The crime procedural genre—television's bloodiest "comfort food"—is heavily seasoned with death and decay. From CSI to Criminal Minds to Law & Order, it's rare to escape from an hour-long episode without multiple trips to fresh crime scenes and the morgue. So let us not be shocked that even the Hallmark Channel's new procedural is steeped in the dead.
Dead letters, that is.
The postmaster general for Signed, Sealed, Delivered is Touched by an Angel creator Martha Williamson, who concentrates more on the whosentit than whodunit. Her heartstring-pulling drama follows the exploits of a group of skilled U.S. postal sleuths (even writing it, it sounds strange) who use their formidable skills to deliver supposedly undeliverable mail. Led by passionate dead letter defender and snappy vest aficionado Oliver O'Toole, the team truly doesn't let rain or snow or dead of night stop them from holding true to their nigh-sacred task.
"We have a license to deliver," solemnly intones team member Norman Dorman.
"And a deep faith in the power of the written word," Oliver adds.
Does that sound a tad too serious for the subject? Well, in a way, Signed, Sealed, Delivered could be seen as a surprisingly deft satire of the much more grim crime procedural genre. Each of these postal characters could've been plucked from a CBS procedural template: Norman, the nebbishly likable geek; Rita Haywith, the chirpy adjunct with a photographic memory; Shane McInerney, the no-nonsense everywoman who seems to internally chuckle whenever Oliver makes some grand pronouncement about Postal Service honor.
Thankfully, the show seems to be in on the joke and doesn't take itself too seriously. But there's still something deeply and wonderfully serious about what I think it's trying to say.
Everything about Signed, Sealed, Delivered feels old-fashioned, from its tone and feel to Oliver's vests and ties to the premise itself. Relevant mail feels, in some ways, a relic of a different time. I can't think of the last time I actually mailed a personal letter.
And yet, Oliver's absolutely right: There is something powerful about the written word—something undeniably special, even beautiful, about a handwritten note in a sealed and stamped envelope. Texts are disposable and emails dispensable. But letters, we save. We read them again and again. We treasure them. As other forms of communication vanish in the digital ether, our letters, as few as they may be, become the hard copy of our histories.
Williamson's show is a charming anachronism in another way too. As her television peers race to be sludgier and sexier with each passing season, the Hallmark jewel she calls her own gives us a kinder, gentler experience. It adopts the wacky characters and chemistry that keep so many tuning into NCIS, but bypasses the morgue in favor of the mailbox, concentrating on the good that's around us instead of the bad while reminding us of the not-so-long-ago days when there was such a thing called family television.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered is smart, interesting, fun, sweet and silly in all the right ways—and the fact that it's also as clean a show as you'll find makes it all the better. So while we at Plugged In make a big deal about not giving hand writing "recommendations" for the entertainment we review, maybe when it comes to Signed, Sealed, Delivered we can make an exception and give it a (ahem) stamp of approval.
"Time to Start Livin'"
Oliver and Co. track down an elderly woman whose grandson plans to run away from home to spend Grandma's birthday with her. But when they find her in a seniors' home, complications arise: The boy witnessed a narcotics deal go down some time ago, and he and his family are now in the witness protection program. Turns out someone who wants to harm the kid may be closing in on their location.
The postal team misleads a baddie to help the grandmother reunite with her family. We hear a flip reference to the "goddess in the postal acropolis." But there's a somewhat more meaningful exclamation of "dear God," and it's said that a set of handmade wind chimes sounds like "little birds saying a prayer." Someone carries a gun. Someone else dies of natural causes (which we hear about later).