TNT--whose new slogan boldly insists, “We Know Drama”--debuts a new series this week. “Saved” attempts to turn the weekly medical drama on its ear, not only by taking it out of the hospital and setting it in the fast-paced world of the EMT, but by presenting it in a manner that the show’s press kit describes as “stylistic” (which is apparently Hollywoodese for “utilizing as many fisheye lenses as possible”).
Tom Everett Scott, still typically credited with starring in his 1996 debut film That Thing You Do!, headlines as our unshaven anti-hero Wyatt Cole. Cole is portrayed as a med school dropout, a compulsive gambler and an unhappy employee at a third-rate paramedic company in Portland, Ore. The press kit charitably calls him “somewhat of a slacker hero” (which is apparently Hollywoodese for “run for the hills, the scriptwriters are clueless dinks who still think Stone Temple Pilots are cool”).
The pilot episode of the series can’t quite seem to figure out if it wants to be gritty (there’s lots of handheld camerawork, at least one naked butt and copious amounts of tragic death) or quirky (Cole and his partner tool around all day with a giant stuffed gorilla, a wacky patient steals the ambulance and everyone literally sees their life flash before their eyes when the paramedics arrive).
Scott does what he can with the show’s episodic, Altmanesque script, but he seems too cute and harmless for the role--like a puppy dog trying his damnedest to look scruffy. The rest of the cast contribute some fairly flat acting, resulting in lots of unintentionally unengaging melodrama.
The show’s would-be hard-hitting opening sequence--in which Cole’s gambling addiction is laid out--throws around lots of “authentic” card-playing slang. But it comes across as painfully contrived, as if the show’s scripters spent a couple hours watching “Celebrity Poker Showdown” and simply regurgitated what they heard.
The medical sequences don’t feel much more realistic and point out the major problem with making a series about paramedics: Paramedics only spend a few minutes with patients while rushing them to the hospital. Most of the drama of the situation is cut short. There isn’t a lot of time for mind-bending detective work (a la “House”), interpersonal relationships (a la “Grey’s Anatomy”) or tough medical decisions and their repercussions (a la “ER”). The show tries to compensate by giving Cole a lot of backstory (a disappointed father, an engaged ex-girlfriend, a bloodthirsty loanshark), but not much of it rises above the level of hokey.
While I had hoped, however briefly, that “Saved” might bring up fond memories of watching “Emergency!” as an impressionable youth, TNT’s new ambulance-chasing medical drama tries way too hard to be hip (falling at least 10 years behind the curve) and wastes precious energy framing up unusual shots that would have been better spent writing a credible script.