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'Day Break'
Taye Diggs plays Detective Brett Hopper, framed for murder, arrested and imprisoned. He then wakes up and relives the same day over and over again. (Vivian Zink/ABC)
TELEVISION REVIEW

Convoluted plot makes 'Day Break' exhausting

In "Day Break," LA Detective Brett Hopper is framed for the murder of an assistant district attorney. He wakes up in his girlfriend's sunlit bed at 6:18 a.m., they shower together, he leaves to get coffee and go home, where he is arrested and thrown in jail.

In "Day Break," Taye Diggs plays Hopper, who is framed for murder. But just when his Jack Bauer-esque day could get no worse, he wakes up again in his girlfriend's sunlit bed at 6:18 a.m. and leaves to go home, where he's arrested and thrown in jail.

In "Day Break," which has a special two-hour premiere tonight at 9 on Ch annel 5, Hopper is undergoing a "Groundhog Day" experience, sans groundhog, where he keeps reliving the same day, with the same girlfriend in the same sunlit bed and the same homicide charges. He wakes up again at 6:18 a.m., and sets out to exonerate himself, dodging events -- the coffee shop, a broken soap dish -- in an effort to keep himself out of jail.

In "Day Break," which replaces "Lost" until February, the viewer is subjected to a kind of psychic repetitive stress syndrome, wherein we are forced to experience Hopper's do-over over and over again. The ABC series operates like a sestina -- a poem that reuses words in each stanza -- except it's not very poetic and there's no internal logic to its reiterations. Hopper, understandably paranoid about his predicament, radically alters events during each re-do day, but his fate remains the same: framed.

"Day Break" doesn't quite work, not only because of its redundancies but because its story line becomes simultaneously convoluted and pointless. As the days accumulate, so do the facts regarding Hopper's enemies and their motive in blaming him for murder. And yet, each day is also a clean slate, so that what we and Hopper have learned during previous days is no longer relevant. The show gets caught in a peculiar coherence vacuum, to the point where a Rubik's Cube might seem more solvable.

One day, for instance, Hopper wakes up and takes his girlfriend, Rita (Moon Bloodgood), out of LA in an effort to dodge the cops that he knows will come after him. During that day, he winds up running from bad guys anyway, but this time he gets shot -- an injury that he still has the next morning, when he wakes up bleeding in Rita's sunlit bed. So is it a new day? Or isn't it a new day? "Day Break" is built on a supernatural foundation, of course, but its inconsistencies are nonetheless irritating.

Add to all the confusion a federal witness, an abusive brother-in-law, a demonic guy in a rock quarry chanting, "In every decision, there is a consequence," and crooked cops (two of whom are played by "X-Files" alums Mitch Pileggi and Adam Baldwin), and you've got uncontainable chaos. Sometimes these characters appear in Hopper's day; other times, they don't. Why? I'm not sure anyone making the series knows.

Still, the executive producers, including Jeffrey Bell of "Alias," "Angel," and "The X-Files," deserve nods for their ambition. "Day Break" is a small landmark in experimental TV, just as "24" was when it premiered in 2001, because it twists TV narrative structure into new shapes. That's why ABC is using this show to fill in for "Lost"; fans of that series might be open to this show's experimental format.

But while the "24" real-time-like concept has the forward drive that's essential to successful serial TV, and the mystery of "Lost" grows with every week, "Day Break" is static . Despite chase sequences, shootings, and an attractive neo-noir design, it never takes off. It's cool, but not cool enough.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. He blogs at boston.com/ae/tv/blog/

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