Death takes a timeslot

Networks fixated on mortality

Death — brought to you this fall by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the CW.

After last week’s parade of fall 2007 schedule announcements, it’s clear the programming chieftains at the major broadcast nets have been fixated on mortality these days. Sure, corpses and crime dramas have overrun the airwaves during the past few years — thank you, “CSI” — but this time around, there’s a clear move to examine the big themes of being and nothingness. Consider the, er, body, of evidence:

  • ABC’s new drama “Pushing Daisies” revolves around a guy who has the ability to bring dead things back to life with one touch. The catch is, an additional touch and you’re headed to Forest Lawn.

  • CBS’ “Moonlight” features a vampire-turned-private eye (it is the Eye network, after all) whose main preoccupation is fighting off his “undead” cohorts as they try to feast on the unsuspecting living.

  • Fox has its own twist on the immortal gumshoe theme; in drama “New Amsterdam,” a man cursed with immortality has to have his nose rubbed in it every day as he goes about his work as a Gotham homicide detective.

  • CW’s hot property is “Reaper,” a comedic drama about a 21-year-old slacker who has powerful friends in low places, thanks to his gig retrieving souls escaped from Hell.

  • NBC kept its development eye on the happy-go-lucky side this year. But the time-traveling hero of its new drama “Journeyman” is undoubtedly going to battle some now-dead folks as he endeavors to right wrongs and help deserving people. And the Peacock’s “Bionic Woman” is forced to endure such a tragic accident (even in the remake) that she has no choice but to trade her flesh and blood for circuits and microchips if she wants to live long enough to see how “Lost” ends in a few years.

So what’s fueling the nets’ sudden interest in this mortal coil and the shuffling-off process?

Who knows for sure? But it likely has to do with the same lemming-like behavior that made last season the year of the serialized mystery drama, and the season before that the year of the sci-fi drama invasion. Besides, the cheap shot about it being fear of the nets’ own pending obsolescence may frighten them to death.

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