In television, when you have a 52-week-a-year production schedule you had better really like your job. Thankfully for the cast and crew of Hallmark Channel’s daily chat show Home & Family, they do. After a visit to the set its understandable why this close-knit group enjoys sharing their workload, unanimously agreeing its criminal they actually get paid to have so much fun. “You always hope to be on a good production, but that isn’t always the case,” co-host Debbie Matenopoulos told me during my recent visit to the show. “Here there are 120 people on set and they are all good people you want to be friends with. Big egos just don’t exist here, and I can tell you this is possibly the only place in Hollywood that they don’t!”
Filmed live-to-tape on a home-style set on the Universal Studios back lot, Home & Family combines celebrity interviews and performances with an array of lifestyle segments including DIY, cooking, fashion, travel, child care and pet care provided by the show’s enthusiastic personalities.
Matenopoulos, formerly of The View, who joined the show in its second season, co-hosts Home & Family with Mark Steines, formerly of Entertainment Tonight, who has been with Hallmark’s signature daytime program from day one. (Matenopoulos and Steines are pictured at top.) Now, as the show enters its sixth season, Steines says he couldn’t be prouder of how it has grown. “Our first celebrity guest was David Arquette, and back then the set looked barren, like Between Two Ferns,” he laughed, making a reference to Zach Galifianakis’ low-budget interview show on Funny or Die. “The power blew so we lost the air-conditioning in the middle of that interview!”
For Steines it’s the fact his celebrity interviews don’t just center on his guests’ latest projects that he finds appealing. Unlike on Entertainment Tonight, Home & Family allows its hosts to go a little more in-depth, in the process learning new things about their subjects.
“I love working here as it really does reflect everything I believe about family,” Beauty, Lifestyle and Fashion Editor Kym Douglas told me. “My son Hunter appears regularly on the show with me and the people here are some of my closest friends. I call Home & Family ‘a safe family haven’ where you can sit down and watch a show with something for everyone and it’s all clean and happy. It’s very Norman Rockwell and I think we all need that at times.”
“I started on season two, co-hosting a few times,” said H&F DIY guru Paige Hemmis (pictured below). “I had to wait for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to be over before I could join full time in season three. [Hemmis was one of the cast of carpenters on EM:HE.] Being on the road for 10 years, I was really looking forward to being in one place. My husband Jason and I had been engaged for years, but never had time to get married. Here I get to work in one place and they even offered to do my wedding, so it was perfect life timing and I get to spend time with my furry kids!”
Hemmis’ weekly pet adoption segments gave rise to Hallmark Channel’s new Pet Initiative, details of which were announced at Crown Media’s recent Television Critics Association party. “I’ve been working with Hallmark on that,” she said with a smile. “I’m so happy we will now be doing an animal-a-day adoption -- dogs, cats, bunnies, you name it. Whatever animal needs a home, we will be giving it airtime.”
“It’s funny how much my home life relates to this show,” said former American Idol contestant Matt Rogers, who lives in Nashville but has been a “family member” on H&F for four years. He says the very-long-distance commute is worth it. He knows how to make it all work. “I’m going camping with my family, so I did a segment on the top camping items you need before going on a trip,” he told me.
“I think the strongest thing about the show is how it’s crafted,” added Matt Iseman, another member of Home & Family‘s on-camera ensemble. “It never feels like a clip show and every day you get a glimpse into a home and our family. We are genuinely doing these things together and we love learning from each other.”
“The other thing that’s cool for me is the Hallmark stars we get,” Rogers added. “Candace Cameron-Bure, Alison Sweeney [and many others] who’ve been on two or three times will check in with Iseman and me beforehand to see if we will be there and what fun things we’re going to do. They feel like a part of the family, too, and always look forward to coming back.”
DIY expert Ken Wingard told me it’s the social media interaction from fans that makes his participation in Home & Family so special. “The emails and Facebook posts I get from viewers are amazing,” he said. “They are personally invested in all of us. They check in and share the results of the projects we’ve done. They even ask after my kids. I really feel like I have a relationship with a lot of the viewers that goes beyond the set.”
Home & Family is telecast Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. ET on Hallmark Channel.
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