NBC is trying to bring something new to the medical drama genre with its new show Heartbeat.
Unfortunately, there's not much to love about Heartbeat. Despite George's proclamations, the show is basically Grey's Anatomy Lite - double the drama and half the fun. Main character Alex Panttiere (George) is a brilliant surgeon who is seen, in flashbacks, as an awkward intern who falls in love at first sight with the hunky Australian surgeon who eventually becomes her mentor. It's tempting to criticize Heartbeat by saying the show lacks a pulse, but that's not the problem. Rather, it's almost got too much going on. Alex one-ups Meredith Grey by having not one but two Dr. McDreamys to juggle, as well as a gay ex-husband-slash-BFF (Joshua Leonard) who also happens to be a famous rock star, and the two rambunctious boys they're amicably raising. ("There's a modern take on families too, which I love," George says.)
The two other points of Alex's love triangle are Dr. Pierce Harrison (Dave Annable), her smiley, easygoing boyfriend who cheated on her with his ex a few months prior; and Dr. Jessie Shane (Don Hany), the aforementioned former mentor/flame who's shown up out of the blue at Alex's workplace (in an attempt to win her back?) and isn't fazed by the fact that she's in a relationship with someone else. "She's equally in love with two men at the same time," George says. "When she's with Pierce, she's madly in love, 100 percent. When she's with Jessie, she's 100 percent in love. The problem is when she has both of them in the same room. ... The only thing she can commit to is saving her patient's life, and that's it." It's no wonder the show was originally titled Heartbreaker.
Many of the jokes fall into "what were they thinking?" territory, like an Asian nurse who pranks (?) one of the doctors, played by Jamie Kennedy, by speaking in a stereotypically horrible Chinese accent. ("I bet she gives a great massage," the doc quips.)
The one thing that gives Heartbeat legs is the fact that Alex's character is based on an actual person: Dr. Kathy Magliato, one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the world, who is also acting as a co-executive producer on the series. "I just wanted to live this larger-than-life woman," George says. "Not only does she have to save lives, but she has to deal in a man's world, and how much she has to fight just to be heard? It's just crazy that it still goes on like that." Knowing the show is based in reality lends credibility to seemingly far-fetched scenes, like the opening one in the pilot, in which Alex performs emergency surgery on an airplane passenger mid-flight using a black credit card. (True story, per Magliato's memoir.) Also, creator Jill Gordon promises that the Season 1 finale features something that no female character has ever done on TV before.
It's possible the humor is based on Magliato, as well. As George puts it: "She'll say things that seem so offensive, but the way she delivers it is just so funny, you can't help but laugh." Except when you can.
Magliato's story is certainly compelling enough to inspire a TV series, and viewers will always embrace a good love triangle. George is even probably correct in saying that audiences would flock to another medical drama if the right one came along. However, the pieces just aren't clicking with this one. It's got all the makings of a successful series, but Heartbeat is dead on arrival.
Heartbeat premieres Tuesday at 9/8c on NBC. It moves to its regular timeslot on Wednesday at 8/7c.