Mark Steines to Host Nat Geo’s ‘Animal ER Live’ in First TV Job Since Hallmark Channel Ouster

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Former “Home & Family” co-host Mark Steines has been set as the host of Nat Geo’s upcoming “Animal ER Live,” the cable network said Thursday. This marks the TV journalist’s first small-screen job since he was abruptly ousted from Hallmark Channel last June.

Here’s the official logline for “Animal ER Live,” which premieres March 30:

Capturing the fast-paced drama and intensity of a hospital procedural mixed with the unbreakable bonds between pets and their owners, each episode of Animal ER Live will trail teams of emergency veterinarians and specialists as they work tirelessly through the night to save the lives of our pets from coast to coast, giving viewers insight into the extraordinary and unpredictable world of urgent animal care. The series will also follow a wide range of touching cases in emergency rooms and waiting rooms, and accompany on-call vets to homes and farms to treat animals that are too sick or too big to travel.

“I’m thrilled to partner with Nat Geo WILD and Big Fish Entertainment on this exciting new series that highlights the amazing work of those who have dedicated their lives to helping animals,” said Steines. “As an animal lover and advocate myself, I’m looking forward to showcasing the realities, drama and heartwarming moments these urgent care teams face on a daily basis as they work tirelessly to save the lives of animals in need.”

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Per Nat Geo, “Animal ER Live” will feature Steines and veterinary experts Dr. Justine Lee and Dr. Will Draper throughout the night, “giving commentary on what audiences are seeing in real time as cameras bounce to and from the featured animal hospitals and mobile vet emergency units in Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Oregon; Charleston, South Carolina; Plainfield, Illinois; Kanab, Utah; Fort Bragg, California; and Waller, Texas.”

At the time of Steines’ ousting from “Home & Family” last June, Hallmark Channel clarified exclusively to TheWrap that there were no complaints about the “Entertainment Tonight” alum’s behavior on or off the set before it suddenly cut ties with the veteran anchor after six years and that the show was simply choosing to go in a different direction. He was replaced by Cameron Mathison in July.

Last September, Steines filed a lawsuit against Hallmark parent company Crown Media, alleging that he was fired after supporting two women who brought sexual-harassment claims against the series’ executive producer at the time, Woody Fraser. Crown Media quickly responded to the suit, stating it had “no merit” and that the decision to replace Steines was due to declining ratings.

“Animal ER Live” airs Saturday and Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT, for four weeks, premiering Saturday, March 30 on Nat Geo.

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‘When Calls the Heart’ Producers Say Show Is Not Canceled But Is ‘Retooling’ After Cutting Ties With Lori Loughlin

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Hallmark Channel may have cut ties with Lori Loughlin but they aren’t giving up on “When Calls the Heart.”

According to the show’s producers, the Western drama has not been canceled but is undergoing “retooling” after Loughlin — a series regular — was fired by Hallmark Channel last week following her arrest in the ongoing college admissions bribery scandal.

“#Hearties, thank you for your love, support and patience these last several days as we have been preoccupied with the news about Lori Loughlin and her family, and the decisions our colleagues at the Hallmark Channel USA needed to make,” read a “producers’ statement” from Brian Bird and the show’s other executive producers that was posted to the show’s official Instagram page on Sunday. “As you can imagine, everyone involved with ‘When Calls the Heart’ was surprised by these developments, so we hope you can forgive us for initially staying silent while we sorted through how to respond.”

Also Read: Hallmark Channel Cuts Ties With Lori Loughlin Over College Admissions Scandal

“As for the show itself, we know millions of fans are on pins and needles wondering what will happen now. Let us reassure you, ‘When Calls the Heart’ has always been bigger than the sum of its parts, and it has not been canceled. With the full support of the network, we have gone on a creative hiatus to do some retooling on the remaining Season 6 episodes. That process has already begun. Hope Valley will return to your TV screens as soon as we can bring the episodes to you.”

“On behalf of our entire producing team, including Michael Landon Jr., Brad Krevoy and Alfonso Moreno, I want to thank you for continuing to show your support. Your private messages of support and your #Hearties4S6 worldwide trending on Thursday brought a lot of tears to the eyes of our cast and crew and to the good folks at Hallmark Channel. Your love for ‘When Calls the Heart’ is the courage we count on as we work through this challenging transition and your Hearties community will always be the most important legacy of this TV series. We love you!”

