Michael Shanks has always been known for being Dr. Daniel Jackson on Stargate SG-1, so much so that he got classified as a "genre
" actor and despite the fact that Michael Shanks accepted the classification himself, he wanted to branch out and show that he wasn't silly Dr. Daniel Jackson, that he could be dramatic himself hence the roles in SGU where he tossed out the character of Dr. Daniel Jackson and instead used the roles to showcase his dramatic acting. Despite the fact that he was well praised, it didn't get him anywhere in freeing himself of his Stargate image until one day, a project from the likes of CTV, NBC (soon to be former-home of Babar) and eOne (home of Sanctuary) appeared; Michael saw and said "this might be it, this might be the project that proves my versatility.
" and he went, auditioned and the rest as they say is history...
Now eOne has been known to produce series that are cheap yet manage to prove themselves in terms of profitability, ("Rookie Blue
" for example.) this series being a medical drama obviously fits eOne's criteria; cheap, versatile, able to build up a dedicated fanbase, be somewhat of a guilty pleasure but here's the twist, this one involves a well known surgeon becoming sort of a spirit himself... This makes it somewhat different
from the norm as it allows for some unique situations to be had, just imagine; having Michael walk around in the hospital, observing, watching, hoping, etc. and just think about the world around him, spirits walking around; maybe they're dead, maybe they're not and there's the whole "how does this world work" thing... But even though there are some unique ideas, the pilot does not utilize the concept as much
as we'd expect.
Our introduction to the titular character Charlie Harris (obviously "Michael Shanks" so I'm just going to call him that.) is done well; through the first few acts, we see a character who's a serious surgeon, dedicated to his work but somewhat loose at the same time. The character may not be well written but most of what he does is acceptable to the point where the writing is easily subverted, though the writing could
be better. Michael Shanks does a pretty good job showing that he has not
forgotten what made him popular in the first place (hint: "Dr. Daniel Jackson") as his acting makes the scenes he's in fun, hell he even signs a guys arm; however, he does seem like he's trying to be dramatic in a lot of these scenes, even in the fun scenes. Don't get me wrong, his dramatic acting is decent but it just feels like he's trying to escape his Stargate astigmatism in many of these scenes; it's like he's telling himself to not act like Dr. Daniel Jackson even though there are some scenes where he does that and it's perplexing to say the least because it shows two sides to him, the dramatic side and the easy-going Stargate side; two sides that don't seem to co-exist well in this show.
His scenes where he does become a spirit are passable but they feel lacking
; it just feels like the guy is standing there while he looks on and watches various people. Some of these scenes are reasonable but it just feels like with many of these scenes it feels like they're trying to be clever and end up being somewhat stupid, not to say they're not completely stupid but still... There are various points throughout the episode where he narrates or gives something clever and while they're initially enjoyable the first time around, they instantly decline to generic and
pandering; not helping much is Michael Shank's narration skills. King Babar he ain't, his narration lacks the impact and the brevity that makes such narration memorable; listening to it, it just feels like he's going through the motions reading a script in an audio booth, not really putting much into it. I wouldn't put all of the blame on Michael, much of would have to do with the writers putting a focus on the hospital rather then our main star thus leaving less time for him as a result.
The hospital (and the look of the show itself) itself manages to be super clean and sterile, a real contrast to even House which at least manage to have some form of griminess in it; I can't put my finger on it but there is a feeling to the hospital that screams out "this is a welcoming place, we have bright colors and artistic accents, you won't ever die or feel the stress or worry here.
", I mean there is nothing that even has a speck of dirt or a hint of age to it, everything is colorful, bright, futuristic, new and stylish; there are even light effects reminiscent of Star Trek, something which becomes old and gimmicky quickly. I'm not expecting a completely dirty hospital but I am expecting some realism here... The people behind the hospital are somewhat unique, they each have personalities of their own; conflicts, aspects, traits, you name it, hell, they even have a guy in a plaid shirt near a guy who's recently been in an accident; however, none of the people shown are unique enough to be appealing and most feel like they've been ripped from an episode of Greg's Anatomy; hell most of the show feels like Greg's Anatomy from the conversations to the situations to the music to even the patients themselves.
The various medical cases shown are the usual
medical fare; a black guy wants his arm chopped off, two people drank a love potion that's unintentionally poisonous, a couple with a baby, the John Doe case who can't easily be saved... These cases vary from interesting to completely dull, however none of them manage to stand out; they just blend
in with each other. The characters interact with the case well, the patients act well and many of the cases are reasonably executed with and in the case of the arm, I found myself being somewhat attracted to the character of the army vet. However, everybody on the show treats it as business as usual; looking at a patient, talking it out, doing some surgery stuff if needed then moving on to the next patient once all lose ends are tied up. I get that this is a medical drama but if every one of the cases were treated in the way it's shown on the show then being a doctor would become incredibly dull incredibly
quickly; this also goes for the scenes not relating to the cases, no one's really putting any effort into it, even when relating to the main character Michael Shanks; it just seems like they're phoning it in. I'm aware that this is an eOne show with limited budget but they could of taken into consideration the liveliness of the characters.
I will say that the Michael Shank's girlfriend is decently portrayed. The actor behind the role may not hit the marks all of the time but she knows when how to be emotional and sweet and serious at the right time, she has a good charismatic presence, she manages to be someone you can relate to (An example would be the scenes where she's with patients, she talks about philosophical, personal and medical stuff in a way that makes it seem like a character is saying it, not an actor) and she even manages to carry a lot
of scenes, which is essential since most of the show is going to be focusing on her. Her relationship to Michael is one of the most pivotal parts of the show, in fact it will be the thing that'll determine whether or not the show succeeds or fails. I personally think that it'll work out, I mean the two share a romantic chemistry that's at least capable enough and there are sparks of brilliance throughout; like when Michael saves a girl from an SUV which is a decent show of character. A lot of the scenes involving the two effectively show the charm and cuteness of the couple and though it's not super charming, it's enough
to hook you in and have you wondering whether or not they'll be reunited... There is a potential problem in that it could falter the relationship or take it in directions that ruin the dynamic; stuff like this is hard to pull off well but regardless, it's up to future episodes to show us that.
One thing I'll note is this show doesn't take itself seriously most of the time; sure, there's blood and surgery but it's trying to be somewhat laid back with it's plot, situations and characters and that's somewhat of a good thing because it can provide the a good watching atmosphere but it can also undermine
the entire show as well. In closing, this is the beginning to what appears to be a generic medical drama with an interesting twist; the hospital is capable, the characters are capable, the cases are capable but none of it manages to grab you or even be unique. It is however, a decent way to waste an hour if it turns up on syndication and Michael Shanks proves himself to be decent though he should be less worried about trying to be dramatic and just be himself; overall it's not a disaster but it's ultimately nothing special.