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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on either a cut screened to us privately or a copy supplied by a third party NOT a screener provided by the network in question. All were received or screened prior to the networks' official mailings that went out in mid-June.]
THREE RIVERS (CBS)
(Sundays at 9:00/8:00c starting this fall; TRT: 41:59)
The network's description: "THREE RIVERS is a medical drama that goes inside the emotionally complex lives of organ donors, the recipients and the surgeons at the preeminent transplant hospital in the country where every moment counts. However, dealing with donor families in their darkest hour and managing the fears and concerns of apprehensive recipients takes much more than just a sharp scalpel. Leading the elite team is Dr. Andy Yablonski (Alex O'Loughlin), the highly-skilled workaholic lead organ transplant surgeon, whose good-natured personality and sarcastic wit makes him popular with his patients and colleagues. His colleagues include Dr. Miranda Foster (Katherine Moennig), a surgical fellow with a rebellious streak and fiery temper who strives to live up to her deceased father's excellent surgical reputation; Dr. David Lee (Daniel Henney), a womanizing surgical resident who's broken as many hearts as he's replaced; Ryan Abbott (Christopher J. Hanke), the inexperienced new transplant coordinator who arranges the intricately choreographed process of quickly and carefully transporting organs from donor to patient; Dr. Sophia Jordan (Julia Ormond), the head of surgery and a dedicated medical professional; and Pam Acosta (Justina Machado), Andy's no-nonsense operating assistant and best friend. In this high stakes arena, in which every case is a race against the clock, these tenacious surgeons and medical professionals are the last hope for their patients. Carol Barbee, Curtis Hanson and Carol Fenelon are the executive producers for CBS Television Studios."
What did they leave out? Co-stars Julia Ormond and Joaquim de Almeida are out as their roles are being recast or repurposed. The pilot itself is also reportedly being completely reshot so this may not resemble the final air version.
The plot in a nutshell: The fates of three people - an NBA prospect who collapses at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh; a bride who's mortally wounded by a gunshot in Pawleys Island, South Carolina; and a factory worker clinging to life as he awaits word on a lung transplant - all converge at the Three Rivers Center for Transplant Medicine. It's there that the dedicated Andy Yablonski (Alex O'Loughlin) leads his talented transplant team, which includes the outspoken Dr. Miranda Foster (Katherine Moennig), the narcissistic Dr. David Lee (Daniel Henney) and the diligent Pam Acosta (Justina Machado). New to our clan then is Ryan Abbott (Christopher J. Hanke), an Opie-ish assistant transplant coordinator who's immediately thrown into the deep end by the head of surgery, Dr. Sophia Jordan (Julia Ormond).
Collectively, they have their hands full: the factory worker refuses to remove any restrictions on his potential transplant pool, even in his deteriorating condition; the South Carolina woman's mother refuses to consider donation, even though her daughter has been declared brain dead; and the basketball player refuses to accept any treatment, as he can't come to terms with the loss of his NBA career. Even worse, once the transplant inevitably is a go, a tug of war starts with the other hospitals over who gets first crack at the organs.
Ultimately, between their oddly pajama looking scrubs and CNN's John King's touch screen technology, our heroes - both new and veteran - prove they have what it takes.
What works: Serviceable at best and boring at worst, the show's ambitious format - the doctors, the donors and the recipients each get about the same screen time - can't quite overcome...
What doesn't: ...its predictable script and sliding scale of acting. O'Loughlin and Moennig, to their credit, seem more than capable of carrying the show. While each is painted as your stereotypical professionally adept/personally inept type - he's living out of a hotel trying to work out his marriage, she's haunted by her legendary father's death and lashes out at authority - they both nevertheless manage to squeeze out a few honest moments. The rest of the cast, which also includes Joaquim de Almeida as Miranda's stern mentor Dr. Campos, ranges from forgettable (Ormond, Machado) to shrug worthy (Hanke, Henney).
What's more unfortunate however is that just as much of the show is devoted to the guest stars of the week, whether it be the aforementioned basketball player and his agent or the grieving mother and husband of the South Carolina woman. These "B" and "C" stories are painfully one-dimensional and melodramatic as said mom doesn't believe her daughter is dead because it looks like she's asleep and said basketball player can't face his NBA-less future if he gets the transplant. And while Henney's David and O'Loughlin's Andy eventually insert themselves into their respective decision making processes, it all feels very tangential to the main thrust of the show. In short, the "three rivers" don't exactly flow into one another. But even if they did, the vanilla, boilerplate nature of the stories keep it from being anything more than a utilitarian procedural.
The bottom line: Maybe the updated version will work some of these issues out.