The hunt for a successor to "ER" will have to continue awhile longer despite NBC's best efforts with "Trauma," a "Who rescues the rescuers?" drama about paramedics in San Francisco. Despite a "Friday Night Lights" (sigh) producing pedigree, the new series trots out a rather nondescript group of wounded parties who nurse their own broken hearts while treating broken bones. The big action pieces are reasonably impressive, but without stronger characters, that adrenaline boost won't be enough to keep the show off life support.
"Trauma" opens with a rescue on top of a building that goes tragically wrong, leaving the surviving participants scarred, both emotionally and physically.
Flash forward (that's all the rage this season) a year, and paramedic Nancy (Anastasia Griffith) is still grappling with her loss, while daredevil rescue helicopter pilot "Rabbit" (Cliff Curtis) is returning to work, trying to prove he's every bit the badass that he ever was.
He doesn't have to wait long to get his chance, after a text-messaging moron triggers a multicar pileup on one of the Bay Area's bridges, with explosions and crashes and bodies, oh my. It's a helluva baptism by fire for Rabbit to break in a new partner, Marisa (Aimee Garcia), while the seemingly stand-up Cameron (Derek Luke) does his part while appearing to be grappling with problems at home.
The front-loaded pyrotechnics notwithstanding, Dario Scardapane's script doesn't give these characters much of a pulse. New Zealander Curtis has been fine in other roles, but Rabbit's erratic behavior -- which leads Marisa to rightfully label him an "irresponsible idiot" -- doesn't make him especially interesting, any more than watching Griffith fighting back tears endears us to her.
While sliding "Heroes" to lead off the night ought to funnel some younger demos in "Trauma's" direction as a lead-in, stiff competition for women in particular -- including "Dancing With the Stars" and CBS' comedies -- doesn't bode well for a new series this fuzzy around the edges to rapidly catch on. The show also happens to land among several fall TV medical interns, among them NBC's nurse-centric "Mercy."
"You ain't Steve McQueen," Marisa snaps at Rabbit after he references "Bullitt" while driving like a lunatic through the hilly streets of S.F.
Yep, and however much "Trauma" might want to be, it ain't "ER," either.