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With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entry:
DAY BREAK (ABC)
(TBA at midseason)
The network's description: "We've all had bad days... the kind of day where nothing goes our way and we just can't wait to put it behind us. Detective Brett Hopper is having one of those hellacious days... only he can't put it behind him because he's living the same day over and over again. On this particular day, Hopper will be accused of killing Asst. DA Alberto Garza. He will offer a solid alibi which no one will believe. He will realize he's been framed. And he will run, discovering en route that not only he, but his loved ones, are also in danger. He'll then wake up and relive the same day over and over again. In order to break the cycle and move on, he will have to figure out who framed him and solve the complex mystery surrounding Garza's death. He will also be forced to heal the fractured relationships with those he loves. Only when Harper figures out why his life is broken and how to fix it will he awaken to a brand new day. Taye Diggs ("Kevin Hill") stars in an action-packed, thrilling re-imagining of the "Groundhog Day" concept from director Rob Bowman ("The X-Files," "Reign of Fire") and the writer of "After the Sunset."
What did they leave out: That's about it.
The plot in a nutshell: L.A. detective Brett Hopper (Taye Diggs) wakes up next to his girlfriend Rita (Moon Bloodgood) to what he thinks will be a normal day. Sure there are some hiccups - he accidentally breaks her porcelain soap dish, he accidentally cuts himself shaving and while getting his morning coffee, he happens to save a woman (Bahar Soomekh) from being run over by an out of control bus - but the one thing he's dreading is a meeting with Internal Affairs about his potentially dirty partner Andrea Battle (Victoria Pratt). That however will turn out to be the least of his problems as he learns that an A.D.A. has been killed and he's the prime suspect, despite never having met the man. Quickly arrested, two detectives (Mitch Pileggi, Ian Anthony Dale) put the screws to him as it seems they have a murder weapon with his prints on it. And if that weren't enough, Rita's ex-husband/Hopper's ex-partner (Adam Baldwin) - now an I.A. detective - is grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of taking down Hopper. Also added to his Herculean burden - his sister Jennifer (Meta Golding) is being abused by her husband (Don Franklin); an informant (Ramon Rodriguez) from one of his cases has gone missing, his safehouse compromised; and two mysterious men seem to be filming his every move. But he's stuck in his cell, unable to do anything about any of it as his only alibi - Rita - has gone missing, having not shown up to work that day. That changes after he's kidnapped from his cell that night, roughed up by said mysterious men, taken to an abandoned quarry and told by their leader (apologies, as I didn't recognize the actor) that he needs to take the fall for the A.D.A.'s murder or they'll kill his sister. As proof, they show him a video of Rita being killed in cold blood.
After a few "I'll kill you!"s, Hopper is sedated and we fade to black. Expecting to wake up inside his cell, he instead opens his eyes to Rita, asleep in their bed next to him. Slow but surely - various "random" events repeat - Hopper begins to realize the impossible - the day is repeating. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, Hopper takes a proactive stance on the day's events. He throws the murder weapon (one of his spare guns) off the Santa Monica pier, gives Jennifer's husband a beating, checks in with his missing informant and calls Andrea about meeting to help him. But it turns out he's actually made things worse - by not getting his coffee, the woman from before is mortally wounded in a bus accident - and the cops still manage to catch him, retrieve the murder weapon and put him in a cell. One thing however is different - the shaving cut from "yesterday" is still there and the bruised ribs from being beaten up still hurt - as if his "body" actually lived through the day. And surprisingly, that the mysterious men who once again kidnap him don't seem to be in on the reason his day is repeating. And so "day three" begins and this time, he just takes Rita and runs...
What works: The idea of having a show about the same day repeating over and over is a bold one, and I'm happy to say "Day Break" lives up to its ambition. The above summary doesn't do it justice - there's literally a half-dozen subplots introduced in the first 20 minutes alone, all or none of which could turn out to be related to his predicament. Plus the concept of him having lived through each "day" is pretty clever, meaning he can't do this ad nauseam and presumably if he dies, he's dead. It's also quite refreshing that the "mysterious figures in every sci-fi TV show/movie" are just as in the dark as he is about the day repeating, making the audience no more ahead of the plot than Hopper himself. As for Diggs, he's your typical tough guy lead - complete with witty comebacks like "you need a breath mint" - and carries the bulk of the show effortlessly. The real thrill of the show however is that you definitely get the sense something bigger is going on as various innocuous seeds are planted - like, why does a bearded man (Clayton Rohner) keep on staring down Hopper each "day?" - and each time you watch, you catch something new.
What doesn't: As one might expect from this type of show, you can smell the fumes from it starting to paint itself into a corner. While the pilot's three "days" are decidedly different, one wonders if by episode 17 seeing the same set of events transpire might get stale. There's also a lot of "wink, wink, did you catch that?" in terms of "random" events repeating - the Dodgers rally to win what appears to be a blowout, a news broadcast mentions a truck full of diapers overturned on the 405, etc. - to that point that hearing them every week could get annoying. Nevertheless, one can't help but have high hopes for this show - TV needs shows like this, whether they crash and burn or not. And the tweaks to the usual "time travel/repeating day" formula certainly gives you the sense you're not going to be disappointed with what's ahead.
The challenges ahead: Already on track to spell "Lost" on Wednesday nights in the winter, will viewers give "Day Break" a shot?