On TV: Trauma

Movieline Score: 4

Explosions: fun in theory, but truly a hindrance to the medical community. Just bear witness to NBC's new drama Trauma, which follows a group of first responders as they endure a horrifying mid-air helicopter explosion before racing right back into the field. Trauma's fiery spectacles are well-staged (another occurs halfway through the episode during a mammoth highway accident), but ultimately feel like compensatory measures for a show that wants to be more gripping, nay, explosive, than it actually is. We're flat-lining too!

Trauma's predictable team of paramedics includes the cocky, hardened flight surgeon Rabbit (Cliff Curtis), the weathered survivor (Anastasia Griffith), the family man (Derek Luke), and a learned older physician (Jamey Sheridan). While pilot episodes of action-based dramas rarely find time to rope in psychological drama, Trauma sends Rabbit careening around the streets of San Francisco with a horrified female passenger in tow, deadpanning to her, "I can't die," just before a montage of the earlier helicopter accident plays again. It's worth mentioning that Rabbit is not played by Jean Claude van Damme, and that a line like "I can't die" is no less bearable when spared The Muscles From Brussels's delivery.

Cliche knows a number of forms in the premiere of Trauma, but that's inevitable, due to the current state of the medical genre. Every iteration of emergency mishap, even those concerning paramedics, was mastered ten years ago by ER. We truly don't need to see another straw jabbed into an unresponsive patient's throat -- and yet, we do, along with on-the-job sparring and off-the-job canoodling that distinguished Anthony Edwards's finest hour.

While the producers of Third Watch helmed this hour of jarringly visual TV, in spirit, Trauma feels more like that other new NBC medical drama, Mercy. Both feature compulsively reflective protagonists who juggle romance and coping mechanisms with equally muted wariness. But while Mercy has a pugnacious lead in Taylor Schilling, Trauma has yet to flesh out a magnetic performance from any of its gurney-pushers. Though it's early, Trauma seems destined for D.O.A. status; its plots have a whole lot of propane, but not enough spark.


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