With the 10th season of Hallmark Channel‘s hit series “When Calls The Heart” (WCTH) due to wrap up on October 15, 2023, the show’s diehard fans — who call themselves Hearties — have been wondering just how much longer the beloved series will last. Though the cast has already begun filming an 11th season, thanks to a waiver granted by SAG-AFTRA during the actors’ strike, Hallmark hasn’t revealed when the next season will air or what its plans are after that.
If WCTH co-creator and executive producer Brian Bird has any say in the matter, the series will run for many more years. On September 22, he took the stage at the seventh annual “Hearties Family Reunion” in Vancouver with his producing partner Michael Landon Jr. and 88-year-old author Janette Oke, whose book series inspired the TV show.
In videos from the sold out weekend convention shared by Hallmark Channel, the threesome shared insights about the future of WCTH.
Brian Bird Wants ‘When Calls the Heart’ to Rival ‘The Simpsons’ in Number of Seasons
Welcoming a packed ballroom of attendees to the 2023 “Hearties Family Reunion,” Bird thanked the crowd for keeping WCTH alive since the series’ debut in 2014 and revealed he would like to see the show continue for many years to come.
“As I’ve said many times over the last decade, you Hearties are the reason for the show,” he said. “I think one of the big reasons that the show is still going strong is all of you. And I believe that long after the show has ended its run — which we hope is many, many seasons from now; we’re going to try to catch up with ‘The Simpsons,’ which is in season 42 or something like that, so you got a ways to go (but) we’re gonna try.”
Bird continued, “But long after ‘When Calls The Heart’ is not making episodes anymore, you will still be here. The Hearties, I believe, are the best legacy of ‘When Calls The Heart.'”
Though Bird has high hopes for WCTH to go on for many years, he said later in the day that the decisions of how long the series lasts and how many episodes are produced each season are up to the network, not him.
He explained, “The network orders a certain number of episodes. We, the production company, produces those episodes for the network. So, it’s really not up to us how many.”
When a fan asked why they don’t produce more than 12 episodes per season, Bird said that while shows produced decades ago may have had at least 24 shows per season, 12 is actually “on the high end” for current series, especially with streaming services like Netflix now ordering series with as little as six episodes per season.
“There’s also something to be said for the anticipation,” he added, explaining that it helps ratings and interest when people hunger for a show to air. “You know, you love the show so much. You can’t wait till it returns and so there’s this incredible anticipation while that’s happening.”
The strategy seems to be working. When WCTH launched its 10th season on July 30, Hallmark called its premiere an “outstanding success” in a press release, reporting that it was the most-watched entertainment cable show among all households, watched by three million unduplicated viewers.
Bird later said that one of the reasons he hopes WCTH continues for many years is that it’s one of only a few current series that offer uplifting content. Other than shows like “Ted Lasso,” which he called a “really fun, great show,” Bird said that producers of the estimated 1,000 series being produced for TV and streaming services, seem to have forgotten that storylines about “radical kindness” can succeed as much as “cynical” and “corrupt” shows that dominate the TV schedule.
“It’s like the (TV) business has gotten collective amnesia about how to make content that uplifts people, that reaches into their souls and helps them to aspire to something better and bigger than themselves,” he said, adding that Hallmark Channel understands and feeds the need for feel-good content and that “the world is better off for it.”
Michael Landon Jr. Gets Choked Up, Wishing His Dad Could See Success of ‘When Calls The Heart’
During a panel discussion on September 22, Landon Jr. was asked whether WCTH was inspired by “Little House on the Prairie,” the successful series that aired from 1974 to 1983 starring his dad, Michael Landon, who died in 1991.
“Absolutely,” he replied, getting choked up as he spoke. “‘Little House’ was by far my favorite of my father’s work. It wasn’t just about the series, it was about what the series did to people. It did bring families together. It was a special time.”
When it was noted that WCTH has lasted longer than “Little House,” which ran for nine seasons, Landon Jr. said, “Man, I wish my dad could see this. There’s nothing like this. You guys are so special.”
When Oke, 88, was asked whether the producers and writers consult her on storylines, she said that they have “no responsibility to consult me” but that the “wonderful, wonderful people” behind the series have reached out from time to time for ideas and input, saying they’ve been “so kind and gracious to me over the years.”
“You know, they are not copycatting what I did in the books,” she reminded the audience. “This is a new work presented in a new way and they do a good job.”
The Hearties Family Reunion included Q&A sessions with WCTH cast members on September 23, but sharing their appearances on social media was forbidden given the ongoing actors’ strike. Attendees were scheduled to visit the Hope Valley set on September 24.