You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Thoughts On Hallmark Channel’s ‘The Watsons Go To Birmingham’…

Thoughts On Hallmark Channel's 'The Watsons Go To Birmingham'...

Hallmark Channel’s The Watsons Go To Birmingham, a Hallmark Channel Original Movie, made its World Premiere on Friday night, September 20 at 8pm ET/PT, 7C.

Did you tune in? 

When I learned that it was to premiere on a Friday night, it wasn’t a decision that made sense to me. Friday nights aren’t exactly the best nights for TV viewing, because, well, it’s Friday, and, if you’re like most folks I know, we tend to go out on Friday nights. The work week ends and the weekend begins! We’re not all at home watching TV. 

But Hallmark hasn’t released the movie’s ratings figures yet, so I can’t say how many watched it. Maybe the numbers are strong anyway. I have it recorded to watch later, which I’ll do sometime this week. And I’m assuming that Hallmark will likely rebroadcast it – although it’s website doesn’t list any addition dates currently.

But if you did tune in on Friday night, your thoughts? 

Produced by Tonya Lewis Lee, the film adaptation of the historical fiction novel of the same name by Christopher Paul Curtis, is directed by Kenny Leon (Lifetime’s Steel Magnolias remake).

The film’s cast includes: Anika Noni RoseDavid Alan GrierSkai JacksonLaTanya RichardsonWood HarrisBryce JenkinsPauletta Washington and Harrison Knight.

Co-produced by Nikki SilverThe Watsons Go To Birmingham centers on an African American family living in the town of Flint, Michigan, who visit their grandmother’s home in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, a turbulent time during the civil rights movement.

The script adaptation was written by Tonya Lewis Lee, so she’s wearing at least 2 hats on this project. 

Here’s the full synopsis along with what characters each starring actor will play:

Set in the Summer of 1963, Flint, Michigan is home to the Watsons, a close knit “All American Family” made up of Daniel and Wilona Watson (Harris and Rose) and their three kids, 15 year-old juvenile delinquent Byron (Knight), nerdy 11 year-old Kenny (Jenkins) and eight year-old adorable sister Joetta (Jackson). When Byron’s antics go over the top, his parents realize enough is enough and they decide the family needs a dose of Grandma Sands (Richardson) no nonsense approach in Birmingham, Alabama. So the Watsons load up the 1948 Plymouth Brown Bomber outfitted with a true tone Ultra-Glide turntable and head South with plenty of comedy en route. When they finally make it to Birmingham, they meet Grandma Sands and her friend, Mr. Robert (Grier), who show them around town, and the Watsons discover that life is very different there than in Flint – and not necessarily for the better. During that historic summer, the Watsons find themselves caught up in something far bigger than Byron’s antics. Something that will change their lives and country forever.

What they get “caught up in” is the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in September, 1963, which proved to be one of the pivotal events of that year in the fight for civil rights. 

The book was Christopher Paul Curtis’ first novel, and it received a Newbery Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Golden Kite Award.

The project is part of “Walmart and P&G Present Walden Family Theater,” a new series of family movies created by Walmart, P&G, Walden Media and ARC Entertainment.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham is produced by Walden Media, ARC Entertainment and Tonik Productions, LLC in association with WalMart and Procter & Gamble. 

Clips are embedded below for a glimpse, if you haven’t yet seen the film:

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,


Margaret Bard

The DVD will be released in November. I was told this when I went to buy the book (for my nephews) at Barnes and Noble. The book is aimed at younger kids, but it has a very strong, distinct voice, some of which is captured by the film. Check it out.

Margaret Bard

Yes, we tuned in. It's a good story, nicely realized with a strong cast and excellent period. The Hallmark movie had resonance for me. My family is white but my dad was a civil rights activist. He was recruited from Boston to live and work in the black community of Columbia, S.C. We lived in a black neighborhood, we went to the AME Church. I was very young and only remember a little about it. This film brought back memories. Hope it does well for Hallmark! They deserve credit for this.


I had no idea this was even coming on TV!

I'll be sure to tune in.

Geneva Girl

Friday nights are, in fact, great nights for family viewing. In our home it's pizza night and Disney Channel movie night. Dad is too tired after work all week to go out to the movies so it's a stay-in night for us. We'll go out on Saturdays. I know many families who do the same. Bedtimes are more lax so kids can stay up and watch a show.

I don't know if Disney airs made-for-TV movies in the States, but in the UK that's when High School Musical, Teen Beach Movie, etc. made their TV debuts. Then the channel beats those shows to death the rest of the weekend.

To Alm's point: Sunday is a great night too, but the show has to be over by 8:30 so the munchkins can get to bed on time.


I had no idea that this already aired. This type of show should have been on Sunday evening.


See my review on my page ClassicBlack CinemaSeries


I tried, God knows I did, but I couldn't remain interested in the story for very long. I changed the channel when they got to Birmingham and the children were exchanging their freedom fighting stories on the swings in the backyard.

It's a family movie. I would recommend it for school-aged children, not for adults who are already well-versed in the history of the Civil Rights Movement.


i am looking forward to seeing it. soooooooo hoping it is good. i am weary of mediocre and lackluster work.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *