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Lightning Crashes, an Old Mother Dies. Then Gives Her Heart to the Baby Down the Hall

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 7, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 7, 2009 |

After already suffering through one bad medical drama (“Mercy”) and one decent one (“Trauma”), I’d made up my mind only to watch “Three Rivers” up until the inevitable pilot tracheotomy. But hell if this isn’t that kind of medical show — it takes place in a transplant hospital in Pittsburgh. Tracheotomies are out of the question, at least until the third episode. But hey! At least there was a kid with pica (a medical disorder which involves the ingestion of non-food items), which has to be the most common “obscure” medical diagnosis in medical-drama history, although it usually involves pregnant women instead of teenage dorks.

I’m still a little confused about “Three Rivers.” It’s set in a transplant hospital, right? But one of the four cases in the first episode involved a man who came in to get a few stitches on his head. Why a transplant hospital for that? Thank God, though, because his pregnant wife had a massive coronary and needed a heart transplant, stat. How convenient, then, that she just happened to suffer her heart attack ten feet away from the best transplant doctor in the universe.

Another subplot involved the kid with pica, who starts coughing up blood during a spelling bee. I have no idea why he was brought into a transplant hospital; he was eating tweezers and paper clips, and I doubt transplant doctors were going to be needed to transplant new metal items into his stomach. Although, that might have been interesting.

Meanwhile, there was also a Middle-Eastern man who fell to his brain-death at a construction site. There was some dispute over whether or not to donate his organs — the man’s daughter apparently feared that death was being racist for singling out her father. And when the transplant coordinator tried to force her hand, he was taken to task. Don’t you understand, they beckoned. “It has to be a gift!” Well, of course it does. “Three Rivers,” after all, is the Hallmark of medical dramas.

And that’s about it — there wasn’t a lot of character development among the doctors. Here’s the wiki summary:

Leading the elite team is Dr. Andy Yablonski, the highly-skilled workaholic lead organ transplant surgeon, whose good-natured personality and sarcastic wit makes him popular with his patients and colleagues. His co-workers include Dr. Miranda Foster, 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, a womanizing surgical resident who’s broken as many hearts as he’s replaced; Ryan Abbott, the inexperienced new transplant coordinator who arranges the intricately choreographed process of quickly and carefully transporting organs from donor to patient; Dr. Sophia Jordon, the dedicated head of surgery who has no patience for anyone who hasn’t sacrificed as much as she has for the job; and Pam Acosta, 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.

I didn’t get any of that. I didn’t recognize anyone with sarcastic wit; a fiery temper; a womanizing appeal; a non-nonsense attitude; or dedication to the job. It was just a blur of bad dialogue delivered by nondescript faces with nondescript personalities (with the exception of Alfre Woodward, who — as the token African-American — is the chief, as all token African-Americans are in medical dramas).

There were an insurmountable amount of problems with the pilot. For one, the plot points were hammered so deep into the viewer’s craniums, that we’re all going to need brain transplants ourselves. The medical cliches, the bad acting, and the poor character development, however, may not even end up being the biggest problems for “Three Rivers.” Going ahead, the writers have to come up with 21 more episodes, and 50 or 60 different patients. That’s a lot of transplants, and I honestly don’t see how the writers will manage to drag the death-of-one-patient to-save-another plotline over an entire season of episodes. When even the first episode has to cheat the organ transplant premise, I don’t see how they make it to episode six before adding an ER to the hospital. How many times can the doctors debate with family members about whether the patient wanted to be an organ donor, when most of the time, you can just check the fucking driver’s license? “But doctor! His license was damaged during the crash! I can’t tell whether he was an organ donor or not.”

That’s a little preview of episode four.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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