Review: ‘Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove’

cedar cove Andie MacDowell

Hallmark Channel's first series has all the heft of an old Pepperidge Farm commercial

The inherent challenges associated with producing a first original series for Hallmark Channel that adheres to its movies’ soft-focus profile are readily apparent in the early chapters of “Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove,” featuring Andie MacDowell as a judge in an idyllic town where a new arrival is chided for locking his car. Creating drama within a place where very little happens represents a tall order, and while some will no doubt view this as a refreshing tonic from sex and violence elsewhere, it’s the video equivalent of that smooth-jazz station you program into the car but never listen to.

Adapted from Macomber’s novels (which have already provided the foundation for three successful Hallmark movies), the two-hour premiere introduces MacDowell as Judge Olivia Lockhart, who presides over a Washington state courtroom where common sense and chewy goodness are every bit as important as analyzing the law. Tempted by the prospect of an appointment to the federal bench in the opener (and let’s be honest, it’s not titled “Debbie Macomber’s Seattle”), Olivia also begins a flirtation with the new newspaper editor, Jack Griffith (soap alum Dylan Neal), who jokes about the town being Mayberry.

Jack has private reasons for landing just this far off the beaten track, while Olivia must also fret over her grown daughter Justine (Sarah Smyth), who is romantically involved with an older, wealthy land developer, Warren (Brennan Elliott), which is about as close to conflict as the show comes. In the second hour, Warren’s plans to tear down an old lighthouse yield a strong pushback from the citizenry, and leave Olivia caught squarely in the middle.

To be fair, “Cedar Cove” isn’t intended to rival the current crop of ambitious cable dramas, but rather to offer a distinct alternative to them. As MacDowell said in an interview with the New York Times, “There’s not a lot of light on television,” adding that Hallmark wants its viewers to “relax and feel good.”

That’s about right, but there’s still a distinction to be drawn between “light” and “weightless,” which is roughly where this new show registers — in part because the Olivia-Jack relationship is the only aspect with any resonance.

“God, I miss the ’60s,” an old hippie exults during the show’s second hour. In TV terms, so does this series — just not the elements of it to which he’s referring. And while the audience for Hallmark’s movies indicate there is a place for that sensibility, dramatically speaking, visiting “Cedar Cove” feels like a dead end.

Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove

(Series; Hallmark Channel, Sat. July 20, 8 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Vancouver by Orchard Road Prods.

Crew

Executive producers, Debbie Macomber, Harvey Kahn, Dan Wigutow, Michael M. Scott,  Carl Binder; co-executive producers, Allen Lewis, Caroline Moore; director, Scott; writer, Bruce Graham; based on the book series by Macomber; camera, Adam Sliwinski; production designer, James C.D. Robbins; editors, Jason Pielak, Rick Martin; casting, Jackie Lind. 120 MIN.

Cast

Andie MacDowell, Dylan Neal, Brennan Elliot, Paula Shaw, Sarah Smyth, Timothy Webber, Garry Chalk, Andrew Arlie

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  1. Glen Morgan says:

    Started okay, but everyone has too many problems. It ruin a good series. Too bad. Beautiful setting, but bad story. Nobody is happy in such a beautiful place.

  2. Margaret Lindsay says:

    Christian writer? So disappointed with men and women in relationships that include fornication. Check on what Father God says about this. We look for family programming that espouse mortality. Won’t watch your programs or buy your books. Please Rethink your position.

  3. S Graham says:

    Glad to see that Olivia and Grace are now wearing age appropriate dresses instead of dresses that belong on girls whi are younger then their show daughters. That was disgraceful and not complimentary at all. Thank you.

  4. Karen says:

    I looked forward to this show . . oh my . . it’s unwatchable. I’ve always enjoyed Andie MacDowell – what happened?? Her fake giggling during a date – I actually winced – and it only got worse. The male ‘interest’ isn’t bad – but the rest of the show – forget it. I have zero interest in any of the characters . . not sure if it ‘s the writing, .acting or both

    • Dale says:

      I think your comments were foolish. I my positive opinions and the show is great and being my wife read all; She and I enjoy talking about the shows. We are in our 70s.and appreciate positive feeling and do not like your negative comments.
      So go eat worms

  5. beequte says:

    I am enjoying this … lighthearted series and will watch it through. Refreshing for a change.

  6. msgently says:

    This show was awful. A ten year old could have written it. Everything from the acting to the computer generated lighthouse seems amateur.

  7. Even without the Hallmark logo, it was instantly recognizable as fitting their cookie cutter template. That said, no one forced me to watch the pilot. I probably won’t continue with the series, mainly because of Andie McDowall, but there are those who will enjoy this and they deserve to have something to watch.

  8. Twila corter says:

    Twila says the movie was pretty interesting, although it holds true of the typical “Hallmark” qualities of goodness and fairness which prevails as expected.

  9. Ellen skewes says:

    So far I’m enjoying the hallmark show. It is a breath of fresh air from politely correct agenda shows which are so predictable and boring.

  10. @cedarcovetv Looking forward to seeing the series! Love the fact that Barbara Niven is in it! Fantastic Actress!

  11. I think it’s gonna’ be GREAT!

    • Wendy Lynn says:

      Sometimes you just need a show where you can be entertained and not have to think. This is a nice easy show to watch. I have read most or maybe all of Debbie Macomber’s books and they are great. I did not know there have been other Halmark shows taken after her books. I will hope they will be repeated. I will watch this new one every week.

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