Faith, Chivalry and Timely Messages

“Refreshingly retro” is how I would describe the new TV series, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel. As the brainchild of former “Touched by an Angel” writer and executive producer Martha Williamson, the show includes that special Williamson touch, which makes it entertaining, funny, heartwarming, and inspirational.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is about four postal workers in the dead letter office who go above and beyond their job descriptions to track down the intended recipients of mail that’s been damaged or lost. In light of the post office’s recent financial troubles, partially caused by people communicating via email and the internet, what made Williamson choose this particular setting for her story?
During a recent interview on “Christopher Closeup,” she recalled feeling exhausted after the end of the Christopher Award-winning “Touched by an Angel’s” nine-season run, so she decided to take a break from TV and focus on her family. A few years into her sabbatical, she was going through a storage room and discovered fan letters she had never seen. Not only did these letters express an appreciation for the show, but they revealed stories about ways in which it had changed viewers’ lives. Williamson said, “We got one letter from a gentleman who was in prison and said that he and his fellow inmates would watch the show every Sunday night because it was the only time all week they ever heard the words, ‘You are loved.’”
Those letters became a source of encouragement for Williamson, who had started wondering if the work she had done really mattered. It then occurred to her that they arrived in her life right on time, just when she needed them most. She also started wondering, “How many lost letters arrive in people’s lives just when they need to read them?” That idea percolated in her brain, eventually leading to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”
The series includes other inspirations from Williamson’s life, not the least of which is imbuing the lead character of Oliver, played by Eric Mabius, with many of her father’s virtues. She said, “He was born in 1901 and carried a little bit of the Victorian Era with him. He always remained a gentleman. He was always that man who opened the door for anybody; not just a lady, but anybody. He treated everyone with respect. I thought, ‘Gosh, where are those men?’ Eric Mabius said to me that he loves playing a man who can encourage other men to be both masculine and tender. You can still be kind, you can still be a gentleman.”
Williamson also incorporated her father’s sense of faith in God into the character of Oliver, faith that helped him through times of great sadness. It’s a wonderful change of pace to see believers treated respectfully on television.  Williamson sees negative stereotypes of people of faith in other shows and feels “distressed” at the “anger towards faith and religion.” The believers in her life “have done nothing but be supportive and always look for ways to translate their faith into action.”
For Williamson, writing itself is a prayerful, spiritual experience. She prays before writing every script, asking for guidance and noting that “prayer is a two-way street” in which she needs to be open to listening for God’s inspiration. She also recalls her father’s advice about her writing career: “Make sure that what you do elevates or encourages, and doesn’t tear down.”
It sounds like her dad was a true Christopher at heart.
For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, LISTENING WHEN GOD SPEAKS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org  
 

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