[06/18/07 - 12:06 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Heartland" (TNT)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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(Mondays at 10:00/9:00c starting tonight)

The network's description: "Heartland stars Treat Williams (Everwood, Brothers & Sisters) as Nathaniel Grant, an intense, overworked organ transplant surgeon who battles the clock to save lives in the high-stakes world of transplant surgery. Dr. Grant's devotion to his work takes a toll on his relationships, including the one with his ex-wife, played by Kari Matchett (Invasion), who works at the same hospital as the organ-recovery coordinator. The two must work past their personal clashes in order to save lives."

What did they leave out: Treat Williams role's character on "Heartland" has a lot in common with his "Everwood" character, and not just the doctor part.

The plot in a nutshell: Nathaniel Grant (a spry looking Treat Williams) is the country's premiere organ transplant surgeon working for the country's premiere organ transplant hospital. Most recently he's taken over for the legendary Bart Jacobs (Dabney Coleman) as chief of surgery, a role he's surprisingly in no rush to fill, going so far as to keep a maintenance worker from moving his nameplate from his old office. Further complicating his work life is the presence of his ex-wife Kate Armstrong (Kari Matchett), who works as the hospital's organ-recovery coordinator, and Jessica Kivala (Morena Baccarin), the head O.R. nurse. It seems that while secretly in a relationship with the latter, he's secretly had sex with the former - making things, well... more complicated. Also thrown into the mix are Simon Griffith (Chris William Martin), a first-year resident (dubbed "Vancouver" by Nathaniel) still working on his beside manner; Tom Jonas (Rockmond Dunbar), a former student of Nathaniel's who's taking his old job; and Mary Singletary (Danielle Nicolet), the nurse that holds them all together. The screened episode (which will actually air on June 25) concerns itself with a handful of cases - from a drunk hoping to receive a second liver transplant to a Jane Doe with plenty of viable organs but no donor card to Nathaniel's daughter Thea (Gage Golightly) faking sick so she won't have to go to the big dance at school. From here the cast fills the roles as you'd expect - Mary teaches Simon about carrying for the person inside the patient, Tom gives Nathaniel the push he needs to fill Bart's shoes and Nathaniel makes peace with his relationships with Kate and Jessica. Along the way we also learn what's been holding Nathaniel back - he "sees" the ghosts of all the people he's taken organs from and feels the pressure to make sure they live on in other people.

What works: Overall, the show features a likeable cast, spearheaded by Williams, and a likeable concept. And while it's a far cry from the rush of the early years of "ER" or the character studies of the early years of "Chicago Hope," the series has an overall workmanlike appeal to it - something that in these long summer days is to be worshiped. Each of the characters also gets their moment in the sun, whether it be Simon confessing to a patient's wife his struggles or Thea learning her mother lies to do her job. There's also some great flashes of humor - when Simon confesses he rides a motorcycle, Nathaniel quips that he's always looking for viable donors and while examining his teenage daughter, he still tries to spell out things she shouldn't hear. All in all, it's nothing groundbreaking but it's definitely gold during the summer months.

What doesn't: The series at times feel a bit heavy handed in places - from one of Nathaniel's ghosts telling him to let him go to a frustratingly vague secret about something that happened to Thea - all things one wished were done with a little bit more humor and charm. And based on the above comments, I can't help but wonder if there's enough "umph" in this show that I'd seek it out during the regular season.

The bottom line: At the very least, it's definitely worth sampling.

  [june 2007]  


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