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NBC’s Trauma, Best New Show?

by K. B. Abele on November 9, 2009

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Every Fall the networks begin their usual marketing announcements of “Best New Show This Season” and “Most Exciting Drama.” As audiences, we have grown accustomed to tuning it out. They say it every year about every show. One would think that after over 50 years of television the marketing professionals would finally figure out new creative strategies. This season was no different and with large campaigns from Glee, Mercy, Flash Forward and yes, even Cougar Town–it’s come to be that really, there is a best new show of the season and it’s NBC’s Trauma.

Don’t get me wrong, Glee certainly has actually given every network show a good run for its money with its upbeat sing-a-longs and downright hilarious social commentaries but when it comes down to it, the best is usually a tad underrated at first. Like House, MD was six years ago.

Trauma follows the lives of six paramedics in San Francisco and the drama that comes along with it. The first few episodes were a bit shaky, focusing mainly on the formulas given to most medical-related dramas: Accident, blood, doctors, surgery, saving the day–with a dash of  sexual tension thrown in for good measure. But a few short weeks later and the show has begun to map out its path in the world of prime-time television.

The shows two notables are hands down Anastasia Griffith and Cliff Curtis.  Griffith who plays the show’s protagonist Nancy Carnahan–an ex MD who after an as-yet-undiscussed event became a paramedic and whose boyfriend dies in a helicopter crash in the pilot–carries most of the show with her banter and tough-girl demeanor that is both believable and pitiable. You feel for her, her losses–and recognize that this chick has more gall than most men in Manhattan. Curtis plays Rabbit, an “Angel Rescue” paramedic whose blatant disregard for rules and sultry seduction skills make him the would-be child of Don Draper and Gregory House. The New Zealand native owns every scene and has an interesting chemistry with Griffith on screen that keeps you wanting more.

Most medical and crime dramas tend to follow the ‘introduce problem–solve problem’ formula each episode. This is a bit frustrating as we, the audience, are aware that whatever side characters come in will simply be healed and set on their merry ways with the 2 episodes maximum a year where the writers feel diabolical and actually kill someone. Trauma’s writers, though, seem to be interested in telling good stories at the forefront. Two episodes already within the six episodes that have aired have been beautifully written and uniquely moving. “Bad Day at Work” is surprisingly dark and frightening–it tells the story of a disgruntled ex-employee who shoots up an entire office building. The writing does not allow for a g-rated portrayal of the event. You see people hiding under their desks, where the killer looks at them slowly, and then shoots then point blank.  There also was no foreshadowing, we as the audience were caught just as unawares as the characters. To bring it back to the main characters, one’s wife is stuck in the building and the man cowering next to her is shot, she is missed by centimeters. Also, in an attempt to save the wounded–Nancy and Rabbit put their lives in serious jeopardy.

A second great episode puts Nancy and her partner in a severe car accident, where their co-workers are forced to make the moral decision whether to save their friends or the rest of the 20 plus people  injured in the wreckage.

The show is still young but it has plenty of room to grow and I am certain that it will.  Each episode is an exciting thrill-ride complete with blood, guts, gross injuries and crazy scenarios.

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