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Channel Surfing

Channel Surfing

Resurrection

Sundays, 9 p.m., ABC

Death is a painful reality of life. Who among us hasn’t wished for the opportunity to have one more moment with a loved one who’s passed? One more hug, or even one more argument? ABC’s thrilling Resurrection explores that human need to reclaim what we’ve lost.

The series opens with Jacob, an 8-year-old from Missouri, waking up in a rice field in China. The locals are bewildered, and the US government is called. Bellamy, a sympathetic immigration agent, retrieves Jacob and accompanies him back home to Arcadia to rejoin his parents. But there’s a problem: Jacob’s been dead for 32 years. The townspeople are suspicious; his parents teeter between relief and disbelief. The local pastor, a boyhood friend of Jacob’s, expresses to his congregation the central theme of the series: “We are given the tools to ask the questions, not to know the answers.” But when more of Arcadia’s dead return home, fear and confusion spread quickly.

What makes Resurrection so innately watchable is that it plays on—but never panders to—our feelings about this life and the next. Sometimes very little separates the two worlds, and this series, which is sympathetically rendered, explores that gray area.

The cast is outstanding, especially Frances Fisher as Jacob’s mother. Watch the actor closely: her ongoing emergence from a 30- year cocoon of grief is simply stunning.

Believe

Sundays, 9 p.m., NBC

Channel surfers, beware: NBC’s new science fiction/drama series about the orphaned Bo, a young girl with extraordinary powers who’s chased by some and protected by others, is a joyless exercise that’s part X-Files, part Punky Brewster, and altogether wrong. Straining to cover too many genres, Believe is a hokey hodgepodge, with only Johnny Sequoyah as the psychic girl and Delroy Lindo as one of her caretakers, giving the show a real lift.

Though it celebrates forgiveness, the takeaways are lost in translation thanks to flimsy scripts. Perhaps the series will find its footing, but for this writer, that’s hard to believe.

Beyond Scared Straight

Thursdays, 10 p.m., A&E

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, there are over 61,000 juvenile offenders held in residential placement facilities in the United States on any given day. Beyond Scared Straight, A&E’s bold and brutal reality series, seeks to lower that number.

In each episode, at-risk youth are shipped to a prison so they can experience life behind bars. Defiant at the start, the inmates and guards whittle these young people down until they break—and they always break. Beyond Scared Straight is too intense for younger viewers, but parents could use it as a teaching tool for teens about making good choices.