Based on Debbie Macomber’s bestselling series, Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove is the story of a respected small-town municipal court judge who considers leaving the beautiful lake town where she raised her family to take a federal judgeship. Before she goes, she discovers home really is where the heart is as she helps her daughter, her best friend and a young couple navigate tough relationships, and even starts a romance of her own with the town’s newest addition, a newspaper reporter with a mysterious past.
If you follow my blog, you know that the Hallmark channel and their shows/movies are something about which I am passionate. And I am also passionate about my actor friend Sebastian Spence. It is exhilarating when I can talk about two of my favorite things in one blog post, and this is one of those times. Although this show will start its third season this summer, the first season is the only one available on DVD at this point. I am certain Season two will soon be available, but it is available digitally now. July 11 is the magic number for when this show will make its glorious return to the television screen.
Before I review this series, permit me to give you some background. This was the first regular television series that the Hallmark channel produced, and I distinctly remember seeing the promotions for it in spring 2013. Instantly, I recognized the name Debbie Macomber, and I knew she was a local (Washington state) author. I was quite intrigued as I had seen her name amongst my many blogger friends–I even thought I had read one of her books (I later discovered I hadn’t but have since rectified that). I knew none of the actors (though Andie MacDowell sounded familiar but I knew not why), but this looked like something truly special that was not to be missed.
I watched the entire first season, and for whatever reason, I never thought about looking up any of the actors in the show. I relished every minute of it, and my favorite characters were Cliff and Grace. I could identify with Grace so much, and who couldn’t love the super sweet cowboy who gave her all the space she needed? I anticipated Season two, but there were other shows to watch until that time (When Calls the Heart and Signed, Sealed, Delivered).
It was not until the middle of Signed, Sealed, Delivered on Hallmark that I discovered “live tweeting” with the Hallmark stars. I became so enraptured with it that I could not get enough. So naturally after that show ended, I decided it was time to see if “live tweeting” would be offered for Cedar Cove. And I looked up every actor/actress on the show, and followed them on twitter. I sent tweets to virtually all of them, and Andie MacDowell was the first to respond. I was thrilled to the core as Season two began its kick-off, and the rest is history.
Warning! This will be an extended review since I plan to feature the majority of the actors who starred in Season 1. As I watched Season 1 again, it was indeed a trip down memory lane as I viewed all the characters differently after Season two. But regardless, I was reminded just why I loved this series so much, and it has become my favorite television show.
Andie MacDowell as Judge Olivia Lockhart
As the very cornerstone of this small town of Cedar Cove, WA (based on the author’s hometown of Port Orchard–not too far from where I grew up and live now), is Judge Olivia Lockhart. She is played brilliantly by the very accomplished Andie MacDowell. Although I knew her name, this is the first of her works I officially saw. And from the instant she walked (or rode her bike) onto the screen, I was completely entranced. Some actors just have that certain charisma and energy about them, and Andie is certainly one of them. Not only is she absolutely gorgeous inside and out, but there is no one else who could play the role of Olivia with such warmth and depth. Every mannerism and facial expression is flawless, and I fell in love with her immediately. Her character does not yell to get her point across. On the contrary–you have to lean in to hear her words of wisdom. I only hope I’m as wise as Olivia one of these days! Oh, I know she’s not perfect–there were times I screamed at her to not make the wrong decisions, but by in large, she always eventually made the right decision. On a side note, Andie is fiercely devoted to her fans, and she always has a positive outlook on life. She has a pure magnetism about her, and she makes every one of her fans feel special and loved (talk about a gift).
Dylan Neal as Jack Griffith
As the recovering alcoholic and journalist from the big city, Dylan Neal is exceptional as Jack Griffith. Again, from the moment I saw him, I fell in love with his character and only wanted the best for him. There was no doubt that he and Olivia were going to fall in love. There was instant chemistry between the two. But more importantly, they needed each other. Dylan brings a delightful sense of humor to his role, and I found myself siding with his character against Olivia when she made some poor decisions. In season one, Jack deals with serious issues, but at the heart of everything is his feelings for Olivia. In addition to his outstanding, effortless acting, he is absolutely handsome and charming on and off the screen. In fact, he won my undying loyalty one evening when he stayed “after hours” a good 45 minutes talking about the show with a group of us fans on twitter. That is something I will never forget.
