It’s been barely a week-and-a-half since I wrote about the best pilot of the fall network TV season [No More good days, the pilot for ABC’s Flash Forward]. Now I have to write about the worst of the fall’s network offerings. How bad is it? As I watched the premiere ep of Three Rivers [CBS, Sundays, 9/8C], the thought that ran through my mind was, “This is the show they’ve been developing to showcase Alex O’Loughlin? This is the show that they wanted so badly that they re-wrote and partially recast it to showcase Alex O’Loughlin?”
Three Rivers does get your attention quickly enough – with a hyperspeed montage that suggests CSI, or some other forensics-based cop show, rather than a medical series. And we get O’Loughlin’s Dr. Andy Yablonski almost immediately after we meet this week’s cases. That he’s in the ER instead of surgery [he’s allegedly the best heart transplant surgeon around] isn’t really that big a deal – except for the fact that it would probably never happen. He also delivers a baby via C-section. He’s Superdoc!
The cases involve Terry [Hillary Tuck] a pregnant woman whose heart goes to hell in a handbasket after she brings her husband in for stitches earned working on a nursery for their impending newborn; and Auden [Cameron Monaghan], a boy who coughed up blood at a spelling bee – and eats metal!
Naturally, a heart becomes available for Teri – improbable because of a rare blood type – and, equally naturally, the family has a change of heart about donating the organ [because they fear the declaration of the donor as brain dead has come about because he is of Middle Eastern origin]. At least they didn’t have to fly the heart back to Three Rivers in a hurricane, like in the original pilot.
In Auden’s case, Dr. Miranda Foster [Katherine Moening] wonders aloud to his father [Spencer Garrett] if the problem might be caused by an absentee parent – Auden’s mother is often away on business. Dad, of course, reacts badly to the suggestion and Dr. Foster is made aware by the hospital’s head of administration, Dr. Sophia Jordan [Alfre Woodard in a thankless role] that she was out of line. Which leads directly to a conversation with Auden that gives Dr. Foster the clue she needs to help him.
There are other regular characters, but they seem to be there primarily for decoration – or to force issues by being loud and rude [again, thankless roles – though perhaps only in the premiere]. And we haven’t even discussed Kuol [Owiso Odera] the young Ethiopian man who needs a heart transplant and seems to have taken up residence in the hospital! [He does, however, give the ep a measure of dignity that it doesn’t deserve…]
The problem is that Three Rivers [the premiere, at least] is predictable, and the characters stereotypical. It doesn’t help that Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Hospital looks more like the interior of a starship than an early 21st Century hospital. It doesn’t help that the writing is less than pedestrian, either.
All the lighting, beautiful sets and talented actors in the world can’t disguise the fact that Three Rivers is well worth the time you take to avoid it. That’s harsh, but even O’Loughlin, Moening and Woodard can’t make this series worth watching and it’s actually painful to watch the guest cast – particularly Garrett and Marina Sirtis – try to make the material work.
Frankly, CBS should never have cancelled Moonlight.
Final Grade: D