3 Lbs. a no-brainer
November 14, 2006 7:46pm CST
There is now preliminary evidence, albeit anecdotal, that the lack of a medical drama on a broadcast network can exert enough pressure on the cranial sections of program executives to cloud their judgments. We shouldn't oversimplify, of course. A network is a complicated organism, and much more study is needed, but this finding does explain the arrival of 3 Lbs. on CBS. Although competently produced, the series about doctors who specialize in brain maladies lacks a dramatic spark. Characters aren't fully formed; stories aren't arresting. Sometimes it even seems like the show was created from the transplanted organs of other series. The central figure, brain surgeon Doug Hanson (Stanley Tucci), is arrogant and abrasive, though not entirely without compassion, making him a "7" on the 1-10 House scale. That puts him smack in the middle of a character no man's land--neither outrageous enough nor heroic enough to capture our fascination. Mostly, he functions as the embodiment of the idea that the brain is just a complex motherboard, repairable by a good technician with accurate schematics. The yin to Hansen's yang is Jonathan Seger (Mark Feuerstein), a brain surgeon newly selected for a fellowship that lets him work alongside Hansen and learn from the master. Seger is empathetic and patient--though, at least initially, naive about intrahospital politics and rivalries. Then there's Adrianne Holland (Indira Varma), a barefoot neurologist with a holistic bent whose appearance in the series contributes more to the level of diversity than to the dynamics of the drama. Three episodes sent to reviewers reveal a sameness from week to week. Opening scenes show a normal and happy individual who then has a seizure or blacks out. Computer graphics a la CSI fill the screen with neural pathways in bright colors and then, boom!--we're in the Hansen Institute staring at enough brain scans to wallpaper the Mayo Clinic. Each patient has an impossible dilemma to resolve, and each is accompanied by a spouse or guardian who plays devil's advocate. There's a "B" story as well, played mainly for emotional purposes and lacking much depth. The series is the brainchild of Peter Ocko, who has promised to explore the personal lives of the doctors in greater depth later. For now, though, all we get are shallow and hurried romances that dissolve faster than denture tablets. In the second episode, for example, Seger has a fling with a patient's lawyer that ends so quickly it makes a one-night stand feel leisurely by comparison. Tucci's skills as an actor are not debatable and his being recast into the lead (and given producer credit) likely took the show up a notch. Great care is evident in the way cases are explained and presented and in the production design. With all that, though, there still needs to be compelling characters and engaging stories, both of which are present here only in trace amounts.