It’s life or death on TV this fall
October 2, 2007
NEW YORK ” This fall, lots of TV drama is a life-and-death affair.
Not life-OR-death, like on traditional doctor, lawyer and cop shows. Instead, several new dramas ” however much they may vary otherwise ” share a common concern with resurrection and redemption, with life as it coexists with death.
And these series are keeping it personal. Forget saving the world in 24 hours. Or even “save the cheerleader, save the world.” The world may get a little help along the way. But that’s a fringe benefit. Central to these new shows is the personal quest and self-examination. Their mission statement: “Me first!”
Sam, the slacker hero of the CW’s supernatural comedy “Reaper,” learns he’s obliged to serve the devil by tracking down evil souls and sending those fugitives back to hell. It’s a lot tougher work than his dead-end job at a hardware outlet. But, much to his surprise, it brings him new meaning and direction.
Go figure! What at first seemed like indentured servitude to Lucifer is actually a life-affirming career move.
On NBC’s “Life,” a cop wrongfully imprisoned for 12 years is cleared of the crime. He returns to the outside world ” and the LAPD ” with a new attitude. He isn’t just released from jail. He’s sprung from a lifelong psychic prison.
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Likewise, the heroine of NBC’s “Bionic Woman” is surgically reborn after a ghastly auto accident. She emerges as part human, part machine. And part lab rat for the shadowy Berkut Group. Can she pull herself together?
But when it comes to life-and-death issues, a pie-maker named Ned takes the cake. On ABC’s mystical “Pushing Daisies,” Ned discovers that, with a single touch, he can restore life. But then, with his next touch, he shuts it down again.
This becomes useful to Ned in a side venture. He solves murders: A victim, briefly brought back to life by Ned’s touch, often can identify the killer.
There are also romantic implications. Ned is able to resurrect his childhood sweetheart, who, as an adult, was mysteriously killed. But too bad there’s no touching now!
“Pushing Daisies” and several more newcomers seem attuned to viewer weariness from themes of war and terrorism, from the global heebie-jeebies that have fueled so many shows in recent years.
On NBC’s “Chuck,” a department store computer tech is dragged into perilous cloak-and-dagger intrigue. Even so, the emphasis isn’t on counterterrorism but on self-actualization: How does it feel to be unwittingly implanted with all the U.S. government’s most sensitive, valuable secrets?
Chuck finds it can be pretty unsettling.
“There’s something wrong with me,” he moans. “I’m remembering things I shouldn’t know!”
On the other hand, what if you DIDN’T know any of the things you SHOULD? That’s the premise of ABC’s “Samantha Who?”
A sitcom about an identity crisis, it focuses on a young career woman who awakens from an eight-day coma knowing nothing about who she was before. Clue by clue she begins to form a picture of herself and realizes she was selfish, mean-spirited and vain. Going forward, she vows to be a better Sam.
But it won’t be easy.
“I had this dream that I woke up clean and white as snow, my debts forgiven and my sins all washed away,” she announces. “That sounds awesome! But it’s a bunch of crap. Yesterday can’t be un-lived.”
At least, not by Samantha, who lacks a gift for time travel. But Dan Vasser has it in excess. On NBC’s “Journeyman,” this San Francisco reporter and family man keeps getting yanked from the present into the past.
While on one of those unexpected getaways, to the city’s North Beach section circa 1987, he crosses paths with his beloved fiancee from back then, a woman who would later disappear without a trace. Can Dan overcome the desire to rekindle their relationship? Can he stay faithful to his wife, Katie, firmly planted in the present?
“I never wanted to leave,” Livia tells him during another time-warp tete-a-tete, on a plane in 1995.
“Leave WHERE?” Dan implores. “Where do you live now? WHEN do you live?”
He’s not the only one who hurts from unrequited love.
On CBS’ gothic thriller “Moonlight,” Mick St. John is a forever-young, good vampire who solves crimes committed by bad vampires. And he hasn’t had a date in 60 years. Then he runs into a little girl he rescued from a vampire’s clutches a couple of decades ago. Now she’s all grown up ” and gorgeous, and maybe interested in Mick.
He decides they can be friends, and even work together solving murders (she’s an investigative journalist). But he knows they can never, um, go all the way.
“You just can’t bear the thought of seeing yourself as a monster in someone else’s eyes,” he wistfully explains to the audience.
There’s more of this eternal angst ahead on Fox’s midseason drama “New Amsterdam.”
Its hero, John Amsterdam, has been living on Manhattan Island for more than three centuries ” ever since a spell was cast that gave him immortality. These days, he works as an NYPD homicide detective while, getting more and more restless, he waits for his soul mate: the woman who will make him ” finally! ” a mortal man again.
“If I can find her, time will have value,” says John, sounding like an ad for a matchmaking Web site.
But where does that leave Ned on “Pushing Daisies,” whose true love is in reach yet strictly hands-off?
With his own slice of TV’s life-and-death pie.