We now live in a hyper-ironic world, but The Lost Valentine (Sunday, 8 p.m., CBS) comes from some other world entirely. This Hallmark Hall of Fame production tells the sappy story of a woman named Caroline (Betty White) who lost her Navy pilot husband to World War II and, every Valentine's Day since, has made a pilgrimage to the train station where they last parted. A TV journalist (Jennifer Love Hewitt) picks up on the story, in the process falling in love with Caroline's wholesome grandson (Sean Faris).
This is the kind of movie where everything is wholesome. In flashbacks, Caroline and her husband chastely hold hands and trade 1940s-era endearments. "I sure wish you'd kiss me!" she says as vintage big-band jazz fills the soundtrack. Life is almost too perfect until Caroline gets the fateful telegram, but even then she comes to accept her loss as a necessary, patriotic sacrifice.
The Lost Valentine is unashamed of its sentimental plot. And I must admit that its utter commitment to Greatest Generation clichés finally won me over. Hey, I'm not made of stone - I myself had a grandfather who served in the Navy during World War II. Let's all just give in and enjoy this pleasantly non-ironic world for a couple of hours.
Sunday, 9 pm (Showtime)
Showtime has been premiering hit after hit (The Big C, Episodes, Nurse Jackie, The United States of Tara), so the law of averages was bound to catch up with it. That statistical inevitability is Shameless, a foul dramedy about a drunken lout named Frank (William H. Macy) and his obnoxious friends and family.
Recent cable TV series have worked wonders in creating a certain sympathy for unsympathetic protagonists, from The Sopranos' Tony to Breaking Bad's Walter White. But Shameless goes too far with Frank, who beats up his kids, gets beat up himself, cusses, screams, and passes out regularly. He looks like hell, too, spending entire episodes with a bloody face.
Frank often turns up missing, and his family has to search through dumpsters and back alleys for him. Better just to let him quietly disappear, I say.
Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story
Monday, 8 pm (Lifetime)
Taken From Me follows the template of all fact-based Lifetime TV movies about a mother in crisis. 1. Tiffany (Taraji P. Henson) and her son Kobe have a perfect life together, with tinkling major-key music as a backdrop for everything they do. 2. A threat appears Kobe's biological father planning to take him to Disney World for a week but is minimized, despite an emerging minor-key strain in the music. 3. The worst happens, as the dad kidnaps Kobe and heads to South Korea. 4. Tiffany passes through the TV-movie stages of grief: despairing, soul-searching and turning into Wonder Woman.
As predictable as it is, I hung on for every second of Taken From Me. I mean, we have to get Kobe back, right?
Sons of Guns
Wednesday, 8 pm (Discovery)
I'm not the target audience for a series about a guy who builds custom guns in Baton Rouge or so I thought. But I got sucked into the new Sons of Guns, thanks to the good-ol'-boy charm of shop owner Will Hayden. Hayden commands the screen as he turns customers' dreams into reality with a crew of tattooed assistants and an exasperated daughter/business manager. On the one hand, he's a hard-ass; but on the other, he's capable of self-deprecating humor as he designs a new gun for the local SWAT team. "We are going bravely forth where no one has been stupid enough to go before!"
You can't help but admire Hayden's ingenuity and passion, though maybe not his analogies. He describes one new creation as "ballet with bullets," which would be accurate if ballet involved deafening explosions and flying shrapnel.
Retired at 35
Wednesday, 9:30 pm (TV Land)
TV Land struck gold with Hot in Cleveland, a critical and popular success, so the network tries to follow up with another sexy sitcom featuring older stars. In Retired at 35, a rising corporate toady (Johnathan McClain) quits his job and moves in with his parents (George Segal and Jessica Walter) at a Florida retirement home. The whole thing is very old school, with the actors practically shouting out the setups and punchlines.
Sometimes you feel like the show is working, and sometimes you don't. It's hard to put your finger on the problem, since the writing is often witty and the actors are solid. Maybe if they stopped shouting so much...?