Why These Stars Left The Hallmark Channel

If the flood of endless holiday marketing and unsolicited gift lists aren't indicators enough, Hallmark's tremendously predictable (albeit heartwarming) "Countdown to Christmas" specials are undoubtedly the metaphorical shadow Punxsutawney Phil needs in determining that Christmas is nigh. Littered with child stars from yesteryear, the network has become the flagship provider of feel-good content, especially during the holidays where the card company has made a name for itself over the last half-century.

What if we told you, however, that the legacy network has been shaking things up? From Lori Loughlin and Trevor Donovan to Danica McKellar and Hilarie Burton, some of the very names that have made "tis the season to be jolly" for some many years are now ... gone.

No, not dead, of course. But they've for sure all parted ways with your grandma's favorite television channel to watch this time of year, and it doesn't seem like they'll be adding any more Hallmark movies to their resumes anytime soon. From McKellar's multi-picture deal to Lori Loughlin's controversial exit, here is the tea on why the following celebs have parted ways with the Hallmark Channel.

Things did not end well with Hallmark and Hilarie Burton

Who doesn't love Hilarie Burton? She captured the imagination of adolescent boys everywhere playing Peyton Sawyer on the smash hit series "One Tree Hill" for six seasons and even won over the execs at Crown Media Family Networks, as she'd go on to star in multiple Hallmark movies over the years. So it was a surprise that when asked if she might return to Hallmark after the channel announced more diverse movies in 2020, her response was: "They said they don't know me. Uh huh."

It must have been too little, too late for the 39-year-old who starred in "Surprised by Love" opposite Paul Campbell, "Summer Villa" co-starring Victor Webster, and the Christmas film "Naughty or Nice" with Matt Dallas for the network. According to Burton, she left the channel after insisting on more racially diverse and LGBTQ coverage — reportedly to no avail. "I was told 'take it or leave it'. I left it. And the paycheck," she wrote on Twitter.

Ironically enough, Hallmark premiered "The Christmas House," which features the network's first LGBTQ storyline involving one of the main characters, a year later in 2020.

Lori Loughlin is returning to When Calls the Heart -- but not the channel

Lori Loughlin might be returning to the fan-favorite "When Calls the Heart" series, but don't get it twisted — Aunt Becky will not be associated with Hallmark in any sense of the word. Loughlin was let go by Crown Media Family Networks and edited out of the latter half of Season 6 of the series after being charged (and later indicted) in the massive college admissions scandal that resulted in a two-month federal prison sentence.

But the former "Full House" and "90210" star is pulling off the seemingly improbable feat of reprising her popular Abigail Stanton character without Hallmark, thanks to GAC Family — a new TV channel launched by former Crown Media CEO and Hallmark executive Bill Abbott — which has created a spinoff, "When Hope Calls."

So, while classic mash-ups like "Meet My Mom" and "Northpole: Open for Christmas" that Loughlin and Hallmark collaborated on in the past are now off the table, you can tell your in-laws to catch her in the two-part Season 2 premiere titled "When Hope Calls: A Country Christmas" on GAC.

Nantucket Noel was Trevor Donovan's last appearance on Hallmark

Not all of Hallmark's departures have been rooted in controversy. Trevor Donovan, although you might have seen him in the network's "Nantucket Noel" in November 2021, broke his Hallmark streak to sign an exclusive deal with GAC Family. The former "90210" alum, who made waves as the first LGBTQ character that was a series regular, will make his GAC Family debut in "Jingle Bell Princess" in December 2021 alongside co-star Merritt Patterson, who, funnily enough, also starred in "Gingerbread Miracle" on Hallmark in November 2021.

This might be especially hard news for Hallmark fans who've grown to love Donovan's holiday work, as he's been on a tear, starring in "Marry Me at Christmas" in 2017, "SnowComing," "Love, Fall & Order," and "Nostalgic Christmas" in 2018 and 2019, and following those with "USS Christmas" and "Two for the Win" in 2020 and 2021.

You, Me & the Christmas Trees was Danica McKellar's last Hallmark movie

Likewise, Hallmark movie legend — having appeared in over a dozen movies since 2015, including seven Christmas films — Danica McKellar will no longer be a part of your Hallmark holiday, as she, too, has signed an exclusive deal with GAC Family. "Danica is a world-class talent who is among TV's most beloved and enduring stars," Bill Abbott, President & CEO of GAC Media, said to Deadline in a statement. "Her combination of creativity and passion is second to none, and I am thrilled to have her join GAC's close-knit family."

The former child star, who many grew to know as Winnie Cooper from "The Wonder Years," will both star and executive produce four new films in her new partnership, beginning with "The Winter Palace," set to premiere in January 2022. Her last holiday effort for Hallmark — "You, Me & the Christmas Trees" — premiered on the channel in December 2021, following the murder mystery hit series "Matchmaker Mysteries: The Art of the Kill."

Needless to say, if your family holiday movie tradition centered around McKellar, it's time to switch favorite celebs (or just switch networks).

Michelle Vicary was behind the Countdown to Christmas movie juggernaut

While not exactly a star in front of the camera, we would be remiss to overlook the departure of the network's former EVP Programming, Michelle Vicary, who has been with Hallmark since 2015 and oversaw countless classic films. Vicary, who left at the beginning of June 2021, was replaced by Randy Pope, SVP Programming & Development, and Darren Melameth, SVP Programming & Content Strategy, as interim co-heads until her replacement is found.

"We thank Michelle for her contributions to the growth and success of our networks and for helping to bring the quintessential Hallmark brand to life," Crown Media Family Networks CEO Wonya Lucas said to Deadline in a statement. "We appreciate the passion and effort she has brought to our team and to the company," she continued.

Honestly, if you're a die-hard Hallmark faithful, you might miss her departure the most as she's been behind many of the channel's Countdown to Christmas favorites. It will also be interesting to see how Hallmark continues their programming for future holiday seasons.