During an argument over the best surgery to perform on a patient, Dr. Jonathan Seger (Mark Feuerstein, “In Her Shoes”) snidely remarks to his colleague, Dr. Douglas Hansen (Stanley Tucci, “The Devil Wears Prada”), “We do things differently, Doug.” To which Doug snarkily replies, “That’s the first useful thing you’ve said since you’ve got here.”
So begins the inevitable war of doctors’ ideals that pervades most medical dramas. But “3 Lbs.” isn’t about sass-mouthed residents or cocky doctors. It’s about real relationships and feelings doctors must deal with each day, and that’s what makes it the most unique medical drama to hit television since “E.R.”
“3 Lbs.” focuses on veteran doctor Hansen and his new assistant Seger, as well as sexy Dr. Adrianne Holland (Indira Varma, “Basic Instinct 2”). These doctors aren’t typical George Clooneys up to their wrists in human organs – they deal with the more complex, less glamorous world of neurosurgery. Like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “ER” before it, “3 Lbs.” gives more screen time to doctor-patient interactions than actual surgery, not an easy task when the patient in question is often unable to communicate properly. Also reminiscent of past medical shows are no-nonsense, smart-ass Dr. Hansen and earnest, handsome Dr. Seger, both of whom play the good-surgeon, bad-surgeon roles equally convincingly.
But what “3 Lbs.” has that other medical shows wish they had is a certain intangible authenticity, a sense that this show accurately represents the world of neurosurgery. Viewers of “Grey’s Anatomy” probably know that medical interns and doctors don’t really become tangled in love triangles, constantly insult each other or fall in love with their patients on a regular basis. “Grey’s” isn’t a real medical show, but “3 Lbs.” comes close to being one. It has little of the sharp dialogue or daily drama that viewers love but ultimately dooms most medical shows to becoming second-rate soap operas. The show gives viewers a real sense of the characters without forcing schmaltzy subplots down their throat, and creates drama and intrigue in an authentic, uncontrived way.
This show adds other unique aspects to the general formula of medical shows. Its bizarre dream sequences, as well as Dr. Hansen’s inexplicable hallucinations, add a delightfully surreal element that further vaults it past the tedium of most medical dramas.
This show’s main problem is its market. Of course, television is already saturated with medical dramas, and fans who give “3 Lbs.” only a surface look might not see anything new. The gruff Dr. Hansen might strike viewers as a poor man’s Gregory House, and Dr. Holland may come off as the typical inexplicably sexy TV doctor whose only purpose is to invite sexual tension. But if viewers look beyond this show’s predictable exterior they will find a medical show with heart and class.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Tuesdays at 10 p.m.