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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
BONUS FIRST LOOK: BABYLON FIELDS (CBS)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: No official description has been released.
What did they leave out: See above.
The plot in a nutshell: A mysterious figure (Jamey Sheridan) digging himself out of a shallow grave provides the backdrop for the introduction to our heroes - detective Carl Tiptree (Ray Stevenson) flirts with his new flame Louisa (Leila Arcieri), a fellow cop, while Shirley Wunch (Kathy Baker) and daughter Janine (Amber Tamblyn) leisurely go grocery shopping. All four are about to get the surprise of a lifetime - said mystery man and everyone else who's ever been buried in Babylon, Long Island has come back to life. And despite their rotting bodies and dirt covered clothes, they've all decided to try and resume their former lives. For our mystery man, it's as Ernie Wunch, the abusive douchebag father to Janine and husband to Shirley - someone who they thought had ran off to Daytona with a stripper several years ago. Not surprisingly this leads to all sorts of chaos as all of Carl and Louisa's fellow officers desert their posts, the local National Guard station goes abandoned and the locals begin opening fire on the walking dead in the streets (they, of course, can't die again). But while there's panic everywhere, there's also the hope for reuniting with those lost, from Carl's late wife (apologies as I didn't recognize the actress) to his sister's done-in-by-caner husband (Adam LeFevre) to Janine's taken-too-young sister (Mackenzie Milone). Unsure of what to do, Janine flees to her boyfriend's house (Will Janowitz) only to discover he and his family are arming for the end of days. She instead opts to go it alone and makes her way to the very spot Ernie climbed out of in the teaser - was she somehow involved in his murder? As for Ernie himself, he decides to investigate who killed him in the first place and brings his clues to his old partner - Carl.
What works: The closest analogy I can think of is it's "Jericho" - but with zombies instead of nuclear bombs - as told in the style of "Six Feet Under." Said tone gives it a serious albeit slightly offbeat feel as the dead's return is treated as a giant, shocking event. And while the zombies (a word which is never actually said) are more or less harmless (they're confused if anything), it's their emotional toll that really damages the characters. Imagine having the animated corpse of a deceased loved one show up at your door step? Their arrival then opens up old wounds - whether it be what Janine "did last summer" or the harsh reminder that Carl's wife apparently killed herself. Adding to the shock is that no explanation is given to why the dead are rising (a la "Jericho's" nuclear blasts) nor is their much lip service from the characters as to why they are back. All we're left with is a few telling hints - a priest protects a zombie from being attacked by a mob, explaining that it's a test from God, while Ernie freaks out at the first sight of live blood. The show also has a little fun too - a sequence in which Ernie grooms himself proves to be amusing not to mention a little gross. All in all, Gerald Cuesta, Michael Atkinson and Michael Cuesta have done the hardest thing to do in television - make the audience want more.
What doesn't: On the flip side, along with the "Jericho"-esque similarities come the "Jericho"-esque problems. Those craving answers like "why are they here?" and "what's going on outside the town?" will more or less starve - but that's sort of the point isn't it? We the audience know just as much - or as little - as the characters do.
The bottom line: Considering what did make the cut (see the above review), it's definitely disappointing to see this show didn't.