Monday, September 28, 2009

TV Pilot Review: "Trauma"

Back in March, NBC closed down the King St. off-ramp from Interstate 280 in San Francisco for several days to film the pilot for their new series "Trauma". They sent out a notice about the closure, promising "a fireball and billowing smoke" on one of the days, and many folks around the city found vantage points to watch the filming. The filming fell behind schedule, but we did eventually get to see the above fireball (and billowing smoke) a few hours later. Maybe LA folks are used to this sort of thing, but it was a pretty big deal 'round these parts! The show even became part of the never-ending bickering of San Francisco politics, with the Mayor supporting the show, and the Board of Supervisors canceling tax breaks that encouraged local filming.

So tonight the pilot featuring the aforementioned fireball finally aired. And I think all that hoopla might be moot, because I don't really see this show lasting very long. For all the explosions, the show feels a bit lifeless. Most of the episode circles around a couple of incidents where paramedics swarm to the scene and try to save people. It seems like they're going for a realism vibe, but neither the dialogue nor the actions feel realistic. They try to save people, but they make it all perfunctory. You don't know who any of these victims are, so you don't really care. I guess it's supposed to about the paramedics doing their jobs? So okay, let's say the character development is the focus. But the show doesn't quite deliver there, either.[bxA]

Cliff Curtis plays "Rabbit", a brash, cowboy type who's always breaking the rules. I really like Curtis, but here he's given no subtlely. He's entirely over-the-top, and every scene he's in immediately takes you out of any suspension of disbelief you may have attained. He's a cartoon.

Meanwhile, Anastasia Griffith plays the female lead, "Nancy". She's a paramedic, and she breaks down and cries as she tries to help a victim. I have no idea why. She has an enigmatic relationship with Rabbit. Okay. I guess maybe there's supposed some depth to her, but we're given so few clues that we just don't care.

The most interesting character thread is Derek Luke's "Cameron". He hits on an accident victim, and when he reveals the reason for it, it actually seems kind of interesting. But the show gives him very little time to develop it, and it violates the "show, don't tell" principle. Still, his character has the most promise, and I'm actually curious where they take him.

Well, for all my ragging, this is just a pilot, and maybe this show will be better when they can properly focus on the characters, and they no longer feel the need (or have the budget) to have stuff blow up every five minutes. I still have faith in Cliff Curtis, despite his overly broad start!

As for the fireball? That's disappointing, too. They show it mostly in the background as characters run away in the foreground. They might as well have filmed it on a lot. Where are the wide, establishing overhead shots that give us a clear sense of the scale of the fireball?

I leave you with a link to a flickr group pool for The Filming of NBC's Trauma. Us Bay Area folks get pretty excited when Hollywood drops by for a visit!


  1. My friend's boyfriend was the guy who got electrocuted! And did you notice that the Gav's wife was listed in the credits.....?

  2. I think Gav's wife was the one with the broken arm who got hit on?