‘Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove,’ no
This Hallmark Channel series exploits a way overdone theme
July 16, 2013
We all deserve a second chance, but it’s possible to get too many.
In the Hallmark Channel’s new series “Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove,” virtually every major character is getting a second chance or trying to start over. While this is a commonplace in women’s fiction — as opposed to the younger-oriented chick lit — it makes for repetitive viewing.
Worse, those characters seem to think they have all the time in the world to start over. The show’s glacial pace is almost comical. Only viewers who use TV as a sedative are likely to give this show a second chance.
Premiering with a two-hour episode this Saturday, July 20, at 8 p.m., the series is, according to Hallmark’s press materials, based on a series of novels by Debbie Macomber, a best-selling author. Set in the picture-perfect Puget Sound town of Cedar Cove, it revolves around the town’s sole judge, Olivia Lockhart (Andie MacDowell).
When she is offered a federal judgeship in Seattle, Olivia has to decide whether she can leave behind her grown daughter, Justine (Sarah Smyth), an artist and waitress who is involved with a smarmy real estate developer, Warren (Brennan Elliot), who is probably too old for her.
Justine’s life becomes more complicated when her high school boyfriend, Seth (Corey Sevier), an unambitious fisherman, returns to town. Meanwhile, Olivia becomes increasingly interested in Jack Griffith (Dylan Neal), the handsome new editor of the town’s newspaper.
In the premiere and the four hour-long subsequent episodes that were made available for review, both Olivia and Justine make life-changing decisions, but they follow up cautiously on their new opportunities. (Warning: Spoilers coming up!)
Olivia and Jack’s first real kiss is comically delayed, then it starts to seem that they’re both thinking, “Why bother?” The screenwriters seem to think that older women fantasize about a man who is happy just to keep taking you out to dinner and telling you how pretty you look.
With Olivia having decided to stay in town (let’s face it — the title gives this plot development away), the series settles into a bunch of lightly serialized subplots. Revealing a serious lack of imagination on the writers’ part, two different episodes concern mysterious men who die anonymously in the town. One of these men has a son who becomes a possible love interest for Olivia’s best friend, Grace (Teryl Rothery), who is starting over after her recent divorce.
Meanwhile, Olivia’s ex-husband, Stan (Andrew Arlie), is suddenly mooning after her. Jack’s estranged son, Eric (Tom Stevens), moves in with him, giving the two a second chance at building a relationship.
In two episodes, Olivia tries to slow down the divorce trials of couples who she thinks deserve — you guessed it — a second chance. One of the couples hash out their differences in “Rashomon”-like flashbacks that feel as if they were edited in from a different show entirely.
Occasionally hints of corruption or violent crime arise, but these turn out to be false alarms. The series seems to be striving to imitate such successful small-town dramas as “Gilmore Girls” and “Everwood,” but those shows brought some wit to their feel-good plots. Of course, we probably shouldn’t expect irony in a show that features in its opening credits a shot of its star riding an old-fashioned bicycle past a rainbow.
The residents of Cedar Cove — who include a busybody grandma, a laid-back sheriff and an old-hippie café owner — are types, not characters. Nothing they do is a surprise, and we feel we know them less well the more we see them.
Andie MacDowell brings some star power to her scenes, but the unknowns surrounding her reveal the weakness in the dialogue and action.
Although a small percentage of the plots end less than happily and tidily, the paucity of real drama and real humor makes the show about as interesting as watching a pretty woman pedal an old-fashioned bike past a rainbow. Viewers could get the same soothing effect by going to the drugstore and browsing the Hallmark aisle.
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