Hallmark Channel announced it had decided to part ways with Loughlin last Thursday, one day after her arrest in connection with the college admissions scam.

Also Read: Lori Loughlin’s YouTuber Daughter Olivia Jade Is Dropped by Sephora as College Admissions Bribe Case Unfolds

“We are saddened by the recent news surrounding the college admissions allegations,” Hallmark parent company Crown Media said in a statement. “We are no longer working with Lori Loughlin and have stopped development of all productions that air on the Crown Media Family Network channels involving Lori Loughlin including ‘Garage Sale Mysteries,’ an independent third party production.”

Additionally, Sunday’s episode of “When Calls the Heart,” on which Loughlin is a series regular, was pulled from the schedule.

Loughlin has been a fixture on Hallmark in recent years, toplining a number of its original films, including the “Garage Sale Mysteries” film series.

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The network previously said it would take a wait-and-see approach with regards to Loughlin when the actress, and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were first identified by the FBI last Tuesday as two of the parents who are accused of buying into a bribery scheme in order to help place their kids into top-tier universities.

The “Fuller House” star surrendered herself to authorities on Wednesday and appeared before a federal judge in Los Angeles. She was released on $1 million bail. Her next court date is March 29 in Boston.

Loughlin had been ordered to surrender her passport but was given leeway to travel within the continental U.S. and British Columbia for work due to her obligations on “When Calls the Heart,” which films in Canada, and other projects.

Loughlin, along with 46 others including actress Felicity Huffman, were charged with paying bribes of up to $6 million to get their children into top universities like Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and USC, according to charging documents. During a press conference in Boston on Tuesday, Andrew Lelling, U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts, said this was the “largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice,” totaling $25 million in bribes.

See the producers’ message to fans below.

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Hallmark Channel Owner Sued For Sexual Harassment By ‘Home & Family’ Ex-Chef

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Former ‘Home & Family’ Chef Says She Was Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

A former chef for Hallmark Channel has filed a lawsuit against the network’s parent company, alleging she was fired for reporting harassment by one of the network’s executive producers.

Shanti Hinojos, a former food stylist and lead chef for Hallmark’s “Home & Family,” named Crown Media and the production companies behind the show in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday. In the suit, Hinojos claimed she was fired from the show after reporting sexual harassment by Woody Fraser, creator and executive producer of the show.

The suit describes Fraser as “[a] harasser who went to great lengths to create a vulgar, sexually charged hostile work environment,” specifically targeting women. Hinojos accuses Fraser of making inappropriate and unwelcome comments about her body and making repeated sexual advances, a hostile work environment exacerbated by his “unhinged temper.”

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According to Hinojos, Crown Media and the show’s production companies were made aware of Fraser’s behavior by complaints from several women on the show but turned a blind eye.

“Consistently, Defendants knowingly allowed Mr. Fraser to continue to harass Ms. Hinojos as well as other women on set while they sat back and did nothing,” the suit read.

Hinojos further alleged that her employers threatened retaliation against those who spoke out against Fraser, including after Hinojos contacted attorney Lisa Bloom to represent several of Fraser’s accusers. At one point, Tracy Verna, an executive producer on the show and Hinojos’s immediate supervisor, warned that Hinojos “would be responsible for the entire cast and crew losing their jobs” by causing its cancellation.

In December of last year, Hinojos was fired from the show and told it was due to her “subpar performance.”

“Hinojos was terminated for performance issues. She was given the opportunity to correct those issues, but failed to do so. We have investigated and there is no merit to her allegations,” a Crown Media spokesperson said in a statement issued in response to the suit.

Also Read: Ex-‘Home & Family’ Co-Host Mark Steines Files Lawsuit Over Hallmark Channel Exit

Hinojos’s suit follows a similar one filed by former “Home & Family” host Mark Steines, who said last month that he was fired from the show after supporting two women who brought sexual-harassment claims against Fraser.

According to that suit, Steines witnessed Fraser “run a fear-based operation on the set of ‘Home & Family’ in which Mr. Fraser regularly bullied, verbally abused, and harassed cast and crew members. While Mr. Fraser was known to have an explosive temper, he was particularly aggressive and volatile when it came to berating female producers.”

