The Hallmark Channel renewed When Calls the Heart for an eighth season, its second complete season without Lori Loughlin. The former Full House star was written out of the show partway through Season 6 last year due to her involvement in the 2019 college admissions scandal. Hallmark fired Loughlin, then put the show on a creative hiatus to figure out where to go next without her, as she played a central role on the series.
The Season 8 renewal was announced during the Season 7 finale, which aired on Sunday. "From my heart and home to yours, I am thrilled to announce the all new Season 8 of When Calls the Heart coming next year," star Erin Krakow told viewers during a special video clip, reports Entertainment Tonight. "We can't wait to see you back in Hope Valley." It is not clear when the new season could be filmed, as the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt on television projects around the world.
Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli were indicted in March 2019 for allegedly paying $500,000 in bribes to William Rick Singer to get their daughters Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though they did not participate in the sport. Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty and their trial is set to start in October.
At the time of her indictment, Loughlin had filmed episodes for the show and her scenes were not edited out. The final episode with Loughlin as Abigail Stanton aired on March 10, 2019. The show was put on a temporary hiatus and returned on May 5 with an episode explaining that Abigail left Hope Valley to help her sick mother.
"Life throws all of us painful curveballs, and the only way to survive is to walk right through them with courage, grace, a forgiving spirit, and most of all, hope," executive producer Brian Bird wrote in an April 10, 2019 Instagram post. "Many of you have wondered what the future holds for our cast and crew, and for the citizens of Hope Valley. Your care and concern means the world to us, and the best way we can thank you is to encourage you the way you encourage us because… Hope always lives here."
"We are saddened by the recent news surrounding the college admissions allegations," Hallmark parent company Crown Media said in another statement at the time. "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."
Canceling When Calls the Heart was not an option for Hallmark, since the show remains one of its most popular programs. According to TVLine, Season7 averaged 2.4 million total viewers, just a 3% drop from Season 6. The April 5 episode was the second-highest rated scripted show on basic cable in total viewers and among women 18 and over. A spin-off series, When Hope Calls, debuted last fall.