Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies by Scott Garfield/ABC
I now have a new favorite TV character this season, and it's of the four-legged variety. Of course I'm talking about Digby, the stalwart and silent and absolutely gorgeous canine companion of Pushing Daisies' life-affirming hero, Ned. This golden retriever was the first dead object (run down on a highway) to be revived by Ned as a child, and their attachment was one of the first and most persistent nitpicky complaints I fielded from the show's naysayers. "How could Ned and Digby not have touched at least once over the years?" they wondered. A little boy and a faithful dog, how is it possible they restrained themselves from the heavy petting that comes so naturally in youth? My answer (beyond the obvious explanation that Pushing Daisies is a fantasy and we should just sit back and respect the rules we've been presented): Digby understands what's going on. He knows that to be touched by Ned is to be sent to doggie heaven. He doesn't need to be told. (Would that some viewers were so accepting.)

And indeed, this fact was demonstrated in the opening of Wednesday's wonderful episode, as we flash back to Digby's own incredible journey (including a Lassie moment of pulling a fire alarm) to be reunited with little-boy Ned, and when they meet again in a rapturous moment, they stop short of touching. Which is, of course, the tragedy of Ned's strange and once-lonely life, with his beloved dog as well as with his beloved Chuck (and the whole issue of touching became a theme throughout the episode). Oh, the places Daisies takes us to, which this week includes a world where people live in windmills and communicate with imprisoned soul mates through carrier pigeons, where people keep beehives on rooftops and waltz in beekeeper suits. I never know where Pushing Daisies is going to take me, but I can't wait for the next ride. How glad am I that ABC has given the show an early full-season pickup, with many more to follow, let's hope.

On an unhappier note, when Daisies was over, I checked out NBC's tacky new reality contest Phenomenon, an eye-glazing spectacle of parlor tricks, mind games and daredevil stunts (sticking a hand in a bear trap, and playing Russian roulette with nail guns) that had me wondering only one thing: How did Geraldo Rivera not get tapped to host this wretched thing? The insipid celebrity guests (Carmen Electra, Rachel Hunter and the biggest girl of all, The Tonight Show's shrill and giggly Ross Matthews) weren't enjoyable enough even to be laughable. The judges, in search of what they call "the next great mentalist," added exactly zero except perhaps inadvertent comic relief, as the ridiculously intense Uri Geller gushed over most of the acts and the unaccountably smug Criss Angel took a harsher view of the contestants' showmanship or (usually) lack thereof. Phenomenon comes with a Jackass-style warning to "not attempt this at any time." I would add this consumer advisory: "Watching Phenomenon could be hazardous to your mental health." If you're seeking true magic, stick to Pushing Daisies.

Sticking with the theme of the fantastic, I was intrigued enough by all the hype over CSI: NY's detour into the virtual world of Second Life game-playing to check out Wednesday's episode - the first time I'd watched the show since I can't remember when. It was a clever premise, the animation looked great, and I was impressed that the bad guy got away (an assassin masquerading as a popular avatar). Is this elusive villain going to be CSI: NY's version of the original CSI's "miniature killer" last season? I'm not sure that's enough of a hook to keep me watching. What the Second Life sequences mainly did was remind me how lifeless this show's flesh-and-blood ensemble generally is. As far as the CSI franchise is concerned, I'm staying put in Vegas.