Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pilot Review: Trauma

Trauma (NBC)
Premiered September 28 at 10pm

Promos for this new series made it look like big, loud, and mainly focused on featuring huge explosions and extravagantly-designed disasters. The show is exactly like that, emphasizing and exaggerating traffic incidents and other injury-heavy situations over a coherent narrative or characters. It’s not that the show doesn’t try to make its characters interesting and sympathetic, but rather that it fails in doing so. It’s attempting to be unconventional and distinguish itself from similar fare, but these are the exact same characters you’d expect to find on any hospital or emergency-related show. The pilot is a dramatically heightened introductory episode which contains an extra-intense event that starts the show off. From this beginning, it’s likely that the show will try, episode after episode, to outdo the previous one, and the series will suffer from trying to be bigger and bigger each episode while slacking on its characters and the dramatic believability of its situations. The characters are mostly one-dimensional and don’t add much to the show. One character, by contrast, is given a very embellished personality and it’s too much. Cliff Curtis, who once starred in “Whale Rider,” plays Rabbit, the fearless pilot who survived a deadly crash and now lives life on the edge because he believes he can’t die. The show really takes a nosedive when Rabbit, in an attempt to show just how invincible he believes himself to be, drives recklessly around the city and knocks a drunkard’s door off of his car, taking the man’s finger with it. It’s a terribly unserious moment borne out of what should be a dramatic, tense situation. This show prides itself on being ferociously intense, and its inability to stick to what it should focus on isn’t exactly inspiring. It doesn’t have much else to offer, so the knowledge that this show won’t really come through in an emergency, which is exactly what it’s supposed to, doesn’t leave anything to praise.

How will it work as a series? The pilot is just supposed to kick things off, but it’s likely that this series will follow a very stringent formula which finds an impossible situation arising each episode and the paramedics somehow coming through and saving the day. That’s not terribly promising, and eventually the show risks repeating itself or trying too hard to be too memorable and ending up jumping the shark with an overdone, overdramatic plotline. With better characters, it might be more promising, but it just doesn’t seem like the show cares enough to make its characters stand out.
How long will it last? “Third Watch” lasted a number of years despite being moved around constantly by NBC, and though I’m not very familiar with that series, I think this is essentially a more youthful reboot of the same kind of show. That said, this is the kind of show that might work better in the 10pm slot, and since “The Jay Leno Show” is occupying that every night on the Peacock, this show will have to prove itself in the 9pm hour. It may be the right kind of formula that NBC needs, but I don’t think it will last out the season.

Pilot grade: F