Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

TELEVISION REVIEW

'Trauma'

Anastasia Griffith, Derek Luke and Jamey Sheridan are featured in a drama about EMTs in the aftermath of a rescue tragedy in San Francisco.

September 28, 2009|MARY McNAMARA | TELEVISION CRITIC

If you can make it through the clunky dialogue, overwrought scene-setting and general predictability of "Trauma's" first episode, there are several important lessons to be learned: Don't wear your iPod while you're checking out a generator because then you won't be able to hear the guy asking if it's OK to throw the power back on. Don't text while driving, especially if the sexual nature of those texts causes you to leer and laugh with such wild abandon that you cause a 20-car pileup that involves multiple explosions.

Most important, if you are going to have a "wild man" emergency helicopter pilot as one of your main characters, do not give him a nickname like Rabbit and force him to wear aviator shades and a skintight uniform. The last person to do this with any dignity was Erik Estrada in "CHiPs," and that was the '70s, man.

"Trauma" is the story of a group of San Francisco emergency medical technicians in the aftermath of "one of the worst emergency rescue tragedies in the city's history." Not only does this twist allow the title to work on multiple levels, it means the main characters are both bonded and shattered in ways that go far beyond the normal emotional wear and tear of their occupation.

The good news about "Trauma" is that the female lead, Nancy, is played by Anastasia Griffith, whom we all loved in "Damages." Nancy is a picture-perfect example of TV's new alpha female -- she's tough but wounded, frank but emotionally withholding, gorgeous but smarter than pretty much everyone around her.

When we first meet her, she is cheerfully astride one of her colleagues -- her nickname is Naughty Nance! -- but as her fondly stern doctor-mentor (a most welcome Jamey Sheridan) reminds her, she has been to med school and could easily take her place among the obnoxious interns.

If anyone can pull this character out of the fire, it's Griffith, but only if writers Peter Berg and Dario Scardapane give the woman some room.

Derek Luke is another good thing about "Trauma." He plays Cameron, the straight-up husband and father so unhinged by the accident that he is now staying out until 4 a.m. and flirting with injured blonds. Against all odds, Luke brings a quiet believability to his character.

Aimee Garcia shows up in the second half of the pilot, but her big speech is perhaps the best thing about the episode. "You may not be able to die," she informs the now guilt-ridden but still arrogant Rabbit (Cliff Curtis), "but I can."

Yes, indeed, and so can this show if Berg and Scardapane don't quit front-loading episodes with exposition and cramming their actors with so much inner turmoil they can't breathe. Berg, who gave us the excellent and powerfully real "Friday Night Lights," seems to be going in a new and not preferable direction, making sure that we, the dim and easily distracted audience, understand how damaged yet brave these characters are, how ironically self-destructive.

It would certainly be nice to have a fast-paced, character-driven show based on EMTs -- watching "Trauma," it's impossible not to long for "Emergency!," to remember with fondness Johnny Gage, Randolph Mantooth's gentle Lothario, and Kevin Tighe's solid family man, Roy DeSoto.

Though it's unfair to compare any show with a classic, perhaps, once it's done setting the stage and introducing its characters, once it gets over its visions of Nancy standing alone on a debris-littered freeway staring into the middle distance instead of, you know, doing her job, "Trauma" will find a similar groove. But it's not there yet, not even close. Not even with the aviators.

--

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

--

'Trauma'

Where: NBC

When: 9 tonight

Rating: TV-MA-L-V (may be unsuitable for children under 17, with advisories for coarse language and violence)

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|