For viewers who complain they just don't make TV series like they used to -- pat, predictable, sweet, with a nice, uplifting ending -- Hallmark Channel's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" (8 tonight) will be a welcome Easter treat. Fans of smart, complicated, modern TV ("Mad Men," "The Good Wife") may be less enthused.
Created by "Touched by an Angel" executive producer Martha Williamson, "Signed" follows the adventures of workers in the postal service's Denver dead letter office who go to extraordinary lengths to help wayward letters make it to the intended recipient.
The "Signed" pilot aired last year, and there was a minimal amount of retooling between that movie-length episode and the debut of the series. (Daphne Zuniga is not back, replaced by a series of supervisors brought in to goose interest in the show through stunt casting.)
Valerie Harper joins the cast for two episodes as Theresa Capodiamonte, an aphorism-spouting supervisor who bonds with team leader Oliver (Eric Mabius, "Ugly Betty"), whose father was her mentor ("That man could hand-stamp anything," she marvels).
"No postal worker stands taller than when he or she stoops to deliver to the least of these," Theresa says on several occasions.
Other supervisors coming to the series will be played by Della Reese, Marilu Henner, Valerie Bertinelli and Carol Burnett.
Tonight's case of the week involves a 10-year-old boy who mails a letter to his grandmother but doesn't use the correct address, leading the team to try to track down Grandma.
The show is inoffensive, tedious pabulum with forced postal humor ("thinking outside the mailbox," "push the envelope").
There also are paltry platitudes galore. ("There are no small miracles, Oliver, only big miracles," Theresa says. "They only seem so small because we stand so far away from them.")
"Signed" also suffers from a premise that seems woefully outdated in an era of long lines at the post office and unreliable delivery. (Clearly the plot will feel like a stretch to the folks in Point Breeze, who haven't been getting mail deliveries lately.)
And yet there's clearly a market for family friendly programming. So viewers may well flock to "Signed," particularly at the end of Easter Sunday. It's just too bad "Signed" isn't both gentle and smart.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.