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TELEVISION & RADIO | TELEVISION REVIEW

Doctor in the house, but it's the wrong one

`Heartland' is the latest attempt to copy a certain Fox series. It's time to pull the plug on that concept, folks.

June 18, 2007|Mary McNamara | Times Staff Writer

If Stanley Tucci couldn't do it, why would Treat Williams think he could? Tonight marks the premiere of "Heartland," another "House" knock-off, in which Williams plays Dr. Nathaniel Grant, a brilliant, brusque and troubled heart surgeon who sees dead people.

On "3 lbs," Tucci played a brilliant, brusque and troubled brain surgeon who saw ... well, we weren't quite sure what his visions were because the CBS show wasn't around long enough to explain them.

While "House" is all about a diagnostician solving the unsolvable, "Heartland" is about transplanting organs. Yes, you read me right. Grant is not only a heart surgeon, but he's a transplant surgeon, heading up a crackerjack transplant program.

So, like "Law & Order," "Heartland" has two-pronged stories: the person in need of an organ and the grieving relatives who must sign the papers to release it from their recently departed. (The dead people Grant sees are the donors hovering over the bodies of the recipients. This is supposed to be a good thing. Mostly.)

In charge of organ procurement -- the organ recovery coordinator -- is Kate Armstrong (Kari Matchett), who just happens to be Grant's ex-wife. Her job is to talk the grieving family into donating the organs in time to make transplant possible. And if you think this is way too many references to "organs," you are right.

There is only one response to this whole setup, and that is: Yikes. No doubt, the men and women who devote their lives to organ recovery and transplant are noble, dedicated souls doing remarkable, miraculous work, and I thank them for it. But I don't want to see lungs and hearts and livers being cut out of dead people, hustled down hallways in lunch coolers and dropped in a bloody hole every week, thank you very much.

Williams, late of "Everwood," does his best to portray a man torn between his work and his desire to act like a decent guy and father, but alas, his best is not good enough.

His Dr. Grant is more wooden than deep, and his weaknesses -- secret smoking and skirt-chasing -- are too predictable to be interesting.

In the pilot, there is the requisite tension involving the hospital board, which wants Grant to downplay his maverick tendencies. The second episode brings in a former failed resident as an ideological sparring partner, and whatever else happened was just too boring to mention.

Fox should send TNT the super fancy bouquet because, once again, "House" never looked so good.

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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`Heartland'

Where: TNT

When: 10 to 11 tonight

Rating: TV-14 LSV (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14 with advisories for coarse language, sex and violence)

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