“Heartbeat” is the melting pot of the medical daytime drama. It’s like the network dropped Dr. Mahoney (Eliza Coupe, “Quantico”) from the last season of “Scrubs” onto the set of “Red Band Society” with the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy.” But instead of the super cool mash-up it sounds like, “Heartbeat” falls short of expectations, becoming a Viagra infomercial that never ends.
Actress Melissa George (“The Good Wife”) leads this soap as Dr. Alex Panttiere, a brilliant and outspoken heart transplant surgeon whose role is loosely inspired by the work of Dr. Kathy Magliato, one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the world. However, “loosely” is an understatement. Even though the show reports to be completely based off of Dr. Magliato’s personal experiences, the delivery is artificial. Where Dr. Magliato is a professional and leader in her career, Dr. Alex displays overly reckless actions and insulting behavior towards both her colleagues and patients. She blatantly disregards a midair medical crisis to finish preparing a speech and knocks impatiently on the glass window during an important legal meeting. Although Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie, “Tomorrowland”) also displayed these uncomfortable qualities, at least House took the time to learn the names of his colleagues and interns. Alex knows them by nicknames like “spray tan” and “glasses.”
The dynamic of “Heartbeat” is uncomfortable, at best. Although her family is broken and her job runs her life, the writers managed to jam in a love triangle between Panttiere, Australian McDreamy doppelganger (Don Hany, “Offspring”) and her internal surgeon boyfriend (Dave Annable, “Brothers & Sisters”). The only real romantic relationship in her life is with her ex-husband and famous rocker, Max Elliot (Joshua Leonard, “If I Stay”) who is, unfortunately for her, gay. But he’s a good father to their children, who show up about one time per episode to remind us of their existence. At work, the nurses throw racist comments at one another and doctors tease with sex jokes that are more uncomfortable than funny. The only slightly funny joke is when the interns seem to pop out of thin air, crowding the M.D.’s with notepads a few inches in front of their faces. Otherwise, this is not a hospital where you would want to be a patient.
However, jokes aside, the human aspect of “Heartbeat” is compelling, pulling at our heartstrings with the intense situations Dr. Alex’s patients seem to find themselves in on daily basis. In the second episode, a pair of conjoined twins face the emotionally taxing decision of permanent separation when one sister is diagnosed with cancer and cannot undergo chemotherapy without harming her twin. After a 24-hour operation that showcases Alex’s command over both the operating room and her male colleagues, the sisters wake up to fully see each other for the first time as the staff huddles anxiously in the cramped room. It’s a touching moment that showcases the best of medicine and the payoff that comes with the high-risk, high-reward lifestyle of the hospital’s staff. Then it’s back to the drama for Dr. Alex, who stares into Aussie McDreamy’s eyes as her boyfriend looks on jealously during an operation. I’m not a doctor, but even I know that she should probably focus on the open chest in front of her over those gorgeous eyes.
“Heartbeat” seems to be NBC’s delayed response to ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” They try and try to showcase the role of women in a man’s profession, but ultimately end up showcasing an uncaring, troublemaker doctor who cares more about getting blood on her outfit than helping a dying patient. Unfortunately, “Grey’s Anatomy” might just be better than this glorified soap opera, which, unlike its namesake, doesn’t seem to have a pulse.