Monday, June 18, 2007

TV premiering tonight: Heartland

Following the success of The Closer, TNT is really going all-out to establish themselves as a force in original programming, but unlike some cable outlets, they're doing it with very traditional shows that could easily (aside from the occasional curse word) be at home on network TV. I love The Closer, but it is, after all, a police procedural, and last summer's Saved (which didn't get picked up for a second season) was really just another tweak on the doctor show. This summer will see another cop show (albeit one with an angel in the supporting cast), and the most conventional new drama the channel's yet aired, Heartland.

I only had time to watch the first of the two episodes that TNT sent me, but it certainly didn't put me in the mood to watch a second. This is the kind of bland, sappy show that even CBS would probably pass over, if not (maybe) for the relatively strong cast. But even Treat Williams, Kari Matchett (from the very underrated Invasion), Morena Baccarin (of Serenity/Firefly) and Dabney Coleman combined can't save the horribly trite writing and overwhelming sentimentality, not to mention the mountain of hospital-show cliches. Williams is a transplant doctor with a prickly manner a la House, an ex-wife he still pines for and a teenage daughter who's into safe TV-show rebellion. The focus only on transplant patients limits the kind of stories the show can tell (as did the focus on brain surgery in CBS's short-lived 3 Lbs.), but it's not like they're trying for anything innovative here anyway. By the time Matchett's ex-wife character said to Williams, "I'll take my heart and leave" (referring, of course, to an actual transplantable heart in a cooler and her own, emotionally damaged organ), that was it for me. TNT, Mondays, 10 p.m.

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