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TV Series Review

If Kleenex sees profits skyrocket this quarter, the tissue maker should thank NBC and its tearjerker Three Wishes. On the heels of ABC’s feel-good, do-good Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, this heart-warmer does exactly what its title indicates. Each week, cast and crew roll into a small town. They literally pitch a tent on Main Street and, after listening to lines of townsfolk share their deepest desires, choose three wishes to grant. Sure, some people request fancy cars or huge windfalls of cash, but Three Wishes doesn’t waste time on superficial, selfish dreams. Rather, host Amy Grant changes lives with a little help from some big (corporate) friends.

Some critics have questioned the show’s motives. At times it’s easy to see why, given the continual plugs for sponsors. But with Robin Hood gallantry, Three Wishes takes from the willing rich to give to the poor—or in this case ordinary people in need. When a young couple loses their dairy farm to a fire the show doesn’t just satisfy the wife’s meager wish to “get a little help”; it gives them a day off at a nearby amusement park and a massive, state-of-the-art dairy farm.

Similarly, when a high school senior has a debilitating car accident shortly before graduation, producers bring in hundreds of classmates for a follow-up ceremony, thereby fulfilling the family’s wish to see the now wheelchair-bound girl receive her diploma. She also gets intense physical therapy that allows her to walk to accept her certificate, aided by helping hands and a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

In one of the show’s most emotional moments, a tumor-stricken father given only six months to live is celebrated with a virtual This Is Your Life parade of past friends flown in from all over the country. His wife’s one wish? Simply to see her husband smile again.

Executive producer Andrew Glassman and others are banking on our desire to see deserving neighbors get a helping hand. It certainly worked for Home Edition, which last season established itself in the Top 10. And by not limiting itself to rebuilding or remodeling homes, Three Wishes manages to avoid the copycat syndrome. “Uplifting shows that have this spirit are always going to work and will outlive the bug-eating,” Glassman says. Let’s hope he’s right.

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 23, 30, Oct. 7, 14, 2005

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