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Picks and Pans Review: Day Break

updated 11/20/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/20/2006 01:00AM

ABC (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
BY TOM GLIATTO
DRAMA

This new series, a punishingly tricky variation on time-puzzle thrillers like Memento and Vanilla Sky, starts one awful day with L.A. detective Taye Diggs being framed for murder. By nightfall, he's spent hours on the lam trying to pierce through the mystery, only to wind up bound in a pit that looks as large as the Roman Coliseum. A shadowy figure sticks a syringe in his neck, he closes his eyes ... then wakes up to relive the day. Can the information he picked up in those 24 hours steer him through the next 24, which technically aren't "next" at all? What's gone wrong with time, anyway? Diggs races through all of this at a steely clip. He's a pair of scissors desperately unsure where to cut.

Day Break almost plays as a subversive joke on today's slightly panicked prime-time viewing experience—that need to keep up with so many good shows' serial stories. (I missed one week of Prison Break, and I swear when I came back Wentworth Miller had formed an ABBA cover band.) This drama forces you to focus week after week on a single day, with small changes in course that can grow into big twists. The show is like chasing a dented tin hoop down a freeway. A great workout, and a little exhausting.

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