Steines alleged Crown Media retaliated against his complaints with a substantial reduction of his salary, a cut in his regular voiceover work, a diminished role in network events, and ultimately his “abrupt early termination, conducted in an utterly unprofessional manner intended to personally humiliate Mr. Steines while maximizing damage to his professional reputation.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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The parent company of Hallmark Channel has fired back against former “Home & Family” co-host Mark Steines’ lawsuit alleging that he was let go because he supported two women who had filed sexual harassment complaints against the show’s executive producer, saying that his legal claims have “no merit.”

In a statement issued to TheWrap on Thursday, Crown Media Family Networks said that the decision to replace Steines was due to declining ratings.

Crown also said that third party research “indicated that Mr. Steines was perceived negatively.”

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“Crown Media has not seen the complaint, but has read in the media that Mark Steines has filed a lawsuit against Crown Media regarding his separation from ‘Home & Family’ earlier this year. The decision to replace Mark Steines was a measured, strategic and difficult decision for Crown Media to make, but was necessary given that the ratings for the show had declined,” the statement reads. “Further, the results of third party research indicated that Mr. Steines was perceived negatively. There is no merit to the legal claims Mr. Steines is asserting against Crown Media. Crown Media is also surprised that Lisa Bloom is representing Mr. Steines in this matter since she has a consulting agreement with Crown Media.”

The statement added, “Crown Media is proud of ‘Home & Family’ and the continued progress we have made in elevating the content and impact of our program. We are excited about the new creative direction for this new season and its potential.”

The Bloom Firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.

On Thursday, Steines filed suit against Crown, alleging that he was terminated from “Home & Family” for supporting two female accusers of then-executive producer Woody Fraser.

Also Read: Mark Steines Returns to Social Media as Superman After Surprise Hallmark Channel Firing (Photo)

According to the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, “In the spring and summer of 2017, two courageous ‘Home & Family’ female producers asserted claims of sexual harassment against Mr. Fraser and Defendants. Plaintiff Mark Steines stood up in support of the women by providing truthful information to the women’s attorneys in support of their claims. Mr. Steines acted appropriately in opposing and reporting Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment, and supporting the women who spoke out against Mr. Fraser. After learning that Mr. Steines had spoken with the women and their attorney, Defendants chose to flagrantly violate the law by retaliating against him.”

That retaliation, the suit says, included a substantial reduction of Steines’ salary, a cut in his regular voiceover work, a diminished role in network events, and ultimately Steines’ “abrupt early termination, conducted in an utterly unprofessional manner intended to personally humiliate Mr. Steines while maximizing damage to his professional reputation.”

According to the suit, Steines witnessed Fraser acting inappropriately on multiple occasions. In spring 2017, the suit says, two female “Home & Family” employees formally reported their sexual harassment claims and, when contacted by their attorney, Lisa Bloom, Steines “voluntarily participated in Ms. Bloom’s investigation by providing truthful information in support of the sexual harassment victims.”

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After which, the suit says, Steines was retaliated against, culminating in a May 30, 2018 meeting during which Steines “was terminated effective immediately, with Defendants citing only ‘creative differences.’”

“Mr. Steines had no creative differences with the show, the producers, or network executives,” the suit reads. “Mr. Steines is informed and believes that Defendants’ proffered nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Mr. Steines was actually a pretext for terminating Mr. Steines in retaliation for reporting and opposing Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment to Defendants in December 2016, and for and speaking to Ms. Bloom in support of Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment victims in 2017.”

While Fraser is not named as a defendant in the suit, in June 2017 he issued a statement saying that he had refused to settle sexual harassment accusations in “an amount she demanded,” adding, “I engaged in no actionable conduct.”

“In a few days, on behalf of two of her clients, attorney Lisa Bloom may go public and accuse me of sexual harassment claiming that I have created a hostile workplace environment,” the statement read. “I believe this media-driven event is part of a calculated attempt to ruin my reputation after I refused to settle these accusations in an amount she demanded. Like many others, I would have preferred resolving things quietly, even though I engaged in no actionable conduct.”

“The women who are accusing me remain in their jobs as well-paid television executives. Although I am far from perfect, I am confident that when the facts regarding the nature of the allegations are fully revealed, before a jury if necessary, my reputation will be restored,” the statement added.

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