It is quite unnerving to see a real plane sitting on its belly, ripped in half, flames shooting out of its cabin, not to mention one engine lying burning to the side, and luggage strewn about. Even when you know it is just make-believe, the sight your eyes take in still makes quite an impact. Such was the set of the ninth episode of Trauma titled “Going Home,” filmed mostly across the San Francisco Bay on Alameda at the Naval Air Base that is no longer used as such. The San Francisco skyline once again stood guard in the background, as it often does in so many of the beautifully filmed high definition aerials. After a brief ride past costume and make-up trailers, lines of ambulances and fire trucks, and stretches of empty runways, we come to the end of one runway to gaze upon the eerie sight of the crashed plane. The props department really outdid itself with the carnage littering the field and no doubt they raided every thrift store in the area to purchase the tons of luggage, old clothes, purses, and stuffed animals blanketing the area. The costly production values that go into each episode will be quite evident here not only in the scene of the crash, but the special effects that lead up to it.
Just in time for Thanksgiving week, “Going Home” is the story of people doing what thousands do around this time — traveling to see and spend time with their loved ones. But Thanksgiving travel is halted when an airliner is forced to make an emergency landing.
As is the modus operandi for this show, accidents will happen and the Team will respond. But along with the fried turkey mishaps, football game accidents, and heart attacks, this time we are going all the way with a full-force plane crash. While it may be quite unsettling to see an episode depicting a plane crash days before thousands will travel by plane to their loved ones, there will be several feel-good moments to come out of this disaster scene. After all, it is Thanksgiving week and not everything can be gloom and doom. That does not mean that everyone survives, but there will be enough touching moments to offset any awkward feelings to come out of the crash. And yes, there appear to be a number of the stand-by disaster cliches intermingled in the story, such as the young mom reunited with her lost baby, or the elderly couple who have been married for fifty years surviving to see another anniversary together. But these are the things one expects in a series such as this at this time of the year, and they are quite fitting as we enter the feel-good holidays. It will be interesting to see how much actually makes it to the screen from the overwhelming amount of footage shot, and how much gets left on the cutting room floor.
We also get to see the characters at their best and two characters in particular, Nancy (Anastasia Griffith) and Rabbit (Cliff Curtis), have the opportunity to see what a terrific team their outstanding skills make in saving lives. The question left to ponder is can they still make a terrific team in their personal lives. (a rehearsal picture is above) As for all those police officers and firemen at the scene, 80% are the real deal. Real police and fire personnel are called in to serve as extras on their days off. Not to mention the hundred or so locals depicting the lucky surviving passengers.
There was one unsettling thought during the whole time of witnessing this outdoors shoot. This airfield on Alameda is directly below the take-off path of the local Oakland International Airport. That means that all planes taking off that day got a bird’s eye view of a horrific disaster: burning plane, people lying on the ground, and tons of police and fire equipment with flashing lights all around. I only hope the Tower was able to inform pilots and passengers that it was a filming set they were seeing below. In fact, the scene was so convincing that for about thirty minutes at high noon a group of six vultures gathered and were flying in circles around the scene, no doubt looking for lunch and disappointed to discover there was none!
But hasn’t Trauma been cancelled, you ask? Perhaps in a way, but as I look around I don’t see any fat ladies singing quite yet. On October 29th NBC stated that it was not ordering any additional episodes of Trauma past the 13 original episodes. The dreaded C-word was dragged out and everyone starting yelling ‘Cancellation’, even though NBC was NOT going to take the series off the air, and was, in fact, going to allow it to air all the original 13 episodes that would be produced. And on November 19th NBC announced that it was ordering an additional three episodes, thus bringing the total to 16 now representing two-thirds of a full season. At this time it is not sure when the additional episodes will air, but if they return post mid-season break, then Trauma will have a second chance to entice an audience and prove that it’s worth keeping on the schedule, even if it has to reduce its weekly budget to make the cost-to-return ratio even more enticing to The Suits.
Like all new shows, it often takes several episodes to not only find an audience, but to find a rhythm. Too often the first couple of episodes are fraught with exposition as we get to know the characters and their backstories that will be driving the weekly drama. But as we have gotten to know these characters better, the stories have also gotten better as well, with several taken right out of the headlines (for example, the distraught man going into the office building and opening fire).
One thing I always liked about Trauma was the focus on the action out on the street, with scenarios and special effects worthy of a feature film. We do not see this too often now with so many procedurals on the schedule, or so many series set on the inside (inside the court, inside the hospital, inside the house, etc). This isn’t to say that the only thing on Trauma is action, since there is adequate examination of the characters as well, but the personal problems of the characters are not the only driving force. At least not until lately. Over the past few episodes there seems to be a subtle shift away from the protracted focus of the action on the street and a move towards the interpersonal relationships.
It seems unfair that Trauma’s survival is tenuous while Heroes and Mercy are considered safe. Mercy, the other new medical drama airing on Wednesday, pulls in numbers that are a bit higher than Trauma, but it doesn’t face the level of competition that Trauma is facing on Monday nights. Trauma is also not being helped by Heroes as a strong lead-in, and the numbers for Heroes and Trauma are almost identical week-to-week. Yet, despite the somewhat equal number of viewers, NBC is not threatening Heroes with cancellation. And this is perhaps because Heroes skews younger in that coveted 18-49 share. But then again, Mercy might have more viewers, but in terms of that coveted share it is identical to Trauma and was already anointed as safe for a full season. Do not feel bad if you are as confused as I am in regards to the logic behind all this!
It is unfortunate that news of a cancellation started making the rounds, because with additional episodes ordered, the series is technically not cancelled. And if the numbers continue to improve, then NBC may feel confident in keeping this show on the schedule. Sadly, once viewers hear that a series is cancelled, they stop tuning in. After all, what is the point of getting further invested in a series if it is just going to suddenly disappear? But don’t give up on this show yet! It is finding its feet and getting better. Is it one of the ‘best shows’ on TV? No, not really. Is it the worst? No, definitely not! It is a high-octane weekly ride and deserves a chance in view of what the addition of Jay Leno to primetime has done to the scripted drama landscape.
You can catch up on the past episodes, read actor and character bios, get behind-the-scenes via an actor’s blog, and enjoy many other fun things at the official site: http://www.nbc.com/trauma/
In the meantime, E! Online has its annual poll about which show should be saved, and Trauma is included. While I don’t put much weight in polls like this, if you would like Trauma to get a fighting chance, please give it your vote: http://bit.ly/2LdEle
“Going Home” will air Monday at 9:00 pm on NBC.