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Dear Edward review: Parenthood creator's new series wears its heart on its sleeve

Apple TV Plus' sprawling plane-crash ensemble boasts, among other things, Connie Britton’s delicious take on a Jersey housewife

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Connie Britton and Audrey Corsa in Dear Edward
Connie Britton and Audrey Corsa in Dear Edward
Photo: Apple TV+

What is it about American television’s obsession with plane crashes? We could single out Lost and Yellowjackets and The Wilds (not to mention shows like Manifest and Departure) to make our point. But then, merely listing them doesn’t quite explain why such a tragic trope has made for such fertile ground for TV dramas this century. Perhaps it’s the way such an event mixes the mundane and the outlandish: A plane crash seems plausible enough to happen to any one of us at any given time and also like something out of a movie. Or perhaps it’s how it intricately interweaves large-ensemble storylines. Enter Dear Edward, Apple TV+’s latest, in which the accident is but the beginning of a meditation on grief and survival, on what-ifs and what-would’ve-beens.

A few notes on the central conceit of the show: Yes, a plane full of passengers heading from New York City to Los Angeles crashes in a field in Colorado. Amid the wreckage is but one survivor, the titular Edward, who’d been heading to L.A. with his mother, father, and older brother. As Edward (Colin O’Brien) sets out to start a life anew with his aunt and her husband in upstate New York, the show follows the many folks who lost a loved one on the flight. A woman mourns her would-be fiancé. Another grieves for the father of her unborn child. A man arrives at the NYC-based grief group in hopes of sorting out his feelings over his departed, estranged brother. Another has come to help raise his now orphaned niece and finds, in turn, a safe haven with a young political aide who lost her grandmother, a famed congresswoman who’d hoped her granddaughter would follow in her footsteps.

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And at the center of it all is Edward. Not “Eddie” as he’d been known to family members before; he’s set on refashioning himself as he starts at a school (no more homeschooling for this young prodigy), befriends his roller derby neighbor, and finds himself trying to solve a mystery involving his brother back in New York. If you’re curious as to why the show is titled Dear Edward, Jason Katims’ adaptation of Ann Napolitano’s novel takes its time to tease that narrative thread. Eventually, though, you learn that thousands of people around the country, transfixed by Edward’s seemingly miraculous story, have taken to sending him letters, letters that Edward’s aunt (Taylor Schilling, reminding us she can still shine in an ensemble) has no idea what to do with. As the season progresses, Edward’s “mystery” and the letters give a throughline to what’s ostensibly a chance for Katims to present the kind of television drama he’s honed over the years.

Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) seems most enthralled with human-driven dramas that allow audiences various and varied entry points. It’s not so much that he populates his shows with a cast of characters who tug at our heartstrings in decidedly different ways; it’s that he does so in a way that embraces the plurality required to tap into the empathy so much of contemporary pop culture finds almost too gauche nowadays. Dear Edward is a series that wears its heart on its sleeve (and has perhaps way too many adult contemporary/soft-rock needle drops and montages to prove it) and which relishes embracing a rueful, hopeful attitude about the goodness of humanity in times of grief.

Dear Edward — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

That may well sound maudlin (and it is). And it may well come off as hokey (only sometimes). But there’s something admirable here, even if the show cannot get out of its own way long enough to let its many (oh so many) storylines breathe. Then again, there’s something to be said about such a bounty of plots that even if the New York City political one doesn’t strike your fancy you can very well wait until the episode rightly focuses right back on Connie Britton’s delicious take on a Jersey housewife who finds out her husband had an entirely new life out west, forcing her to reassess who she knew and who she might have loved. Or maybe you’re more taken with Edward’s own plight with the communal grief he comes to embody—especially if you similarly find the romantic (and near melodramatic) storylines that pepper Katims’ sprawling ensemble unnecessary. More importantly, perhaps, your enjoyment of Dear Edward will likely hinge on your ability to embrace its oft-treacly trappings and its humanist spirit, aspects that characterize its greatest strengths as well as its corniest missteps.

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Dear Edward premieres February 3 on Apple TV+.