Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Combat Hospital

Summer on network TV is time for cheap reality shows and Canadian imports, and ABC's Combat Hospital is the latter, another standard-issue TV drama that feels just a tiny bit off thanks to being produced abroad. At least Combat Hospital doesn't try to hide its its foreign origins like another ABC show, Canadian cop drama Rookie Blue. The show takes place at an internationally staffed field hospital in Kandahar, so characters come from a variety of countries that make up the coalition fighting in Afghanistan, including the U.S., the U.K., Australia and, yes, Canada, where main character Dr. Rebecca Gordon (Michelle Borth) hails from.

There's some decent acting talent here, including Elias Koteas as the hospital's head doctor and Deborah Kara Unger as an Australian psychiatrist (although Unger barely shows up in the pilot). But despite the unique setting, most of what happens in the first episode is fairly basic medical-drama stuff, including a useless pregnancy scare (plus scene-setting relationship trauma) for the main character, some vague operating-room suspense, and a character who says "It's nothing" and then later (surprise!) collapses and convulses. The cast also seems strangely underpopulated for a show of this type, which would usually explore the scope of a large medical operation. Here you get the sense that the four main characters are the only doctors in the entire place (although for all I know, that's true of a place like this).

The show is set in 2006 and doesn't seem to be angling for any political commentary; the wartime milieu is mainly just an excuse for heightened urgency in the medical emergencies, and in practice isn't much different from the approach used in the short-lived and little-loved Off the Map. Medical-drama junkies who are desperate for something new to watch will probably find this show tolerable, and performers like Koteas and Unger could bring some depth to it eventually, but for now Combat Hospital is just a generic medical drama with superficially distinctive trappings.

Premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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