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Review of ABC's `Miracles' (Date: January 22, 2003)

ABC struck out with its fall dramas, four stinkers that didn't last until January. The Disney-owned network launches two more dramas Monday, flooding Sunday's Super Bowl with promotion to attract viewers. If these entries also look like Nielsen long shots, they exhibit more promise and polish than "MDs" or "Push, Nevada."

The more intriguing "Miracles" sends an investigator off on a spiritual quest. The series draws the unenviable task of going against the season's big new hit, CBS' "CSI: Miami," so ABC will need a miracle of its own.

The drama starts in gripping, offbeat style as Paul Callan (Skeet Ulrich) explores how a nun who died in 1861 remains amazingly well preserved. That riddle quickly solved, he turns to the provocative case of a dying boy with healing power.

Some viewers could be offended that spiritual matters are played for thrills or that a monsignor applauds Callan for "putting out fires" for the Roman Catholic Church.

Yet the producers say the show won't concentrate on the church. The introspective opener sidesteps the schlocky and succeeds in depicting how the unusual duties weigh on Callan.

"I feel like a doctor who never cures anyone," he says. "The one thing I haven't seen is the true spirit of God."

"Miracles" boasts several major assets: inventive plot twists, sleek cinematography, a flair for creepy atmosphere and an engaging star in Ulrich.

In the opener, Jacob Smith excels as the tragic child, whose gift causes a crisis for his parents. Hector Elizondo puts in a comforting appearance as a kind priest. Angus Macfadyen heightens the tension as a mystery man trailing the hero.

"Miracles" is more "X-Files" than "Touched by an Angel," but it also hints at being something absorbing and different. Of course, difference doesn't exactly sell when "CSI" and "Law & Order" spinoffs dot the schedule.

From: The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) | Date: January 22, 2003 | Byline: Hal Boedeker
Tags: 2003 articles, miracles, reviews, skeet ulrich
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