Three Wishes should come with a warning for the lactose-intolerant: A single episode contains a year’s worth of the milk of human kindness, which will be jammed, Pulp Fiction-style, straight into your gasping little heart. Love thy neighbor, respect thy father, and — seriously — do not forget to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

The basis for this upright reality series is wonderfully simple: Each week host Amy Grant, the Christian-pop singer, sets up a tent in a picturesque small town and grants (get it, grants?) a major wish to three deserving citizens. These are big-money, big-hearted deeds: A vivacious young California girl scarred and disabled by a car accident gets life-changing surgery — plus Grant’s team builds her a luxury playhouse with a therapeutic pool. A South Dakota father of five with a fatal brain tumor gets a surprise reunion when Three Wishes flies in dozens of his friends to say goodbye — then the show pays off his mortgage and secures college scholarships for his wife and children. You getting teary yet? Don’t make me talk about the sweetheart of a collegian who wants to shed his severe stutter so he can run for class president. Because then I’ll start crying again, and frankly, my face is so Three Wishes-swollen I look like the Elephant Man. (Another guy, come to think of it, who could have used Grant’s help.)

Three Wishes is unabashedly happy-proud American: Images of flags and patriotic servicemen abound. Grant, a lovely low-key host, leads a crowd in prayer and zips around with NASCAR drivers. Like The WB’s Blue Collar TV, the series is aggressively dedicated to the denizens of middle America. You won’t find Three Wishes setting up its tent (sponsored, in return for a shameless amount of plugs, by a corporation I shall not mention) in the middle of Times Square, no matter how many New Yorkers could use a hand. Then again, you won’t find Three Wishes making camp any place that doesn’t offer sweeping views of forests, rivers, church spires, and town squares — the series is razor-focused on the quaint and heartwarming. It’s this blatantly manufactured side that gets heavy-handed. The aforementioned stutterer can’t simply be relieved of his affliction, he must make an announcement of his candidacy at a staged affair more suited to a gubernatorial candidate than a college kid. A TV-friendly family of four is scooped up from the Houston Astrodome and transplanted to South Dakota without, seemingly, a moment’s hesitation. And for those who need cues on how to feel, most episodes end with a concert, at which a ”wishee” is honored by a weeping crowd.

So, yeah, Three Wishes will leave your heartstrings feeling over-fondled. But if you can get past that (and there are worse crimes), it’s also one of the most interactive TV shows around. Maybe I’m going soft, but when’s the last time you found yourself bawling and beaming about the basic goodness of humankind? And now I must go help an old lady cross the street.

Three Wishes
  • TV Show