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Life resumes in "The Dead Zone'

All it takes is a slight touch, perhaps a handshake, for Johnny Smith to see a person's past, present or future.

Smith was in a coma for six years and has emerged with psychic abilities from the "dead zone," usually a dormant area in the brain but one that has become active because of his trauma.

A touch by a nurse and zap, he sees her daughter in a burning house. A handshake with a politician and whoosh, he sees the nation's capital smoldering in ruins.

Smith has helped solve a serial murder case, saved the life of a high school athlete, learned the truth about his mother's death and swayed a jury. He also is dealing with personal issues such as his relationship with his former fiancee, who moved on with her life while he was in a coma, had his child and married someone else.

"This is not somebody who is a superhero but a very real, human person who faces challenging and unique situations as he transitions in and out of visions," said Anthony Michael Hall, who stars in The Dead Zone.

The show's second season, which began with 13 shows in January, has added seven summer episodes that start tonight. The Dead Zone made its debut in June 2002, drawing a record 6.4-million viewers for an original basic cable drama series, USA Network said.

The television series is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name published in 1979. King is not involved in the television production, but a King spokesman said that he has seen the series and thinks the staff is doing a good job. The Dead Zone also was made into a movie starring Christopher Walken as Smith in 1983.

"Some of the shows are stand-alone and departures from the book, while some harken back to the book itself. I treat each episode as a big movie," said Hall, who appeared in several 1980s hits such as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Vacation.

"The series technically is not a sci-fi show but a drama. It has cutting-edge special effects by Stargate (Films) and a unique look and feel to it."

The role is demanding, Hall said, "but it's also a gift. . . . It's a unique opportunity to play a character with spiritual aspects."

The summer episodes are action-oriented, Hall said. Stories will include Johnny facing a deadly storm, trying to solve the mystery of a deadly virus to save his son's life and being recruited by U.S. intelligence to track down the world's most-wanted terrorist.