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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
BONUS FIRST LOOK: NURSES (FOX)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: "From executive producers Barry Josephson ("Bones") and Shed Productions (UK hits "Footballers' Wives," "Bad Girls"), director PJ Hogan ("My Best Friend's Wedding") and writers Samantha Goodman and Andrew Stern ("Return to Me"), NURSES is a hospital show that puts the focus where it truly belongs: on the women and men who spend their days at the beck and call of the doctors, proving once and for all who's truly in charge. And while the nurses of Philadelphia General Hospital work hard, they play hard, too sometimes before their shifts have even ended. Trying to put a checkered past behind her, newbie nurse EVE MORROW (Eliza Dushku, "Tru Calling") returns to, of all places, the hospital where her brilliant and intimidating father Dr. RICHARD MORROW (Gregory Harrison, "Ed," "Falcon Crest") calls the shots as Chief and her smug stepbrother Dr. KURT TAYLOR (Brett Dalton) is a rising star on the staff. Eve joins the nursing team on the fast-paced Med/Surg Unit and immediately finds herself in hot water when she enlists the help of the beautiful BECCA DIMATO (Drew Sidora, "Girlfriends," "White Chicks") who has a penchant for one-night stands and pilfered pharmaceuticals in a quest to help a patient by proving that Dr. Taylor, Becca's latest conquest, has made an incorrect diagnosis. The acerbic JOANNE "JO" MAZUR (Jaclyn DeSantis, "Windfall," "Luis") is a single mom who's enjoying a workplace romance with sexy male nurse PATRICK De LEON (Ramon Rodriguez, "Day Break," "The Wire"), as her envious co-workers wonder aloud what she has that they don't. CHRIS KORENEK (Sara Rue, "Less Than Perfect") is dangerously bored with her marriage to her high school sweetheart and secretly wonders if she has what it takes to be a surgeon. And while tightly-wound charge nurse MARGO MacDONALD (Melinda Page Hamilton, "Desperate Housewives") must play mother hen to them all, she quietly longs to be one of the girls. Few would have the wherewithal to survive all this, but it's just another 12-hour shift for the NURSES."
What did they leave out: Katheryn Winnick was originally cast in the lead role of Eve Morrow but was replaced by Eliza Dushku before filming began.
The plot in a nutshell: Lifelong partier Eve Morrow (Eliza Dushku) has traded in her short skirts and shitkicker boots for a chance to work as a registered nurse at her father's (Gregory Harrison) famed Philadelphia General Hospital. And despite a big save on her first day, she's still got a lot to prove to him (including taking a weekly drug test) and her fellow nurses - the self-described maneater Becca (Drew Sidora), the kind-hearted divorcee Jo (Jaclyn DeSantis), the smarter-than-she-lets-on Chris (Sara Rue), the resident beefcake Patrick (Ramon Rodriguez, complete with "Private Practice"-esque intro) and the floor Nazi Margo (Melinda Page Hamilton) - not to mention her annoyingly perfect stepbrother Kurt (Brett Dalton), who gives her a month before she up and quits like she always does. It's also not long before Eve learns the group's various sleeping arrangements - Jo is with Patrick, much to everyone's chagrin; Becca has recently bedded Kurt; and something is going on between Margo and her father. As for the job, it's mostly a mix of "code browns" (just use your imagination) and awkward moments (a patient keeps on masturbating to Martha Stewart) however two cases in particular stand out - a dying cancer patient (an unrecognizable Lynn Redgrave) bonds with Jo and a drug addict's case pits Eve against her stepbrother's diagnosis. Despite being told to never go against the doctors, Eve and Becca swindle a geeky MRI tech ("Buffy's" Tom Lenk) into letting them run a CAT scan, but not before being busted by Kurt. He's the one however that gets fed a cup of humility after their father confirms Eve was right, even if her methods in proving such were extreme. Along the way we learn a little bit about the Morrow's family history - Eve's life of alcohol and drugs kept her from visiting her mother during her final days; she used to have an affair with the psychiatrist ("24's" Carlos Bernard) her father used to send her to; and a recent OD while living in Miami forced the aforementioned changes to her life. We also learn the local hangout is a bowling alley/karaoke bar and that in the end, everyone will come together for a coding patient.
What works: This is the first show in a long time that I'm genuinely perplexed why it isn't on the air. Not because it's the greatest show ever made - it's not, for reasons we'll get to shortly - but because it's basically "Grey's Anatomy" minus Meredith's voiceovers, its general cloud of unhappiness and all the baggage that comes from being on the air for three seasons. In other words, it's like "Grey's Anatomy" back when it was good - pretty people sleeping with each other mixed with a few doses of medical and family intrigue. And it's kind of fun. Setting the tone then is Eliza Dushku, who not surprisingly can kick ass (she tackles an out of control patient to sedate him...) and look fantastic while doing it (...but not before getting her shirt accidentally ripped off by him). She's also surrounded by a colorful supporting cast with their own interesting problems - Sara Rue's OR nurse Chris for instance has what it takes to become a doctor, but her cop husband wants her to get pregnant and stay home. All in all, it's a breezy, fun hour the likes of which FOX hasn't churned out in a long time.
What doesn't: Nevertheless, it's very much a show straight out of the new girl/boss's daughter must prove herself playbook - complete with the trademark doing-something-that-could-get-her-fired-but-actually-turns-out-to-be-the-right-thing move, as described above. Not helping matters is that Brett Dalton's Kurt isn't given any sympathetic qualities, making his villainy come off as more cartoonish than actually threatening. Said setup then makes Eve's triumph in the end all the more predictable and empty. In the end though, this isn't a show designed to explore the nuances of the medical drama, this is a show where Eliza Dushku struts her stuff in hot outfits filmed in slow motion not once, not twice but three times. And I'm cool with that.
The bottom line: As mentioned previously, it's a breezy, fun hour the likes of which FOX hasn't churned out in a long time.