Together, these two characters are absolutely adorable! I loved watching the developing love between them. I was always rooting for them, and I couldn’t imagine a better Olivia and Jack. I hope for more sweet, magical scenes between these two in the ensuing seasons. After all, I’m sure the show will be on for years to come!
Barbara Niven as Peggy Beldon
As the caring and sometimes nosy Peggy Beldon, Barbara Niven is expertly cast. Not only does she light up the screen every time she is on, but she brings such authenticity and warmth to this role. Peggy is the co-owner of the local bed and breakfast, and she cares about everyone who crosses her path and the town in general. Barbara plays the role so convincingly that I often forget that she is acting. I think it’s safe to say that when I “grow up,” I want to be like Peggy, at least in the way Barbara portrays her. As I watched season one again, I was reminded of her fierce determination and her sweet nature. I now see her in a completely different light since season two was a time for her to have a strong storyline. Notwithstanding, it is always a joy to see her on the screen, especially in this magnificent role. I’ve also had the pleasure of tweeting with her, and she always makes everyone feel welcome no matter who they are.
Bruce Boxleitner as Bob Beldon
As Bob Beldon, the husband of the very determined but sweet Peggy, Bruce Boxleitner is also ideally cast. The funny thing here is that my mom and I had no idea until season two that we used to watch this actor all the time in Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Yes, my mother got me hooked on the show as I was growing up, but neither of us made the connection until my research paid off last summer. Regardless, there is no one who could fit the role of Bob nearly as well as Bruce. While I watch season one through season two eyes (we learn a few things in season two that we don’t know in season one), he is the man who always puts others first, and he’s probably the only guy on earth who is strong enough to handle a strong woman like Peggy.
Together, this couple has quite a following. You’ll find the Hashtag #TeamBeldon, and they are serious about this couple. And it makes perfect sense why. They are the only ones who seem to have the “perfect” marriage. Not really perfect, but they are still together after all these years. And Barbara herself has said that Bruce plays the perfect television husband. She says she sometimes forgets they are not really married–and I’m sure when she is in character, that is entirely true. They play off each other so well, and their chemistry is impeccable. It is also refreshing to see a marriage that has stood the test of time.
Paula Shaw as Charlotte Jeffers
This is a character I really miss. She was only in season one, and until I watched that first season again, I forgot just how wonderful Paula was as Olivia’s mother. She is the town gossip, and she often butts heads with her daughter. Oh, and she knits–after all Debbie Macomber knits. Through the eyes of Charlotte we meet my favorite character (I’ll talk about him later), and had it not been for her, much humor would have been omitted. She is strong and leads the active life of a senior single lady. I have never seen this actress in anything else, but I hope with all my heart that we haven’t seen the last of her at Cedar Cove.
Sarah Smyth as Justine
This is one character that took me a little while to warm up to. Oh Sarah plays her splendidly, but it’s hard for me to see a young person who has finished college and still doesn’t know what she wants out of life. She seems a bit lost, and she really struggles with her love life. She’s with Warren and then Seth, and I won’t even mention season two. I genuinely did come to love her character as she did start “finding herself.” I could have done without this character living with her boyfriend (one of the only potentially objectionable portions of the show, but nothing is shown, only implied), but I suppose it depicts real life. She is as sweet as can be, but she also tends to make decisions without thinking through the consequences–the exact opposite of her mom. Sarah fits this role extremely well, and I certainly anticipate seeing her again in season three.
Corey Sevier as Seth Gunderson
Yet another perfect fit–I truly enjoyed the character Seth and the way Corey played him. In fact, the chemistry that his character and Justine have is quite fiery at times. Again, however, this is young man who is trying to find himself. He wants to be a fisherman, but it is clear he sincerely loves Justine. And he continues to butt heads with Warren (I’ll cover him in a moment).
