THE SERIES "The Whispers"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on ABC/7

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WHAT IT'S ABOUT Special agent Claire Bennigan (Lily Rabe, "American Horror Story") -- also a specialist in child psychology -- is called in on a case where a little girl, Harper (Abby Ryder Fortson), apparently tried to kill her mother. But the girl explains that she was just playing a game with her friend, "Drill." Who is this Drill? Why is Drill playing a game with other children, too? The parents have mysteries of their own -- notably Claire, whose husband recently died. Then, she gets a call from an old friend (Barry Sloane), who has some disturbing news about the death. Her mystery deepens. (The series was produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment.)

MY SAY The vagueness of the word "something" works well for the evocative vagueness of "The Whispers." Something is out there. Something is making the kids act strange. Something is flickering the lights, blowing the leaves, perhaps releasing a dark and dangerous force.

Something also tells me the hand of the great and powerful Oz -- Spielberg himself -- is weaving this spell. Indeed, he is. "Whispers" creator Soo Hugh ("Under the Dome") has said her inspiration for this series was a Ray Bradbury story about two children who create a simulated reality in which their burdensome parents are dispatched by lions. But surely there's also a reflection of "Poltergeist" as well. Spielberg is a genius at many things, but unsurpassed in the art of casting just the right kid. Fortson is just right.

Rabe is even better: A melancholic with dark, lonesome eyes, her character almost seems to be working past the grief of her husband's death to an even deeper sadness. She promises to ground what might turn out to be another summer thriller. She's also someone you want to get to know.

GRADE B+