A few minutes into “Miami Medical,” Andre Braugher walks out, and this is a red flag worth heeding. Braugher is a fine actor having a great year, costarring in "Men of a Certain Age" on TNT. So when Jerry Bruckheimer's new CBS drama establishes him as William Rayner, chief of a crack emergency medical team, things seem promising. Unfortunately, within scant minutes Braugher's surgeon has an inexplicable nervous breakdown. He walks out of the hospital, and presumably our lives, shedding his clothes as he goes.
This is not, by the way, played for laughs.
No, it is played for fraught, the specialty of Bruckheimer TV productions. "Miami Medical," which has its premiere Friday night (another red flag), is not just about the staff of an emergency room, it's about the Alpha Team at the Top Trauma Hospital in the Country, a group of doctors who specialize in "the golden hour" -- the 60 minutes after critical injury occurs and Life Hangs in the Balance. ("Eleventh Hour" would have been a better term, if only because it does not evoke a pornographic term, but alas, Mr. Bruckheimer already used it as the title of the short-lived Rufus Sewell vehicle.)
Like "Eleventh Hour," "Miami Medical" stars a British actor playing a romantic character with a dark and tragic past. In this case, it's Jeremy Northam (mercifully allowed to retain his accent) as Dr. Matthew Proctor, whose tour of duty in the first Gulf War left him craving the excitement of the, um, golden hour. It also, apparently, grants him permission to say the most outrageous things, including: "This is like 'M*A*S*H' in paradise." (The sound you hear is the late, great Larry Gelbart spinning in his grave.)
The show dutifully follows the current procedural template: Something cleverly terrible happens to ordinary people and the stars try to fix it. In this case, an explosion critically injures a bunch of folks, and because nothing says "pilot" like children in peril, these include a very pregnant woman and a teenager.
We are introduced to Miami Medical by nurse Tuck Brody (Omar Gooding) explaining to a group of newbies that this is no ordinary emergency room. In the absence of Dr. Rayner, the gorgeous and ambitious Dr. Eva Zambrano (Lana Parrilla) briefly vies with overly-pleased-with-himself Dr. C (Mike Vogel) for top position.
But then Proctor shows up, demanding "two units of O neg stat," quickly gets the lay of the land from resident Serena Warren (Elisabeth Harnois) and is soon running the show.
Parrilla is a compelling presence, and it's marvelous to see Northam all modern and un-martyred after his terrific turn as Thomas More in "The Tudors." But there is a strange lack of chemistry among the cast, perhaps because they are continually forced to deliver monologues on how difficult their jobs are and say things such as: "Life, so bloody beautiful."
Although the show is overloaded with gruesome injuries and the message that even an ordinary day can go horribly wrong, the attention remains on the doctors as the real victims of the trauma they deal with every day.
That is, of course, the undercurrent of every medical and police show since the stoic Joe Friday retired -- that the business of heroism is a brutal one and that those who spend their days trying to save lives do so at their own emotional peril. But this message is much more powerful as subtext, revealed over time. Character-driven procedurals require a courtship period -- before we are interested in their scars and hang-ups, we have to care a little about the characters. "Miami Medical" feels more like a therapist's office than an ER, and no one wants to go into therapy on the very first date.