Together, these two make the perfect couple (I know season two #TeamLuke #Covers will disagree with me, but this is season one). These two characters have to compromise and fight all sorts of battles to see if their love can withstand the storms. The actors are perfectly cast, and I think the way they portray these characters will connect with the younger set.
Brennan Elliott as Warren Saget
Now this is the character I absolutely loathed when I first watched season one. Way back then (oh so long ago–it was only 2013!), I didn’t even attempt to understand Warren. He was the unscrupulous businessman who didn’t love Justine (so I thought), and I just hoped he went to prison and never came back to the show. Well, I have to admit that the actor who plays Warren, Brennan Elliott, changed my mind about Warren. At first, I was very oppositional and resistant to his views concerning Warren. However, I suppose that Brennan has softened my heart towards Warren. Oh not that I agree with everything he does–absolutely not. I still found myself yelling at him as I viewed Season one again. But I now realize that in Warren’s own way, he did love Justine. And he truly is just a businessman who is often more evasive than he should be–I would call that lying, but not everyone sees the world as I do. The way in which Brennan plays Warren, the misunderstood
charlatan businessman of Cedar Cove is truly exceptional. Additionally, I always appreciate the humor that his character brings to the show. And after all, what’s a show without some kind of villain? Add to that the fact that Brennan is incredibly handsome, and it certainly makes for a dynamically intriguing character. I believe Brennan explained that the way one has to play a character like Warren is not that he is the bad guy but that he truly is a good guy about whom there are plenty of misconceptions. The very idea that Brennan’s portrayal of Warren could evoke such strong emotions from so many (you either love him or hate him–no in-between) is a testament to his prowess as an actor. I sincerely hope Warren never leaves the show.
Teryl Rothery as Grace Sherman
From the first episode, this has been the character with whom I most closely identified–Grace Sherman. She is played so skillfully and magnificently by Teryl–indeed the perfect foil and friend to Olivia. Her character is recently divorced and not ready to date again. There is just something electric and dynamic that Teryl brings to this role. Whenever she is on the screen, my eyes are instantly drawn to her (unless her love interest happens to be there, but I’ll talk about him in a minute). She is one smart cookie, but she does have a few foibles that present themselves along the way. However, Grace is the kind of woman who doesn’t ever do anything half-heartedly, and Teryl completely embraces this part of the role. Facial expressions, mannerisms, clothing, and every minute detail–Teryl has authentically brought Grace to life. Oh, and she is one gorgeous woman as well as very engaging. You can’t help but smile whenever she is on the screen, and she is exceptionally convincing. While Grace does not appear sometimes as grounded in season two, I hope she’ll make the right decision in season three or there will definitely be an angry mob after her.
Sebastian Spence as “Cowboy” Cliff Harting
Watching season one of Cedar Cove was like going down memory lane for me. I remembered when Cowboy Cliff Harting entered the picture. You see, his character was my favorite from the time he first appeared. While I identify with Grace, Cliff just takes top priority. I had no idea till this past summer who the actor was–I didn’t even think about it. And let me take a bit of a nostalgic walk for a moment.
Remember how I said I followed all the actors of Cedar Cove this past summer? Yes, I followed him, but when I first went to his profile page, I’ll admit I was a bit put off. I had no idea he was Canadian (a “Canadian cowboy”–I used to live in Texas and that just didn’t make sense), and his profile photo honestly looked different from Cliff (I think he is not particularly fond of selfies–I can identify). And his name was Sebastian? How on earth–the only Sebastian I knew was the crab from Little Mermaid. I followed him but chose not to tweet to him at that moment. I did eventually, but I remember that I was a bit reluctant. I remember how I wanted to call him Sebastian but I just couldn’t get that stupid crab out of my head! And somehow Sebastian the crab and Cowboy Cliff did not go together. (I eventually asked about a nickname some of his fans were calling him–I finally got over calling him Sebastian, and now I don’t think I’d call him anything else.)
