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Pd_1010So last season, the broadcast networks learned that when you bet on serialized dramas, you take a risk. If fans don’t get involved in your series from the start, few will find it worth the challenge of trying to catch up — and therefore will never tune in.

This season, the networks went a different direction. But it still might not be the right one.

Veering away from long-running story arcs, the networks pushed shows with largely self-contained episodes in 2007-08.  That makes it easier for viewers to jump onto a series based on good word-of-mouth — but it also strongly reduces the imperative for fans to tune in every week.

So even though “Pushing Daisies” followed up its highly regarded series premiere with a fine second episode Wednesday, the rumblings on the chat boards are that it’s not a show you have to watch religiously. It’s entertaining — for some, even a joy — but not everyone has time to commit an hour to joy each week. It’s like a newscast that runs only features and no hard news.

Ultimately, the key to “Pushing Daisies” sustaining viewers will be how well it can massage the one serialized element it does have: the romance between Ned (Lee Pace) and Chuck (Anna Friel), which becomes this year’s version of what Jim and Pam used to be on “The Office” by virtue of its lack of consummation.  For my part, I’m very intrigued by how showrunner Bryan Fuller will sustain this tale of platonic love (note that I didn’t say I was worried whether he’ll be able to. I have curiousity, not insecurity.) But even this is not as big a week-to-week draw for a lot of people as the mysteries of a show like “Lost” or “Heroes,” where you are just plain afraid to tune out for fear of missing a big revelation.

Nothing big is going to happen on “Pushing Daisies” for quite some time. That puts a lot of pressure to do the little things right. The lesson of the past two seasons of television is not to choose between serialized and non-serialized drama, but to create characters and situations that are compelling, regardless of the plot.

— Jon Weisman