Half a look at lives of medics and half a glance at fast-paced doctoring, “Trauma” is unique among medical dramas in that it’s not set in an emergency room, hospital or operating room. But aside from its setting, “Trauma” holds no other claim to originality and no strengths that sufficiently combat its shortcomings.

“Trauma”

Mondays at 9 p.m.
NBC

The show begins one year ago, detailing the events of a helicopter-rescue disaster and the lives of the paramedics involved. From there, the show moves forward to the anniversary of the accident, during which a collage of characters is introduced, with each one experiencing various personal problems including job pressure, marital indiscretions, returning from service overseas and coming back to the job after involuntary leave. Despite all this, most of the characters lack presence, and as such they’re easily forgotten when they’re not shown performing CPR.

The opening catastrophe adds a fair amount of complexity to characters who already have mini-dramas playing out in both their jobs and daily lives. However, the special effects are barely better than a blast of orange and yellow light and pieces of strange black metal flailing about, all contained in the outline of an atom bomb. Better, to be sure — but only barely. In some cases, low-budget special effects wouldn’t be a particular concern. “Trauma” is rooted in medicine and blood, as well as the material expense of multiple helicopter flights, so it’s almost pardonable that the fire and fury look cut and pasted. Unfortunately, a good chunk of the plot that follows is built around the resulting personal baggage this single dramatic event creates, and the five minutes of unconvincing screaming used to depict it just doesn’t do it justice.

Further detracting from a show that might still have pulled a meager audience is the dialogue — at times far beyond corny and often uncomfortable to hear. From “He’ll die, Joe” (dramatic music cue) right before a commercial break to sunset-silhouetted confessions made next to ambulances, poor dialogue has “Trauma” cross-dressing from drama to soap and back in all-too-quick succession.

One redeeming aspect of the show, though, is Reuben “Rabbit” Palchuck (Cliff Curtis, “Push”), who was simultaneously entertaining and unconvincing. He is undoubtedly the most eccentric character, seemingly a jerk one moment, but saving a child the next. And after cutting off someone’s finger by driving recklessly, he apologizes profusely, ranting about his inability to die. Finally, he humbly serves as the counseling friend. Though his character is inherently not believable, he is just bipolar enough to claim curiosity among the general mediocrity.

Basically, find something else productive to do on a Monday night. If that fails, channel flick, remaining on “Trauma” for no longer than five minutes. With any luck, no words will be spoken during that brief interval.

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