It’s weird what one’s mind sometimes remembers. I think I’ll always think of Sebastian every time I see a yard sale since it was his interest in our family’s silly yard sale last summer that endeared me to him for life. And why do I bring all that up? To let you know, dear reader, that the man who plays Cliff is a genuinely good guy who actively takes an interest in the lives of his fans. Although all of the Hallmark actors genuinely seem like great people, he is an unusual one–in a good way. I could go on and on here, but I’ll try to cut it short. (And anyone who knows me knows that is a literal impossibility, but I’ll try).
I think what struck me in viewing this season for the second time was the absolute ease with which Sebastian plays this role. I know I say that regularly about him, but it’s true. In fact, my mother happened to pop in and watch a part of one of the episodes with me (she loves Cliff too), and she said that he really didn’t look well (healthy) in one of the scenes. As we discussed it, that was how Cliff was supposed to be portrayed. He had just made a fool of himself for the woman he loved, and she picked someone else. She then agreed with me that Sebastian truly does throw himself into this role (just like every other one).
Together, Teryl and Sebastian have unbelievable chemistry. In fact, this summer I became the champion of this couple since so many continued to say there was no chemistry. I got so upset, and I kept posting everywhere I could that these two had fantastic chemistry. (Needless to say, this was much appreciated by said actor.) And they always did. Of course, it helps that they had worked together in the past, but sometimes two people just click on the screen. And these two certainly do.
If that’s not chemistry, I don’t know what is. Add to this his robust physique and charming (and sometimes underrated) humor, and I believe you have a winning combination. I can only hope for more from this unbelievably talented and wonderful actor in season three. (By the way, if he ever left the show, I just might lead a revolt!! Just kidding, kind of.)
There are four other actors/actresses who deserve at least an honorable mention.
These two give an interesting twist to the story and provide yet another story to connect with young people. Maryellen was one who had to grow on me a bit, but once she did, I truly hated to see her leave in season two. Her love interest, John, is the mysterious guy who is trying to make a clean break with his past. I hope to see these two bright young people again some time in the Cove. Even I was hypnotized by the fantastic way that Charlie played John. And Elyse gave such an innocence to Maryellen’s character that it was delightful.
Yet another young love story fraught with difficulties, and both of these actors play their respective parts exceptionally. I love the way in which Hayley portrayed Shelly–with grace and dignity in spite of the difficulties of her situation. She has a good head on her shoulders, and that continues into season two. I hope she returns season three because she is one of the best of the “smaller” characters, in my humble opinion. As to Tom’s portrayal of Eric, he really does an excellent job of showing the naivety of Eric’s character and shunning of responsibility. We begin to see it in season one, but in season two, things really take a turn. I wasn’t too sure I liked his character at first, but I see that he is the absolute personification of so many young people today. I would venture to say he will still figure into season three after the tumultuous situations his character created in season two. If there is any young couple I would like to see make it in the Cove, it’s definitely this one. (Did I mention Hayley also sings? She has a beautiful voice, and I would love for it to be featured more in the series.)
Timothy Webber as “Moon”
And of course how could we forget Cedar Cove’s most eccentric resident? Timothy Webber plays the part of the man who hasn’t left his hippie days behind, but he is one of the nicest and wisest guys in town–Moon. Whenever he is on the screen, you just can’t help but be charmed by his winsome grace and logical “Moonisms.” Don’t let his looks deceive you–just wait until season two. He genuinely cares about everyone in the town, and his first impressions are generally right. There is no doubt in my mind that the way in which Timothy plays this character truly endears him to all the members of the Cove as well as the viewers. Something about Moon always makes you believe that in the end, everything will work out just fine.
In conclusion, I declare emphatically that this a series that you will not want to miss. July 11, 2015, season three of Cedar Cove begins. You will not want to miss any episodes in this series. I advise getting season one–no bedroom scenes and very minimal profanity (hardly noticeable). Season two is available digitally but here’s hoping it will be available on DVD before season 3 begins.
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