Sometimes, it’s difficult to accept compliments — even for the most achieved creators, entrepreneurs or humanitarians. This may be the cause of learned humility or shyness, but one thing is for sure: Not every community gets as much credit as they deserve.
That’s where Apple TV+’s new series, “Dear…,” comes into play. In around half-hour blocks, each episode documents stories of hope and empowerment from diverse, honest perspectives. Featuring everyone from musicians and activists, to athletes and playwrights, “Dear…” highlights these individuals’ motivating journeys, while also giving others who were inspired by their impact a platform to share their voices.
This first season holds 10 episodes, with figures such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Steinem, Jane Goodall and more, discussing their lives’ work, while fans, community members and supporters read letters expressing the impact that each person tangentially had in changing their lives.
The first episode chronicles the filmmaking journey of world-famous director Spike Lee. Dissecting his childhood film influences and sharing how he was inspired to highlight Black stories, Lee’s narrative in this series may be one of the most, if not the most, must-watch moments — an undoubtedly strong starting episode.
While the people impacted by these creators read their letters, their audios are echoed by the creators themselves, who read the letter in sync. As Lee reads a letter from a man inspired to attend a historically Black college after watching Lee’s film “School Daze,” viewers are comforted by the uplifting, emotional reactions from both sides.
With warmly cinematic prowess, each storyteller reads their letter while traipsing through their hometowns, soccer fields, college campuses or wherever else their individual journeys of growth and realization took place. These sentimental moments bring viewers even closer to the positively overwhelmed feelings of the titular figures.
The creators of this series make even the simplest of moments, such as reading a letter or explaining one’s backstory, enthusiastically visually appealing. With physical letters in the celebrities’ hands as they read, written words appear in scratches on the screen, often in the author’s original handwriting. These personal touches elevate the series from a simple documentary, integrating the cutting-edge with the more traditional medium.
Alongside expert-level storytelling, the show is consistently framed with this modern editing style. The chosen music for each scene additionally helps guide the emotion while evading manipulation.
The only episode that may feel and look jarring is the one starring “Sesame Street” icon Big Bird. Yes, that one. It’s up for debate on whether or not this bird character is out of place in a series highlighting diverse human achievement and vulnerability, but let it be known: This mascot sure had an impact that many adults nowadays may forget. Big Bird’s episode may not be your first choice watch, but this character’s feature ultimately redefines the hero concept for both viewers and people on screen sharing their relationships to the more than 8-foot-tall bird.
At first glance, the show may appear to simply glorify whichever star each episode is named after. But in actuality, “Dear…” does not put these celebrities on a pedestal — instead, it shows how everyday people find themselves in the art or accomplishments of these people. The show is not complimenting these inspirational figures, giving empty pats on the back; it is simply opening a dialogue to allow those inspired to do the talking.
It would be a disservice to call “Dear…” moving. Rather, this compilation is profound, using big names to attract an audience and then steering the narrative toward the voices of everyday people. These fans and supporters may not have as wide of a following, but their stories are worthy of our attention. And as Lee said, “No one knows your story better than you.”