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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
BONUS FIRST LOOK: THE CALL (ABC)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: "Most people don't think about first responders until they need one. Nick Adams and Ian Wode are the paramedics you pray for when your life is in peril. Nick is the star paramedic at Aurora Healthco, a private ambulance service in LA. Nick is known as the "The Comeback Kid." He has a genuine talent for saving lives, which earns him praise from his grateful patients. Meanwhile, his brash demeanor provokes the ire of his budget-conscious boss, Wendy "The Wolf" Wolfram. Ian is Nick's longstanding partner and confidant. As intelligent as he is neurotic, Ian tries to find a balance between Nick's "save-'em-at-all-cost" humanity and The Wolf's iron-clad regulations. And then there's Tom Timlin, the wide-eyed trainee, caught between his mentors' brilliance and high-jinx, and never completely sure which way to go. They valiantly patrol the streets of Los Angeles with their competent and bodacious co-worker, Jenna "Kinky" Kincaid. Both tough as nails and soft as velvet, Kinky views Nick as both colleague and competitor. The secret truth is that she's wildly attracted to him though she would never admit it. Although supremely confident, Kinky has one Achilles' heel. She tends to lose partners with alarming frequency a fact that Nick will not let her forget. In each episode, the daring and dysfunctional employees of Aurora Healthco answer "The Call" in real time, with nerves of steel and tongues firmly planted in cheeks. The Creator of "Kitchen Confidential" (David Hemingson) teams with the Emmy-winning Executive Producers of "24" (Joel Surnow, Robert Cochran, and Howard Gordon) to bring this hilarious, high octane thrill ride to life."
What did they leave out: Nick actually has three nicknames, the others being "The Man With the Golden Gut" and "The Reassurer." Plus, for you trivia buffs out there, Kali Rocha's role "The Wolf" was originally conceived as a guy.
The plot in a nutshell: Paramedics Nick Adams (Danny Comden) and Ian Wode (Kal Penn) are exactly the partners you'd expect to see on TV. Nick's the skirt chasing, act first, worry-about-the-consequences later one while Ian's the worry first, eventually-come-around-to-whatever-Nick-does later one. And sure enough, said attitudes don't sit well with their bottom line conscious boss Wendy "The Wolf" Wolfram (Kali Rocha). She's always one step away from firing them, but Nick's talent of always coming through in the tough situations (hence his nickname, "The Comeback Kid") keeps him on the payroll. Such is the case in the pilot, which sees the boys responding to a car crash involving Ray Flynn (Richard Burgi), a former Raider who's coincidentally beloved by Ian. Nick however smells something fishy about the crash and tries to shake him down to learn what really is going on. Along for the ride then are the guys' trainee Tom Timlin (John Francis Daley in full "aw shucks" mode) while Jodi Lyn O'Keefe also stars as tough gal Jenna "Kinky" Kincaid, Nick's love her/hate her rival who's left a trail of unlucky partners in her wake and her latest (Mitch Baker) doesn't seem up to the task either. In any case, Nick's "golden gut" proves to be right once again as it turns out the married Ray was fleeing his girlfriend's suicide attempt and the gang arrives just in time to save her.
What works: Essentially a broader, much sillier version of TNT's short-lived drama "Saved," "The Call" gets most of its mileage out of...
What doesn't: ...trying to squeeze the "Scrubs" "two parts silly/one part serious" routine into the tired "rule breaking trailblazer and his steady partner" mold. The end result is that neither part jives - comic elements like Nick's legendary reputation (a pregnant woman who barely speaks English decides to name her child after him) and Kinky's carousel of partners (one was even struck by lightning) come off as lame while the "big moments" like when Nick and Kinky resuscitate Ray's girlfriend - complete with slow motion cinematography and pulse pounding score - don't quite have the heft intended. That's not to say the show doesn't have its fun moments, such as Jordan Black as The Wolf's aspiring paramour or Ian's panache for accidentally saying racist things. It all just doesn't quite add up.
The bottom line: It's a bust that's hard to root for.