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It's a hairy future for two bald stars

Hal Boedeker
The Orlando Sentinel

Television needs a constant infusion of new stars. Taye Diggs and Stanley Tucci are perfect candidates. They have talent, charisma, even bald brilliance - a trait that's appealing to those of us who are follicle-challenged.

There's just a slight hitch: These actors do not have compelling new series.

William Shatner, the luxuriantly coifed legend, has a new series, too. He becomes a game-show host this week in addition to appearing on "Boston Legal." How good is Shatner's new gig? Can't tell you. ABC didn't show us "Show Me the Money," which debuts at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Promotional clips, however, suggest that the show lets Shatner be Shatner. He cavorts with contestants, dances with showgirls and boogies to his own oddball beat.

As for Tucci and Diggs, Tucci has it a bit better. His "3 Lbs.," which debuts at 10 p.m. Tuesday on CBS, is a "House" knockoff. Tucci plays a brain surgeon in turmoil, but any way you weigh it, 3 Lbs. doesn't give you enough reasons to care.

Diggs finds himself mired in "Day Break," a preposterous thriller that premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.

The first hurdle for "Day Break" is incredibly high: It fills the "Lost" time slot until that mystery-adventure returns Feb. 7. That scheduling will probably hurt Disney-owned ABC, because "Day Break" could make many "Lost" fans get lost. Yep, it's that bad.

"Day Break" tries to tell an extremely complicated serial in a season when viewers have largely rejected that storytelling. The show struggles to operate on two levels.

First there's the conspiracy. Brett Hopper (Diggs), a Los Angeles police detective, has been framed for the murder of an assistant district attorney he doesn't know. Hopper is up against wicked, shadowy forces that threaten his lover, his police partner and his sister.

Then there's the eerie fantasy. Hopper keeps reliving the same day over and over. Bill Murray faced a similar routine in "Groundhog Day," but that was an amusing comedy. "Day Break" is a violent, convoluted thriller.

The fantasy undermines the conspiracy, and vice versa. After slogging through the two-hour premiere, you probably won't care who's behind the scheme or what cosmic forces are tormenting the hero.

The ludicrous "Day Break" is a major stumble for ABC. Nevertheless, the network is giving "Day Break" a prime launch after the "Dancing With the Stars" finale.

Shatner will receive similar treatment Tuesday, when "Show Me the Money" follows the last "Dancing" performance episode, with finalists Mario Lopez and Emmitt Smith. The scheduling lets Shatner's premiere get a half-hour's jump on CBS, "3 Lbs." and Tucci.

After watching three episodes of "3 Lbs.," I have to issue this warning: Mediocre medicine ahead. The title refers to the weight of the average brain. And "3 Lbs." is not above average in any way.

This series should have been a breakthrough for Tucci, an actor who has excelled in roles big ("Winchell") and small ("The Devil Wears Prada"). Yet Tucci's role, Dr. Doug Hanson, limits the actor - instead of letting him unleash his talents, the way "House" works for Hugh Laurie.

Hanson is a remote, curt physician who walks away from patients and who might be facing his own health crisis. It's too bad that "3 Lbs." doesn't let Tucci share his sarcastic, mischievous side more often.

Instead, the series contrasts practical, unsentimental Hanson with his friendly, spiritual protege (Mark Feuerstein). Their conflicts take predictable turns.

The drama strives for arty symbolism in depicting medical crises. But those harrowing cases are resolved predictably, too.

And "3 Lbs." frequently plays up the sexy angles. The show hands steamy plots to Feuerstein and Rome actress Indira Varma, who plays a flirty neurologist. But if you want McDreamy magic, you won't find it here.

Ultimately, "3 Lbs." gives you a medical show without the flair of "House," the urgency of "ER" or the sexiness of "Grey's Anatomy." The prognosis for "3 Lbs." is not good. And that's sad. Television could use a new bald star.

___

DAY BREAK

Cast: Taye Diggs, Moon Bloodgood, Meta Golding, Victoria Pratt, Adam Baldwin.

Where and when: The ABC drama debuts from 9 to 11 p.m. Wednesday. Its regular slot will be 9-10 p.m. Wednesdays.

3 LBS.

Cast: Stanley Tucci, Mark Feuerstein, Indira Varma, Armando Riesco.

Where and when: The CBS drama debuts at 10 p.m. Tuesday, its regular slot.

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