Daniel Lissing (“Last Resort”) as Royal Canadian Mountie Jack Thornton, with Lori Loughlin (“Full House”) reprising her role from the TV movie as coal mine widow Abigail Stanton.
At first glance, the show seems fairly straight-forward. Elizabeth, the daughter of a wealthy shipping tycoon, is a fish out of water as the new teacher in a frontier town who is not accustomed to pioneer life. She encounters opposition in the form of the town’s mothers, who pay her salary, and Thornton, who is angry to find out he was commissioned as Coal Valley’s town constable because Elizabeth’s influential father wanted someone there keep his “princess” safe.
However, there’s a bit more to it than we were expecting. A recent mine explosion just killed half the town’s men and boys, leaving widows and orphans behind to pick up the pieces. There was also a recent fire that burned down the town church. All things point to the big, bad mining company as perhaps being behind these catastrophes, but we don’t know why yet.
Presumably Constable Thornton will start investigating, which creates an on-going tension between the town and the company. Elizabeth also has her own tension in that she has her ideas about teaching but answers to the mothers of the town who pay her.
Thornton and Elizabeth are also, obviously, love interests for one another. Krakow and Lissing’s on-screen chemistry is pleasantly surprising, as the trope of a love-hate couple can often be horribly cliched and cringe-worthy.
Finally, Loughlin was a bright spot in the show. Obviously, she’s a beacon of kindness and light because, c’mon, it’s Aunt Becky. But she flexed some acting muscles recounting how her husband and son were killed in the mine explosion that actually had us tearing up a little.
“When Calls the Heart” seems like it could be some wholesome family fare that is also an interesting show. What did you think of the premiere?
Thornton: “You won’t last a month in a town like this.”
Elizabeth: “Well Constable Thornton, I think you’d better settle in and get used to a steady diet of coal dust. I’m a Thatcher. We don’t run from a challenge.”
Thornton: “You won’t have to deal with me very long. I put in a transfer request and I am hoping for a quick response.”
Elizabeth: “Good. Because this town doesn’t require the services of a second-rate Mountie who runs from a challenge.
Thornton: “I hardly consider this town a challenge.”
Elizabeth: “Really? Seems to me that a town whose church burns to the ground and whose mine explodes, killing half the town’s population, warrants an investigation.”