Miami Medical - "Pilot"

There's nothing in CBS' new-ish medical drama Miami Medical that the show thinks can't be improved by heaping on more and more stuff. As an example, the episode opens with a husband and pregnant wife driving along in Miami, discussing how they'll never get to take trips anymore once the kid is born. Since we've seen the title of the show and we live here in the world where we've seen a television show before, we know that something awful is going to befall these two, that the baby is probably going to be in grave danger, and that everything will work out OK in the end. So as the two are driving along, we're looking for out-of-control trucks or elephants for the car to smack into or whatever.

Fortunately, our intrepid young couple stops and parks right in front of their intended destination: an ice cream shop. Our pregnant lady, being pregnant, has all kinds of WEIRD CRAVINGS, including one for ICE CREAM in JANUARY. Now, since this is Miami, this probably isn't that weird, but whatever. The husband's going to go get it for her, and all will be well. At this point, we're probably waiting for an out of control truck or a stampeding elephant to come in and flatten the car with our twosome in it. Instead (and I will give you $5 if you saw this one coming), the ice cream store blows up, causing the car to spin away from the curb and out into the middle of the road. But the two are still OK! Some cuts. Some bruises. But mommy and daddy and baby are all still fine.

And then they're hit by an out-of-control truck.

It kind of goes like that throughout Miami Medical, which apparently saw ER, studied ER, rolled up its sleeves and said, "ER was for pussies." It's probably safe to say that out of all of the medical dramas on the air, Miami Medical is the Bruckheimer-iest. Which makes sense because, naturally, this being CBS, Jerry Bruckheimer's a producer, and this being CBS, everything is broken down into vague technical talk that will make the target audience feel like they're getting a value-add out of things. (Early in the episode, two of the characters break down just how to do the ABC's to figure out if someone's breathing is obstructed. They are doing this to a woman who has just survived an exploding ice cream store and an out-of-control truck.)

Miami Medical does that CBS thing where it wants so badly to be edgy but isn't necessarily sure of how best to go about that. The editing and camera movement is cranked way, way up, to the point where certain scenes are borderline inscrutable if you're trying to make sense of them via physical geography or anything like that. (Say what you will about ER, but by the end of that pilot, you had a very good sense of where everything in the ER was in relation to each other. With this one, I don't have a friggin' clue.) You just kind of have to give up and go with the flow, which is par for the course for the network, which doesn't often have time for things like "character development."

In actuality, I was more entertained by Miami Medical than I probably should have been. The show's tendency to pile on more and more shit in every scene eventually got so ridiculous that it became kind of fun on a camp level, and the series has attracted, almost in spite of itself, a top flight cast, which manages to make things like saying, "Life!" when a baby is born (you get three guesses as to which baby this is) seem less stupid than they probably should be. In addition, the series isn't quite as drab as most other CBS shows, instead filling its frames with the kind of harsh light that makes CSI: Miami sort of fun to look at in HD before you realize that you're watching, well, CSI: Miami.

CBS has been trying to get its piece of the medical series pie for years and years now, but the medical show usually requires more fully developed patients and regular characters than the CBS model, which is rigidly about progressing from point A to point B, will allow. As such, it's the one traditional drama genre the network has never really figured out. CBS knows cops, and it kind of knows lawyers, but doctors might as well be a foreign country to the network. It seems pretty obvious that the network knows this one won't be it, either, since it's buried it on Fridays at 10 p.m. and seems to have picked it up solely as a favor to Bruckheimer.

Bruckheimer is good for a few things, fairly consistently. He gives his shows a nice sheen of big screen quality, so they always look like something really professional. He keeps the action cranked up to a deafening roar. And he attracts really good actors to his projects. (Even his first big hit, C.S.I., had both William Peterson and Marg Helgenberger on board for what was prematurely written off as just another cop show.) Unfortunately, Bruckheimer is also really, really fond of the TV of the '70s, and Miami Medical often feels like a medical drama from that era, with its broad type doctors and patients who are mostly there to provide a heartwarming moment at the end. On the surface, it looks just like ER, but at its heart, it's like Emergency! or something.

Which brings us to the fact that this show has a fairly remarkable cast. Jeremy Northam, of all people, is top-billed as the English asshole-who's-not-really-an-asshole Dr. Procter (say it out loud). Seriously, I may have missed something, but it seemed like everyone was treating Dr. Procter like a much-hated superior from the moment he arrived 15 minutes in to the episode, but the show gave no indication as to why they were doing this. It shot Procter as if he were a wild card, ready to kick the system in the ass, but he mostly behaved nicely enough, even being so good as to exclaim "Life!" when that baby was born. The series also boasts Lana Parrilla as a no-nonsense female surgeon (who gets the best moment in the pilot when she calms the hysterical mother by letting the mother listen to her baby's heartbeat - which turns out to be the doctor's heartbeat) and Elisabeth Harnois as the gawky resident. (Another thing about Jerry Bruckheimer: He has a very different definition of gawky than the rest of us.) Even the bit parts, which are pretty much just "Doctors of different races," are filled out with solid actors like Omar Gooding. He even gets Andre Braugher to turn up as the lead doctor who freaks out and strips down to the nude after ... seeing some blood or something nebulous and "shocking."

So, yeah, Miami Medical probably isn't as bad as it could be. There's a gloss to it that's sort of appealing, and I liked most of the actors. Hell, I even got involved in the moment when the team has to save the dad at episode's end after it seemed like he was fine when he walked into the trauma center earlier. (Hint: You're never fine when you walk into the trauma center. EVEN IF NOTHING HAPPENED TO YOU.) I mean, sure, things just sort of happen on the show, and most of the time, there seems to be no reason for them to happen. But I'm going to give the show, which could have been a failure, points for being ridiculous. That's not a recommendation, no, but it's also not an outright pan. Miami Medical is schlock, but someone, somewhere in the production chain, knows it is and is laughing their ass off when they see the dailies.

More TV Club