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Network Television Rundown: The Only New Primetime Drama I Still Watch

I've got an extra week to kill before I get back into my real regular features here at The Blogulator, so I'm taking a tip from Qualler and just doing a quick TV plea for a show that you can watch for free online, and way not enough people are. I sang its praises in a half-sarcastic tone back in the fall of 2009, dubbing it the ultimate "Solitary Trauma Drama" (i.e. the show that's melodramatic and kinda silly but ultimately satisfying when watched alone with the ol' brain-box turned off), but after watching a total seventeen episodes of NBC's Trauma, I have decided it is officially a great show. Like Justified, it's a semi-serial show that is ultimately a procedural that arguably needs no previous knowledge on the part of the viewer to appreciate. So, after you check the admittedly more awesome "Long in the Tooth" from yesterday's post, try out the latest Trauma episode, entitled "Sweet Jane", available on Hulu along with a handful of other recent eps, and also embedded below:

The big difference between Justified and Trauma, aside from the rawer and more edgy quality of the former, is that while knowing the little clues about Timothy Olyphant's character only slightly improves otherwise rock-solid self-contained stories about justice and law-breakin', knowing the rather complex backgrounds of the characters portrayed by the amazingly impressive ensemble on Trauma increases your appreciation of the show to the nth degree. So on the one hand, while you can definitely get the gist of "Sweet Jane" (which uses a clever flashback gimmick that is both insightful and charming to break up its subtle frame story) if you gave it a go now and might even enjoy the expertly interlocking storylines amongst the eclectic eccentrics of the San Francisco life-saving team, you might not fully latch onto and get emotional over the happenings, tics, and quirky characteristics of the individual paramedics and medical personnel presented in the episode.

But truth be told, while the biggest compliment I could give the show when it first began was its ability to intertwine Final Destination-esque accident choreography into the show (after all, while these peoples' lives fall apart, they are also doing their jobs and driving/flying eagerly from catastrophe to catastrophe), I now see that as a mere entertaining side effect of the over-arching stories of these characters. To be more specific without giving too much away (as I believe I'm the only one that watches), the most vividly performed and magnetic character has to be Reuben 'Rabbit' Palchuk, played by Cliff Curtis (a jaw-dropping actor who has before this only had minor roles in great movies like Sunshine, Three Kings, and Bringing Out the Dead, also about paramedics). He alone helps place Trauma on the upper echelon of network TV shows, in my personal opinion even above the soap opera mechanics of admittedly trend-setting shows like ER and Chicago Hope. While the title of the show might give away the overall metaphor for its characters' turbulent lives, every character has their own unique backstory, and Rabbit's wild semi-suicidal self vs. smooth and inspiring heroism arc is the most unpredictable and, interestingly, also makes him the most likable.

Equally captivating are characters like Nancy Carnahan, played with an incendiary combination of frustration and heartbreak by Damages' Anastasia Griffith, as the daughter who never quite became a doctor, and whose father (played by Lost's John Terry) will never let her forget it. Or there's also the semi-closeted energy drink-guzzling New Orleans transplant Tyler Briggs (Justified's Kevin Rankin), whose pure smile-inducing zest for the job and life is often eclipsed by personal demons that Rankin so effortlessly lets seep into his expressions and actions, even when his face is still plastered with enthusiasm. I could go on, really, about Iraq vet and medi-copter pilot Marisa Benez or rookie/literary enthusiast Glenn Morrisson, but I won't. I'll just let you decide whether to give this oddball show that's way too often marketed as just another show about people who save lives and sleep with each other (the acting alone puts it miles above the more successful medical NBC show Mercy, and only two characters are in a relationship together in Trauma). In reality, the show may die because it doesn't have viewers, and it might not have viewers because no one has bothered taking the time to realize that NBC has a potentially great long-running show on its hands, because they're concerned more about the short-term investment.

Truth is, folks, that I was way more excited about Flash Forward and V at the beginning of the new TV season, and here I am espousing the greatness of a show that I just watched on a whim and kept with because it had potential. And now here we are, two way suckier shows with (while also struggling with viewers) way more invested recent marketing pushes from their network, ABC, than NBC has given Trauma ever since it began. So while I know a couple people reading a blog post about a show they've never seen isn't going to save it, I can't help but write about how sad I will be when it doesn't return in the fall (it officially has not been renewed), forgotten and never talked about again. Ah, such is the story of elusive great network television, I suppose.

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  1. Blogger Dr. Mac | 2:29 PM |  

    Congratulations on being named a Blog of Note. It'll be nice to have a one-stop shop for my pop culture research.

    Dr. Mac


  2. Blogger C.J. | 6:18 PM |  

    I saw part of an episode and was very intrigued. It was about a newbie curse. Anyway, I'm in film school and oddly enough we rarely get to watch TV or film outside of class, so I was unable to watch the show further. I'm so glad to know that it's online, since me and computers have become synonymous. Than you!

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:32 AM |  

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