Law & Order creator Dick Wolf once described TV’s holy trinity as cops, lawyers and doctors, and he’s not wrong; each new television season brings a fresh batch of crime dramas, legal series and medical shows — I keep waiting for some clever network exec to combine the three genres into one show about a surgeon cop who arrests hospitalized criminals, then defends them in court before operating on them.
TV’s latest medical drama is Saving Hope, a shot-in-Canada co-production between CTV and NBC that’s set in a fictional Toronto hospital.
I wish I could say that Saving Hope is fresh, innovative and like nothing you’ve ever seen before, but that would only be true if you’ve never watched TV. Anyone who’s ever viewed a medical drama has already seen all the various bits, pieces and clichés that have been culled from previous shows and stitched together Frankenstein-like to make this one.
To be fair, ER set the bar so high that any medical shows that followed have been forced to differentiate themselves. Grey’s Anatomy, for example, shifted the focus from emergency-room drama to the romantic relationships between the characters, while House was essentially a procedural detective show in which the mysteries were medical.
Saving Hope attempts to meld elements of both ER and Grey’s by having its two main characters (both doctors, of course) romantically involved: Dr. Alex Reid (Erica Durance, best known for playing Lois Lane on Smallville) is a top surgeon at Toronto’s Hope-Zion Hospital, who is engaged to Dr. Charlie Harris (Stargate SG-1’s Michael Shanks), the hospital’s chief of surgery.
Just before the happy couple is about get married, a car plows into their taxi. They’re battered but seemingly unharmed, and the dual docs treat the driver of the other car, whom we assume will be the series’ first patient — until Charlie suddenly collapses. Hmm, where have we seen this particular bait-and-switch before? Oh, that’s right — in every single episode of House, when the patient of the week winds up being the guy who dials 911 and then passes out, not the kid on the skateboard who just cracked his skull.
As it turns out, Charlie is in a coma. Alex and her fellow docs struggle to keep him alive, but there are other patients who require her surgical skills — including an expectant mother whose unborn baby is in jeopardy. As ER viewers will recall, this happened at least once a season, and here it just feels like an emotionally manipulative plot device.
Yet Saving Hope has far grander ambitions than to be a mere medical drama; unfortunately it also wants to be Touched By an Angel. See, Charlie may be comatose, but his soul or spirit or ghost or whatever has exited his body and walks freely around the hospital, unseen by the living as he interacts with the spirits of presumably dead patients.
So is Saving Hope a medical show? A supernatural romance? A touch-feely pseudo-spiritual drama?
Yes . . . and no. Like a patchwork quilt, the show pieces together bits of all of these — a little Grey’s Anatomy here, some ER there, a sprinkling of Ghost Whisperer mixed with a bit of A Gifted Man — but never fully commits to any of them. The result is slightly sweet, a bit overdone and yet kind of bland, what you would get if you dumped all these shows in a blender along with a scoop of low-fat vanilla ice cream.
The pilot does leave a number of unanswered questions. Will Charlie recover? Will he remain a comatose almost-ghost who tries to help the souls of departed patients tie up loose ends in their lives before guiding them toward the light? Will they come up with better dialogue than “Charlie is twice the surgeon you’ll ever be!” and “This is life and death!” Or will I just find something better to watch?
You’ve probably figured out the answer to that last one already.
Saving Hope premieres Thursday, June 7 on CTV & NBC