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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
THE PILOTS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT: AUSTIN GOLDEN HOUR (The CW, 2008)
(written by Lance Gentile & Mal Young; directed by Sanford Bookstaver; TRT: 30:35)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out: It's literally a medical drama done in "24's" style - ticking clock, split screens, etc. - but instead of CTU it's STC, the Shock Trauma Center in Austin, Texas.
The plot in a nutshell: The following takes place between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM. When a fire erupts at a packed nightclub, the Shock Trauma Center is called in to respond. There's paramedics Rhett (Justin Hartley) and Charlie (Cassidy Freeman) - he's a brash adrenaline junkie who's not above using a Code 3 to get in on a rib special while she's a farmer's daughter who's out to prove herself in the big city. They're one of the first to arrive at the scene just as the clubgoers finally manage to escape - it seems the club's shady owner ("American Idol" alum Constantine Maroulis - no, I'm not kidding) made things worse by chaining the doors and overselling that night's show. In any case, as you'd expect, Rhett rides the very green Charlie pretty hard about not being able to keep up with what's going on. Nevertheless, they stabilize what will become the show's B-plot - a girl and her father (more on this in a second) - and head to the STC. There we meet Rhett's nice-guy brother Ash (David Rogers), a resident, and London (Jaime Lee Kirchner), the no-nonsense attending. It's also where the show's various relationships begin the play out - Ash has a crush on Lane (Lyndsy Fonseca), a nurse, who's still hot and cold with her ex Jake (Michael Trevino), a "rock doc" whose band was playing the nightclub when it caught fire. Jake is also hiding a few secrets from Lane - namely a potential drug problem and the fact Constantine's character paid him off to look the other way about the club's fire code violations. As for Rhett, he's been playing doctor in the off hours with London, while Ash is getting tired of covering for his reckless brother. Over in the B-story, Ash accidentally discovers that the aforementioned dad isn't really the girl's daughter and wrings his hands about whether to say something - only to have London blurt it out in front of everyone. And back at the club, Ash must talk Rhett who in turn must talk Charlie through a complicated procedure on a dying girl - all before the roof caves in. In the end, everybody gets their moments - whether it be Jake throwing the bribe money into Constantine's face or Charlie ultimately proving herself in the field - all just in time before the "golden hour" ends (which is as Ash explains it, "the first 60 minutes after a serious injury before the body begins to shut down").
What works: Believe it or not, the show's shameless "24" aping isn't...
What doesn't: ...its biggest flaw (and it ups the fancy effects ante by having little HUDs appear above each patient listing their vitals), it's the fact that it feels like a bunch of kids playing dress up. "Austin" is proof positive that you can't CW (a verb meaning to showcase 18 to 34-year-old beautiful people) every genre there is, in this case the medical drama. In other words, life and death gravitas is a tough sell when you have not one but two scenes in which the camera pans up and down as the attending resident undresses. And this is just a 30-minute presentation. It wouldn't be so bad if there was some sort of escapist or over-the-top quality to the show rather than its current supposedly "gritty, every-minute-counts" tone. Even little details like how everyone wears lime green "SHOCK TRAUMA CENTER" patches make them feel like crew members on a starship rather than actual nurses, doctors and paramedics. I'm all for suspension of disbelief but the show's premise of six beautiful twentysomethings being solely responsible for a trauma center (literally, aside from the injured girl's parents, no one over 40 can be found) plays just as clunky as it does reading it on paper. These aren't adults talking about "pericardial taps," they're kids.
The bottom line: Keep the navel-gazing to the appropriate genres CW.