Three Rivers at First Glance

This Sunday, CBS will air the third episode of its new medical drama Three Rivers. I completely forgot about the first two episodes until today when I was reading a post by the very excellent maxgt. Anyway, I had both the reminder and the opportunity, so I watched those two first episodes. And, while not blown away by any measure, I was reasonably entertained.

Three Rivers follows the day-to-day of Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Hospital, one of the best transplant hospitals in the country. I'm no expert on medical dramas - I only watch House, because it's a) funnier and b) weirder than most of them tend to be. But it seems to me that Three Rivers has a fairly unique take on them.

The patients - those giving and receiving donor organs - get an enormous amount of time and, since the show is only a few episodes old, seem to be more fully developed than the doctors. There have already been some truly heartbreaking guest performances, and I anticipate that this could turn out to be one of the great strengths of this show.

Another thing that sets Three Rivers apart is the nature of the medicine being practiced. On other shows (again, most of my knowledge stems from House), organ transplants are usually portrayed as a big, scary, risky thing...and then giving about two minutes of attention. Obviously the information being communicated via a fictional medical series must be taken with at least a grain of salt, if not a spoonfull. But as the owner of a massive nerdbrain that just won't quit, I find the insight into the donor process pretty fascinating.

The cast of Three Rivers is, as all good medical drama casts should be, reasonably talented and about six times more attractive. Alex O'Loughlin leads as Dr. Andy Yablonski, delivering slightly overwritten slivers of wisdom and rocking a much better haircut than during his Moonlight stint. Katherine Moennig has a few more acting chops than the rest - or at least more developed personality. Daniel Henney and Amber Clayton have yet to prove themselves worth screentime as characters (or even actors), but they are undeniably very attractive. Christopher J. Hanke's character Ryan is a strange cross between a puppy and a true Dude. And all of them answer to the very excellent Alfre Woodard.

All in all, there isn't necessarily anything outstanding about Three Rivers. It has its moments of pathos. The medicine is intriguing enough. The people are, as I mentioned, easy to watch. Honestly, the show could sink or swim in its Sunday timeslot.

I'd say the only real point against it is the one brought up by maxgt. The two episodes that have aired so far seem to have been aired in the wrong order. And try as I might to justify the reasoning for that, I just haven't come up with anything satisfactory. But honestly, that's the only complaint so far, so it could be worse.

The best thing about Three Rivers? Mandy Patinkin is slotted to guest star!

(This review also posted on my blog at


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