Pilot Review: Three Rivers

The Brief: The organ donors, recipients and doctors who pass through a transplant centre.

This is my 20th pilot of the season and I think I might have just broken. I mean seriously, why do they even bother getting out of bed in the morning to produce this stuff? Did they honestly create this thinking it was going to be something special or original, or did they just do it for the cash and to fill a gap in the schedule. It’s pretty hard to get excited about another medical procedural show when there are already seven on the air and six new ones trying out this year (according to this Wikipedia page, which doesn’t even list Three Rivers). Maybe there’s a gap in the market with ER finally closing its doors last season, but surely no one really thought that Three Rivers was going to fill those shoes with this utterly mediocre, unremarkable, and unenthusiastic contribution. It’s a competitive time out there people, do something special or get off the playing field.

So, to give the illusion that this is a proper review rather than me just losing my mind, let’s do a whistle-stop through the usual debate points of plot, characters, writing and direction.

Plot – not a bad set up for an episodic concept, something horrible happens to a couple of people, one ends up a donor, one a recipient – medical stuff happens. Meanwhile the doctors, nurses and administrators deal with subplots involving their everyday lives. The fact that every episode someone is going to die and there’s going to be sobbing families is maybe just a little too depressing though even for me.

Characters – All perfectly watchable, no real criticisms, but also no one who made me intrigued about what their story was. Marina Sirtis stood out in a guest star appearance because she was utterly dreadful, the dialogue wasn’t great to begin with but the delivery was breathtakingly bad.

Writing – Pretty acceptable. There’s a good balance of humour and melodrama and each character had their own distinct voice. There were a couple of plot holes where I felt they rushed things along for the sake of drama, but it didn’t matter too much. Bonus points for the fact that one of the characters pointedly asked someone why they couldn’t just tell her the piece of information over the phone and the other replied with “some things just need to be seen in person”. Nice.

Directing – saving the best until last. The direction of the pilot was shockingly awful. Really painfully, miserably, ham fisted, “I read a book once that said you needed close ups for emotional connection” awful. Every few minutes there’s a painful snap zoom or pan to make sure that we catch something dramatic, like an eyebrow twitching or a thought about doughnuts passing through someone’s head. Then they’ve tried to add in 24-style little montages at each act break to make sure we remember that there are multiple threads to the plot in case you forgot in the last 2 minutes. Utterly amateur.
As a random additional aside can I make a small complaint about the level of technology which seems to be creeping into shows. CSI used to keep its technology reasonably believable, except for their admitted compression of the time things take to process. Now however every CSI lab, hospital and police station seems to have the very latest in holographic display and digital projection. Am I actually hopelessly out of touch to find it odd that every room and doctor in the hospital is equipped with touch screens, tablet computers and funky visualisations?

All in all, this show is utterly unremarkable with the exception of bits that are awfu. I didn’t really come away from the show hating it, just a resounding sense of ‘meh’. Apparently the blogging world agrees with me because none of my usual sources of review have any comment on it at all. I did find out that the original pilot was recast, reshot and then pulled in favour of showing episode 2 instead, hardly ringing endorsements that the show is solid and well thought out. I very much doubt this will be on the schedules for very long.

Links: CBS.com official site, imdb, TV.com, wikipedia

Random review that agrees with me from Eclipse Magazine


One thought on “Pilot Review: Three Rivers

  1. Pingback: 2009-2010 – New Shows « Narrative Devices

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