There’s so many medical dramas, both new and returning, on television right now that you really need a good mnemonic device to keep up with them all. But aside from the generic title of NBC’s latest, “Trauma,” I actually didn’t hate it. It’s possible that I should have. It’s possible that my expectations have been beaten so low by other medical dramas (namely, “Mercy”), and it’s possible that I’m slightly blinded by my fanboy love for exe producer, Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) that I managed to overlook “Trauma’s” many flaws, including yet another medical drama pilot with a motherfucking tracheotomy. But I didn’t hate it.
I’m not suggesting that “Trauma” is a great show, or even a good one. But the characters — as undeveloped as they are in the pilot — didn’t feel generic. Like the characters in “Grey’s Anatomy,” (which was a decent medical drama for two seasons), at least these are memorable and identifiable. And having never seen “Third Watch,” or the 70’s EMT television series, “Emergency,” the focus on first responders even felt a little novel. Not exactly fresh or original, but at least something I don’t see every day on every other channel.
Granted, while the rest of the series needs desperately to flesh out the characters, it probably won’t be able to live up to the impressive special effects and set pieces of the pilot, which would be way to expensive to continue on a small screen budget. The pilot begins on the roof of a skyscraper, minutes after a group of EMTs has been called in to save a man who has just been electrocuted — Nancy (Anastasia Griffith) was interrupted mid-coitus with her paramedic partner to come to the scene. After the team gets a pulse, Rabbit (Cliff Curtis) airlifts him in his copter, only to collide with another helicopter mid-air. Everyone dies, except for Rabbit, who somehow manages to fall out of the copter and back on the roof.
Cut to a year later, on the anniversary of the worst rescue disaster in San Francisco history, and the EMTs are still dealing with the aftermath. They include Cameron (Derek Luke), a family-man who doesn’t want to bring his work home with him, so he just doesn’t come home; Nancy, a doctor’s daughter with medical schooling, who is dealing with the death of her boyfriend by resorting to the cheap high of the save; Marisa (Aimee Garcia), a helicopter pilot who just returned from Iraq (the stock medical drama character du jour); the awesome Kevin Rankin (“Friday Night Lights”), who has no character traits, so far; and, of course, Rabbit, who believes that he’s so impervious to death that he takes the new copter pilot on a Bullit ride through San Francisco, a la Steve McQueen.
On paper, it sounds like another crappy boilerplate medical show. And maybe it is. Maybe the pilot episode is the best that Peter Berg can offer, in which case “Trauma” won’t be worth your time. But I have a little faith in Berg, in his more naturalistic style, and in his strong ensemble cast. Moreover, it feels like there might be themes worth exploring here — granted, themes explored much better by Martin Scorsese in Bringing Out the Dead. Then again, maybe it won’t amount to anything. Maybe it will devolve into hospital sex, interminable comas, and jurisdictional pissing matches, which I won’t abide by. But I’m willing, for now, to give it another shot — at the very least, the action is more intense than you’d expect from a medical drama, and the music — which isn’t another collection of pansy-white boy tunes and Feist — is pretty good, too.