When Grey’s Anatomy premiered in 2005, the show kicked off a flurry of imitations that simply didn’t make the cut (The Deep End and Off the Map) of shows that mixed procedural and melodrama. Sometimes the cancellations were based on poor ratings and simply just bad timing. Luckily, ABC has found a couple of exceptions that broke through the familiar territory in Rookie Blue and the unestablished new show Combat Hospital.
When Rookie Blue premiered last year, the show focused on a group of rookie cops who had a lot to learn to become good police officers on the street. This season the show still followed the same group of rookie cops who were still learning the lay of the professional land and still making mistakes along the way. The show centered on the personal and professional dramas of Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym) who was still caught in an unofficial love triangle with her live-in boyfriend Luke (Eric Johnson) and her partner/one night stand Sam (Ben Bass). Andy’s friends Dov (Gregory Smith), Chris (Travis Milne) and Gail (Charlotte Sullivan) had to learn to deal with their personal and professional baggage as they became defacto roommates in Dov’s apartment. Their individual quirks and familial connections had to be adjusted with each day on the job. Will the rookies become battle hardened vets like their training officers or become casualties of their job?
For new show Combat Hospital , it followed a group of military doctors working in war torn Afghanistan in 2006 during the height of the war. New arrivals Major Rebecca Gordon (Michelle Borth) and Captain Bobby Trang (Terry Chen) had no idea what to expect when they arrived and were soon in for the suprise of a lifetime when they arrived. They had no time to unpack or even properly introduce themselves to everyone. They were immediately thrown to the wolves by their superior officer Colonel Xavier Marks (Elias Koteas) who didn’t care about their baggage. Just that they could do their jobs without hesitation, which meant sometimes operating on the enemy like they did for a wounded Taliban leader. The newly single Major Gordon had to reject the advances of her colleague Simon Hill (Luke Mably) soon after her arrival and started to help her roommate Grace (Deborah Kara Unger) in doing work at a women’s clinic. Can Major Gordon and Captain Trang make the grade or will they fail miserably?
In terms of drama, Rookie Blue and Combat Hospital had both in spades. Both shows had to deal with professionals dealing with starting a new job in an environment that they’re unfamiliar with. Being a police officer and a doctor in a war zone meant that sometimes you might not make it home alive. Rookie Blue‘s season premiere dealt with how the cast dealt with a shocking shooting through the senseless tragedy of a girl who died too young and almost losing one of their own. That one singular tragedy unfolded from beginning to end in real time fashion and showed the true colors of everyone involved. Blue has smoothed over some of season one’s awkwardness by putting the love triangles and relationship dramas on the backburner until next week. Hospital‘s first episode showcased how war can change everyone from someone who enjoyed the work and the comforts of home at the same time. It was a place where your troubles are secondary. There was a little too much emphasis on the personal dramas instead of the cases which should be ironed out in future episodes.
Both shows each had breakout performers who made watching each show unforgettable. Blue‘s allstars were Peregrym and Bass who had plenty of unresolved sexual tension as partners who were clearly attracted to each other, even though their relationship would cause more harm than good. Bass showcased his character’s genuine concern for Peregrym after she was shot. His anger and concern pored all over his face as he observed how she was coping during the course of the case. Peregrym allowed her character to be put through the ringer as she dealt with surviving the shooting and why an innocent girl didn’t. Her emotions ranged from sadness to anger as she arrested the suspect who put her in that position. It’s too early to tell which stars on Hospital are superstars, but an early contender was Koteas who definitely defined unpredictable and made it impossible to determine what he was going to do next. The show should focus on him more instead of the new arrivals to give it more of an edge.
Combat Hospital premiered on June 21th and airs Tuesdays at 10:00 pm. Rookie Blue premiered on June 23rd and airs Thursdays at 10 pm. Both shows air on ABC.
Verdict: Two shows to beat the summertime blues until Grey’s Anatomy returns this fall.
TV Score: 2 out of 5 stars (Combat Hospital)
3 out of 5 stars (Rookie Blue)
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)