Oh, my. A cold day in January and what do we need? A little warmth and love. If you agree, I've got a good one for you today. I'll tell you – I teared up, a few minutes in.
So here we are, just past the holidays. And, you know, one of the movies that is now a Christmas ritual for many is the British drama Love Actually. It's a sweet movie, as much maligned as it is admired. But it has some core truths. One is stated right at the beginning, by the Prime Minister figure played by Hugh Grant.
It's this: "Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think of the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport … It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there." It's too bloody true, that.
Hello Goodbye (CBC, Friday, 8:30 p.m.) is a delightful new reality series anchored in that truth. Simply done, it documents people arriving and leaving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and lets them tell their stories. It's about love and pain and hope and the whole damn thing, but mostly about people loving each other. It's funny, at times deeply moving and a must-see.
These days, most of us move through airports with grim determination. (As I write this, I've just gotten to L.A. after the usual delays and dismay about the rudeness and tensions at either end. It's exhausting.) We are in our own space to survive it. But as soon as host Dale Curd – who is also a therapist, and it shows – begins talking to the sort of people we'd ignore on our travels, all human life is revealed.
The first person he encounters is a man who's there to surprise his girlfriend. She thinks he's in another city and they won't be able to meet when she arrives. It's a beautiful scene, this, as the man is obviously so giddy with expectation he's practically bursting out of his skin.
You cannot fake that kind of emotion, which is why Hello Goodbye is so authentically moving. You watch this man, dizzy with affection, and you wonder – will his girlfriend be just taken aback or alarmed by his presence? Then they meet and the delight is so genuine you know you're watching a truly magical moment.
The man tells Curd: "There's no other place I'd rather be on the planet." And, "When you find someone who makes you a better person or more human, it doesn't matter how far away they are." And he really, really means it.
An encounter with a father and daughter – she's leaving to work in Edmonton – shifts from laughter and joshing to the dad's profound sense of loss as his daughter finally goes through security and out of sight. There is a young woman waiting for her brother to come from Saudi Arabia and in her story are eloquent truths about family.
A man, waiting for his wife who's been in Glasgow for a month, reminisces about how he met her and then begins talking about his father with a delicacy that's heartbreaking.
The second episode, next week, focuses on "people who found love in the most unexpected places" and if you can get through that without being awakened to the power of love, you have a stone for a heart.
It's not that Hello Goodbye is a stream of tear-jerker stories. Many reality series attempt to manipulate you. Here, the show is so deeply rooted in common experience that it is truly, persuasively poignant, but immensely uplifting, too.
Shades of Blue (NBC, Global, 10 p.m.) is an attention-grabbing new crime drama mainly because of the cast, starting with Jennifer Lopez in the lead. J-Lo is almost unrecognizable playing Harlee Santos, a Brooklyn cop who, in cahoots with her boss (Ray Liotta) and a posse of dubious colleagues (Drea de Matteo from The Sopranos is one of the more memorable), are into crime in a big way. Not fighting it, but taking kickbacks, and doing tasks for drug dealers and other no-goodniks.
Things kick off with an FBI agent charging Harlee with soliciting a bribe and offering her a role as an informant on the whole nefarious gang of rogue cops. The early episodes are directed by Barry Levinson (who did Homicide: Life on the Street) and there's an earthiness to it, but it still feels like a watered-down version of The Shield. It's slick and good but far from meaningful.