Some dramas start off tentatively and attempt to reel you in slowly. Set at the nation’s best transplant hospital, Three Rivers is not one of those shows. Before the opening credits even begin, the audience is introduced to four patients—boom, boom, boom, boom—and the medical personnel who will be caring for them. Though located in the small city of Pittsburgh, Three Rivers has the money to provide its staff with the futuristic technology necessary to juggle so many patients: Indeed, patients’ vitals appear on a conference room window as if by magic.
While the hospital is unusually modern and pretty, its staff is never distracted by how attractive they are. And unlike Grey’s Anatomy, the doctors appear to focus on their patients, not sex, during work hours. That’s not to say their personal lives aren’t addressed. Dr. Miranda Foster (Katherine Moennig, with an unusually long haircut) is the daughter of the man who made Three Rivers the hospital it is today, and her daddy issues color how she diagnoses her patients. Dr. Andrew Yablonski (Alex O’Loughlin) is the main tributary of the group; he juggles two patients in need of heart transplants—one a determined Sudanese refugee with no health insurance, the other a pregnant woman in her third trimester—with a clean-shaven face, which is certainly a one-up on McDreamy. None of the actors are asked to stretch any muscles, though, as all the characters are, so far, largely uncomplicated.
The only humor in this serious show comes from genius doc David Lee’s (Daniel Henney) congenial hazing of greenhorn transplant coordinator Ryan Abbott (Christopher J. Hanke), whose fresh-faced character serves the same purpose as an intern. Instead of intubation, however, Abbott learns not to accost the families of organ donors. On his first trip to pick up a heart from a brain-dead patient, Abbott ignores protocol and advances on the family (who has requested more testing) to explain that a pregnant woman is waiting for the organ, and Lee is forced to give him an etiquette lesson. The mentor-schooling-the-newbie storyline is nothing new to medical procedurals though; it’s like a long-lost episode of ER discovered in someone’s attic.
With run-of-the-mill storylines and likeable doctors, Three Rivers is neither adrenaline-pumping, like NBC’s Trauma, nor genre-busting, like House. Instead, the show appears to be a friendly study in hard work and good manners. Whether its comforting bedside manner will put audiences to sleep remains to be seen.