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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: THE CURE (FOX, 2007)
(written by Patrick Massett & John Zinman; directed by Danny Cannon; TRT: 43:37)
The network's description: "From executive producers Akiva Goldsman ("A Beautiful Mind," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith") and Patrick Massett & John Zinman ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," "Friday Night Lights") comes a medical thriller in which one brilliant man is willing to put his life and freedom on the line to bring hope to those with nowhere else to turn. Dr. GRAYDEN HALL (Oded Fehr, "Sleeper Cell," "UC: Undercover") was once a titan of the pharmaceutical/biotech industry. A storied doctor, world-renowned researcher and ruthless businessman, he was a key architect of this multi-trillion-dollar business. But when personal tragedy struck, Grayden was forced to reexamine his life, his work, and the industry he helped build. Realizing that the healthcare system is broken, Grayden went rogue seeking out the cutting-edge medical therapies and fringe thinking the medical establishment can't or won't support. Working with Grayden is an elite team of medical researchers and physicians who, through unconventional means, bring radical and untested new therapies directly to desperate people in need of a cure: Dr. DARREN ELLIOTT (Anson Mount, "In Her Shoes," "Conviction"), whose tour in Iraq as a battlefield surgeon makes him no stranger to guerilla medicine; ANDIE MALIK (Liz Vassey, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"), a genius in biotech devices; and JORGE ROBLES (Esai Morales, "NYPD Blue"), an expert in stem cell technology. Aided by KENNEDY ERICSON (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, "NYPD Blue," "The Jamie Foxx Show"), a lawyer with the air of a carnivore, they will have to stay one step ahead of outside forces that threaten to expose their clandestine operation forces willing to stop at nothing to protect the wealth and power the healthcare system hoards. Grayden's genius and newfound sense of mission will guide him, but he'll also draw upon the cutthroat business techniques he cultivated in his former life as he takes on old allies who have become intractable foes. Directed and executive-produced by Danny Cannon ("CSI"), this provocative series from Warner Bros. Television will have viewers asking the question: If your life were on the line and you had nowhere to turn, who else would you trust to deliver you THE CURE?"
What did they leave out: It's basically "The A-Team" done as a medical drama.
The plot in a nutshell: After the Carters learn their beloved daughter Emily has been diagnosed with Hyperplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a nurse gives them the phone number of a rogue doctor named Grayden Hall (Oded Fehr). You see while every doctor has told them said condition is a death sentence, Grayden operates outside the AMA, the FDA and all other governing bodies. He also isn't a slave to the bottom line at the pharmaceutical companies anymore, where management is more cost effective than cures and prevention. So if you have a problem, if no one else can help and if you can find them... oh wait, wrong show. In any case, Hall and his rag tag team - triage surgeon Darren Elliott (Anson Mount), biophysicist/inside (wo)man Andie Malik (Liz Vassey), legal eagle Kennedy Ericson (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon) and recent addition/stem cell guru Jorge Robles (Esai Morales) - will take on the cases no one wants (since, as Grayden puts it, there's no money in curing the rare diseases) and apply the most experimental treatments (in this case, grow the girl a new heart ventricle using stem cells). All they ask for in return - let them sell off any cure they discover to help others and most importantly, refer any other dead end case to them. And so we watch our heroes go through the high wire act of having their own underground triage center - there's unused hospital space to break into, security guards to knock out, old bosses ("Lost's" John Terry) who still hold a grudge, FBI agents (Jeffrey D. Sams) on their trail and a mysterious figure trying to blackmail Grayden into manufacturing a super-heroin type drug (don't ask). Along the way we learn that Grayden lost his 14-year-old son to (presumably) the same kind of rare conditions he fights today, Darren is struggling with a potential stimulant addiction to stay sharp and Kennedy is a former patient who's confined to a wheelchair (again, don't ask). In the end, the good guys grow their heart and live to fight on for another day.
What works: It's every bit the...
What doesn't: ...train wreck you can imagine, made even worse by the fact that Grayden goes all "college freshman" at every opportunity about how evil the pharmaceutical companies are, how corrupt the FDA is and so on. We got it the first 20 times. Then there's the silly extremes to which Grayden and company go to supposedly stay under the radar - such from Darren knocking out a security guard and feeding him drugs to keep him under for 48 hours (because no one will notice him being gone for two days, no, not at all) - only to have it comically undone after the Carters' doctor (Francois Choi) spots them while in the parking lot that just happens to look in on the exit doors of the closed off section of the hospital where they are secretly operating. And don't get me started on the "A-Team" comparison - literally all that's missing is Hannibal welding some cars together to create a barricade. And all of this is without even going into the aforementioned "don't ask" plot points - seriously, someone is blackmailing the team to create a super drug? What?
The bottom line: I'll say it again - what?