By Bob Waliszewski
October 11, 2013
Twelve years ago, I was privileged to be on the set for the filming of a Touched By an Angel episode. Afterwards, I would write an article about my experience, opening it this way:
Although focused on bombing their Catholic high school, John and Cory stop dead in their tracks when Sister Theodore exits her classroom and interrupts their mission-minded march down the hall.
Nearby, I watch quietly.
Clad in military green and carrying a backpack of explosives, a composed and cool-headed John silences his tense and worried cohort. Meanwhile Sister Theodore converses with a messenger that neither of these “slackers” can see. “Who are you talking to?” demands John. “An angel named Monica,” replies the nun. “She says you’re planning to bomb the school.” Angrily, John reaches into the pocket of his fatigue jacket and pulls out a gun, firing where the sister indicated Monica is standing. “Bye-bye, angel.” Then, aiming directly at his teacher, he fires again. “Bye-bye, nun.”
Of course, what I’m observing isn’t a real life school shooting—but the filming of yet another gritty but hopeful episode of Touched By an Angel …
Touched launched in 1994 and concluded in April 2003, after nine seasons and 211 episodes. By Season Three, it was one of the highest rated shows on CBS, and one of the best programs on television. That’s not just my opinion: The show was nominated for 11 Primetime Emmy Awards. Many folks were touched by Touched. One suicidal man named Patrick credited the show with saving his life. “In the process [of watching Touched], I realized God loves me and does not want me to kill myself,” explained Patrick. “Now I never miss an episode and it almost always make me cry.”
I say all this because beginning tomorrow night, the Executive Producer of Touched by an Angel (and Promised Land) , Martha Williamson returns to television as the Executive Producer (Creator and Writer) of a new show called Signed, Sealed, Delivered. The two-hour pilot airs at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time, 8 p.m. Central on Hallmark Channel.
Twelve years ago while researching Touched, I had breakfast with Williamson. I like her. I like her work. I’m especially impressed how seamlessly she inserted “God-content” into Touched By an Angel. The same can be said for SSD. I prescreened the pilot and the potential is all there for Martha to have another hit on her hands. That is, if people find the show.
What’s it about? The short version is that an elite team of Postal Service detectives go above and beyond to return seemingly undeliverable mail to the intended recipients. Their determination takes them outside the post office into “an unpredictable world where letters and packages from the past save lives, solve crimes, reunite old loves and change futures by arriving late but always miraculously on time.”
Glancing to my left I have a copy of last’s week top box office theatrical hits. The Top 10 includes Gravity, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Prisoners and Baggage Claim. I’ve seen all four; two of them I like. And in my opinion, the SSD pilot was better than any of these. It grabbed me emotionally and as Touched often did, and it got me to care about the characters. Frankly, it didn’t let up until the credits rolled. I hate to admit it, but I shed a few happy tears as well, something that didn’t even happen when Sandra Bullock found her way inside the International Space Station.