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Sundown for "Day Break"

ABC is killing its innovative cop drama Daybreak. "Killing" actually seems too mild a word -- Day Break is being replaced by a bloc of sitcom reruns. Being dumped for old episodes of According To Jim is about half a rung above cancellation to make way for a test pattern.

This is a shame for two reasons. First, and most fundamentally, Day Break was a tremendous drama, a spectacular mix of intelligence and action. Taye Diggs played an undercover cop who kept living the same day over and over, a la Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, but for much greater stakes: Unknown but powerful enemies were framing him for murder and killing his loved ones to keep him from resisting. At the end of each day, Diggs knew a little more about the plot -- but also had to suffer the anguish of seeing his girlfriend murdered yet again. It was a little bit like peeling away layers of an intellectually tasty onion, except the onion could crash through windows and shoot at you. I loved Day Break and I'll miss it tremendously.

More broadly, this almost certainly signals the end of network television's fascination with serialized dramas. There were more than a dozen introduced this fall, and network executives swore on the souls of their mothers -- in retrospect, a dubious proposition -- that low ratings would not induce them to send the shows to early graves, leaving their viewers hanging over the resolution of the mysteries at the heart of most of them.

But that's exactly what has happened. In today's television environment, only a truly desperate network with no help in the bullpen (read: NBC) sticks with a show that doesn't put up decent ratings in the first three weeks or so. The pressure is even greater on serialized shows, which -- because viewers are not generally inclined to jump into a story that's already under way -- don't generally improve past their first couple of episodes. Result: the serialized dramas have been canceled in droves, from Fox's Vanished to The CW's Runaway to NBC's Kidnapped. ABC has already put two other serials, The Nine and Six Degrees, on hiatus. Supposedly those shows will return after the first of the year, but I wouldn't count on it. After all, ABC's got all those reruns of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition sitting around doing nothing.


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