NBC's new hospital drama Saving Hope begins with Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks), the pompous and infallible Chief of Surgery at Hope Zion hospital, and his fiancée/fellow doctor Alex Reid (Erica Durance) en route to their wedding. Before they can tie the knot, the two get into a car accident that leaves Dr. Harris's body in a coma while his spirit roams the halls of his hospital. Though the show promises to deliver a new twist on the genre, Saving Hope's focus on recycled hospital drama storylines and one-note characters feel more like a Very Special episode of Private Practice or some kind of mix-up of A Gifted Man.
And while the whole-Ghost-meets-medical-procedurals premise isn't the worst idea in the world (Dr. Harris isn't played by a chimpanzee or Ashton Kutcher, so it gets a few bonus points for that), the nearly-dead Chief of Surgery's status in the "in-between" becomes almost completely irrelevant once the episode gets into all of the other drama going down in the hospital. Fortunately, the members of the hospital staff are a surprisingly likeable cast of characters, constantly some life or death situations, ethical dilemmas and some good old-fashioned romantic conflicts. The drama for the pilot includes a teenager who is facing complications with her pregnancy, a young war veteran who may (or may not) need his arm amputated and the resurfacing of the Ghost Doc's fiancée's ex (played by swoon-worthy Vampire Diaries actor Daniel Gillies). It's not all doom-and-gloom -- some light-hearted moments (like a pre-teen who admits she's her ailments are caused by a self-concocted love potion) are a nice balance to the overall heaviness of the episode.
But right when you think that Charlie might have been taken off a ventilator and Saving Hope will tighten its structure, we get to see him again -- this time so Alex can have a heart-to-heart with his comatose body. It might be easier to care about Charlie being nearly alive (nearly dead?) if we really knew anything about him, outside of the fact that he now has to wear a wedding tuxedo in all subsequent episodes. We kind of can infer that Charlie's a relatively good surgeon because people seem really intent on following his orders, but that also goes out the window once everyone in the hospital realizes that they don't have to answer to him because he's, oh, right -- IN A COMA.
While Dr. Harris might be a decent surgeon, Gregory House he's not. Dr. Harris plays by the rules, and though he plays the game well, he's not going to win any awards for it. His philosophy on making critical decisions is often through the logical use of probability, which is great if you're a cancer-stricken war vet who desperately wants your tumor-ridden arm cut off. Is the character realistic? Sure. But I'd rather see Dr. House go rogue than have Dr. Harris tell me to take two aspirin and call him in the morning. I'm half-hoping that they phase out Charlie's character completely and just have the show revolve around the young residents and all of the crazy patients they encounter along the way. I'd stick around to watch a couple of episodes of that... until, of course, they introduce a Grey's Anatomy-type ghost sex scene. Been there, watched that.
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