Colin O’Brien and Taylor Schilling in "Dear Edward." 

Colin O’Brien and Taylor Schilling in "Dear Edward."  Credit: Apple TV+

SERIES "Dear Edward"

WHERE Streaming on Apple TV+

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Edward (Colin O'Brien) is the sole survivor of a catastrophic plane crash that kills his brother, parents and nearly 200 others. Adopted by his Aunt Lacey (Taylor Schilling), he's forced to figure out what the horror means with some help from his new wise-beyond-her-years teen neighbor, Shay (Eva Ariel Binder). He also begins to get hundreds of letters from well-meaning strangers (hence the title).

 Meanwhile, the loved ones of those who died are also forced to make sense of the tragedy, including Adriana (Anna Uzele, Broadway's "Six") who decides to run for the political office that opens up after her grandmother who held it also perishes in the crash. Kojo (Indris DeBrand) becomes caregiver of his niece Becks (Kloe Bruno) while Dee Dee (Connie Britton) learns some secrets about her dead husband. 

 This 10-parter from Jason Katims ("Friday Night Lights," "Parenthood") is based on Ann Napolitano 2020 bestseller — itself "inspired" by a 2010 crash in Libya in which there was one survivor. 

    
 

MY SAY "Dear Edward" is a thought experiment largely drawn from this question — what would happen to the only survivor of a terrible plane crash or to the families of those who perished? 

By way of answers, various life stories of the characters emerge. You'll get some background on each of them, and some foreground, too. Those are followed by some twists, turns, a head-fake or two, bracketed with lots of scenes full of what might best be described as life's little moments. A theme comes into focus, followed by the meaning of an entire series, which — drumroll, please — essentially comes down to this: People are nice.

If all that seems like a long windup for something as humdrum as "people are nice," then welcome to "Dear Edward," which (incidentally) is also nice, and at times humdrum. It can also be gelatinous and engaging, or moving and leaden — usually in the same scene. It has some deep thoughts about human life, but can't quite get around to articulating them. "Edward" may be nice, but also maddening. 

Part of the problem is that catastrophic premise, which backs both characters and viewers into an emotional corner from which there is no easy escape. From the outset, the magnitude of the tragedy covers everything and everyone in a thick, suffocating haze. Even the sole survivor story gets lost in the fog, to become just one of too many others that go nowhere fast. "Dear Edward" wants us to feel the interconnectedness of human lives, and the miracle in those small moments. But when an overwhelming tragedy offers bleak evidence to the contrary, it settles for that platitude instead.

At least Katims is too good a producer to let "Dear Edward'' turn into a mawkish mess. He's an accomplished TV miniaturist who finds high drama in the slightest of gestures, or in fleeting ones, and occasionally does here as well. Like "This Is Us," "Dear Edward '' insists that life really is just a collection of little things before the mysterious cat's paw of fate turns them into one very big thing. It's got that same optimistic worldview, and in its better moments, the same relatable vibe.

But engaging TV series aren't thought experiments propped up with platitudes. Better to think of them as cars that start off in first gear, then (ideally) shift up to fifth. "Dear Edward" — large of heart and reluctant to put pedal to metal — remains stuck in first. 

BOTTOM LINE A well-intentioned slog.

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