First Impressions

Saving Hope

Aired on: NBC

Reviewed by Justine Manzano

            The life of a fangirl can be an odd little mix.  Sometimes there is happiness, when your favorite actor/actress/musician chooses a project you can get behind.  Sometimes there is shame, when your favorite actor/actress/musician chooses a project that makes you wince.  But, for a good fangirl, there is always loyalty.  Which means that through the ups and downs of the career, you keep cheering them on, keep buying the products, keep the ratings growing to the best of your ability, cross your fingers and hope.  Which is, oddly enough, the theme of the subject of this review - HOPE.  But we'll get back to that in a moment.  What you must know before you begin this review is that I am a very big, sometimes mildly ridiculous, fan of actor Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1, Smallville, a myriad of cringe-worthy sci-fi movies that I still watch...and own...).  When I heard that Shanks was coming out with a new series, namely the topic of this review, Saving Hope, I was jazzed...and a little frightened.  But, there was that loyalty thing - and as soon as I started to see previews and clips of the series it became more than a loyalty thing.  I genuinely wanted to watch this show.  Still, the reviewer in me promised that I would review it when it came out, whether I could praise it for being exceptional or needed to grit my teeth through writing the criticism.   

            Saving Hope follows the Chief of Surgery of Hope-Zion Hospital, Charlie Harris (Shanks).  Charlie is about to marry fellow surgeon Alex Reid (Erica Durance, Smallville), and they are on the way to said wedding when their taxi gets into an accident.  The accident causes Charlie to slip into a coma, leaving Alex distraught as she tries to figure out not only how to continue to work in a building where her fiancé has become a patient, but how to answer her fellow doctor's questions about treatment for her ailing lover.  While Alex copes with this loss, she also must deal with the arrival of fellow surgeon and ex-boyfriend Joel Goran (Daniel Gillies, The Vampire Diaries), a doctor who is attempting to inspire a more personal outlook on dealing with patients.  Rounding out the cast of doctors is psychiatry resident Dr. Gavin Murphy (Kristopher Turner), neurosurgeon Shahir Hamza (Huse Madhavji) and surgical resident Maggie Lin (Julia Taylor Ross), each dealing with their own medical and social dramas as the series progresses.  Sounds like a pretty standard medical drama, right?  No - because there's one catch - while all of this is going on, Charlie Harris is watching.  He's "...having an out of body experience.  In a tuxedo," to use his words.  Trapped in his coma, he can see a lot more of what is going on in the hospital than he previously would have been privy to - people, both living and dead, that need help.  Charlie can't help but get caught up in the stories that unfold before him as he struggles to find a way back to the living and to Alex.   

            I loved this show.  It actually made me laugh and cry.  Damn clichés.  Shanks and Durance made me fall in love with the romance of Charlie and Alex within the first five minutes.  The chemistry between them is strong enough to hold out despite knowing that one of them will be in a coma for large chunks of the series.  Each of the actors had their chance to shine, and there wasn't a poor performance in the house - everyone from series regulars to guest stars did their share to pull at the heartstrings and entertain.  Of course, I was partial to Shanks' nuanced performance and sardonic humor.  His line delivery was spot on, every statement filled with exactly the right levity or weight.  There were often times in which he barely said a word, but there was more than enough communicated non-verbally, the mark of a gifted actor.  Durance managed to strike the perfect balance of vulnerability and power, the indecisiveness in her dealings regarding Charlie never spreading to hospital business, where her confidence shines through.  And Gillies managed to make Joel likable, despite a questionable surgical decision in the very first episode and a clear negative dating past with Alex.  All of these brilliant performances wouldn't have meant much without a talented writing staff who created this world with emotional resonance, depth of character and a heavy dose of the surreal.  We can already see the potential for storyline growth involving even the minor characters in the pilot.  There is a perfect balance of spiritual and science, and one never feels like one is drowning the other out. 

            Of course, reviewers must express their gripes and I would be remiss if I didn't.  I leave it in the hands of the writers to figure out where this series goes.  Because while I love what I've seen, I can't help but wonder how many stories can be drawn out of it.  By this, I don't mean the medical drama part of it, but Charlie's storyline.  However, despite my concerns in that regard, the pilot did a good job of making me want to follow the series and find out.  I also thought that Lost couldn't last more than a season, so I've been wrong before. The point is that I want them to figure out a way to make this series continue, which counts for a lot.  The other gripe is an offbeat one because I like the concept so much and I wanted it to work, but alas, it bugged me a bit in practice.  There is a heavy use of lens flare in the pilot.  I saw this in the promos and found it to be a very interesting way to portray the surreal nature of Charlie's journey.  But something about the full hour of it occasionally made my eyes freak out a little.  There were certain points where the flare was bright enough to blot out large portions of the actors' faces.  But even that was a minor blight on a clean sheet.  Not much at all to complain about.   

            All in all, the pilot of Saving Hope did exactly what it was supposed to do.  It made me want to see more, it sparked my interest and it introduced me to a cast of characters with great potential and compelling issues.  Needless to say, they have hooked me.  Though I would have kept watching anyway for my Shanks fangirling sensibilities, the part of me that is asking you to join me is 100% my reviewer side.  Believe me, I would never subject my readers to any of the above mentioned cringe-worthy sci-fi movies (even though my DVD's are well worn).  So check it out.  Let's see if we can't keep this show on the air long enough to show us how much can be done with it.   I may have started this thing as a fan of Michael Shanks, but by the end of the pilot, I was a fan of Saving Hope.  


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