Pilot Review: Trauma

The Brief: Drama series following paramedics in San Francisco dealing with their own, and other people’s traumas.

trauma
   1. Pathology.
      a. a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident.
      b. the condition produced by this; traumatism.
   2. Psychiatry.
      a. an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.
      b. the psychological injury so caused.

My response to this show is really neatly split between the two definitions of the word. The first part of the definition for both pathology and psychiatry is the practical, the event and the injury, the second part is about the less visible issues and the long term response to the trauma. This show covers both halves, the practical side providing some impressive scenes in the pilot, the emotional side less so.

What Trauma does well is be a show about paramedics and emergency medicine in the field. It’s fast paced and relentless. The paramedics use technical terms and slang, and if you don’t understand what they mean, you’ll just have to work it out on your own time, ‘cos the show ain’t gonna wait for you. I was completely engrossed to the point that when something unexpected happened I nearly jumped out of my skin. The characters all seemed incredibly competent at their jobs (god knows if the medicine/first aid is right, but it was convincing to me), even the rookie just got on with his job, rather than being used as a conduit to have things explained to the audience.

The other fifty percent of the show is about how this group of people are dealing with the long term effects from their own traumatic incident. That element just didn’t work as well for me, their reactions felt forced, that the one-year anniversary of the incident suddenly made each of the characters confront their feelings. What on earth have they been doing for the previous 364 days?

There are a fair number of frustratingly stupid clichés in the pilot, the kind of things that aren’t deal breakers, but really get my back up. If you’re trying to introduce your characters as competent professionals, showing them having sex in the ambulance while on duty is probably not a great plan. Also lacking in professionalism is the female paramedic giving all her patients an eyeful of cleavage and a face full of hair – seriously woman, button up and find a scrunchy. There’s a couple of cliché storylines thrown in for good measure – love triangles and daddy-issues, wow that’s original.

The division of impressiveness follows all the way through the show. The two massive accidents within the first fifteen minutes are impressive. They are movie level stunt and effects shots and I really hope they have the budget to continue using the multiple helicopters and closing whole sections of freeway to have disasters on. They make great use of filming in San Francisco, the Bridge at sunset and the steep roads are beautiful and instantly recognisable. But whenever they start in on an emotional section the clichés are out in abundance with crappy dialogue, emotionally manipulative plinky-plunky music and lingering silhouetted manly hugs.

The things that are good about this show are really good, but the rest of it is just mediocre. I think it’s trying to cover an impressive range from emotionally driven character studies through to brainless action film but the pilot didn’t integrate the different elements very well. It flip flopped between them and then left the final third of the episode to wallow in borderline melodrama.

But… I do find myself intrigued. The characters engaged me enough that I’m not completely bored listening to them prattle about their problems and the medical stuff reminded me of the bits of ER I used to love. It was far from the best pilot in the world, but it certainly got me interested enough that I’ll give the next couple of episodes a try, so I guess it managed to do its job.

Links: Official Site at NBC, imdb, TV.com, Wikipedia,
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