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October 9, 2015

Heartland: Pilot (series premiere)

by Brett Love, posted Jun 19th 2007 10:42AM
Heartland, Morena Baccarin, Treat Williams, Kari Matchett

(S01E01) I was curious to get a look at this show as soon as I heard about it. If you were even the most casual fan of Everwood, the premise had to sound some bells. Treat Williams as a brilliant surgeon who struggles to juggle all of the balls in his personal life. That's a thumbnail sketch, but it's one that fits both Nathaniel Grant and Andy Brown very well.

With the premiere in the rear-view it's clear that this isn't a rehash of that story, although there are certain elements of it present. I think that with Nathaniel Grant we are getting a look at the pre-Everwood Dr. Andy Brown. The one that was so obsessed with his work that he pushed everyone away. The scene with Kate (Kari Matchett) where she observed that even if he came home, he'd never really live there, fit right in with the past that we knew for Andy. As did the ending where he finally decides to make an effort for the family, but gets called away at the last second. But enough about Everwood. Heartland will have to stand on its own to make it, and I think it has a pretty good shot.

My initial reaction to the show was, "Dang, TNT isn't fooling around here." This isn't some goofy little cable drama. The production quality is top notch and the show benefits from TNT being one of the few cable outlets that has its own HD channel. Even better than that though is the casting. Williams and Matchett are well cast as the leads, and the addition of Dabney Coleman and Morena Baccarin in supporting roles is a welcome one. We didn't really get to see a lot of Gage Golightly as Thea and Chris William Martin as "Vancouver" so the jury is still out, but so far so good.

The show seems to have been lumped in the "medical drama" group, understandably so. Although, based on this first episode it seems to be taking a bit of a different path. The focus seems to be shying away from the actual blood and guts of the procedures and getting at the emotional aspect of just what it is they are doing at St. Jude. It has its moments of surgical action, but the fact that they eschewed the typical OR barking of orders with bells and monitors sounding off and did the entire procedure with a song ("How We Operate") playing over it is telling. The story isn't the procedure itself, it's the people involved that make that happen.

Kate has a tremendously difficult job. She has to approach someone who is more than likely going through the worst moment of their life and talk about things they don't want to talk about. If that isn't hard enough, whether or not someone else lives just might be riding on the outcome. It will be interesting to see how that wears on her as the show moves on.

I like that Nate is such a flawed character. Given what he is doing, it would have been easy to set him up as the great hero, fighting the system and saving lives. And it's clear from the conversations with the board that there is going to be a level of that. But the fact that someone so in control of all of those things is just lost once he leaves work is interesting. I thought the back and forth between Nate and Kate was very good, especially the scene on the plane. The level of discomfort from Bill and Jessica as they kept at it was very evident.

You almost feel sorry for Jessica. Almost, because when your relationship starts with your partner being married to someone else, expecting any level of fidelity is somewhat foolish. I'm not entirely sure what her motivation with the relationship is. Has she really fallen for Nate and is just blinded by it, or is she really just trying to hook a doctor? Whatever the case, it should be clear to her that the two of them want very different things at the moment and one of both of them is going to need to adjust.

It is great to see Dabney Coleman back on TV. He's perfect as the wise old mentor and I do expect some great things from the exchanges he has with Nate. Not unlike the scene this week where Nate finally admitted that he knew he was working selfishly against Bart's wishes by pushing for the transplant, but that he did it because he's not ready for Bart to leave.

I have to say, I thought Ryan Hurst had a great performance as the husband, Mark Evans. That's an angle to the story that we don't get to see a lot. The confusion and desperation he showed were heartbreaking. How does someone deal with something like that. He also brought out the strange revelation from Nate that he can see the donors in his patients. I'm undecided on that bit at the moment. I'm interested to see where they go with it, but aware that it has the potential to go off the rails pretty quickly.

All in all, it was a pretty good debut. It's also worth noting that the show is a nice match for its lead-in, The Closer. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in TV, as the folks over at Saved found out last season, but Heartland seems to be starting off on the right foot.

So, what did you think of the premiere?
Excellent, I'll be back for more.54 (49.1%)
It was ok, but not appointment television.21 (19.1%)
Bah, another medical drama.15 (13.6%)
Screw this, I'm still pissed about Saved.12 (10.9%)
-delete-8 (7.3%)

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BC McKinney

Was the second half-hour better than the first? I got bored and switched to "Hollyoaks."

June 19 2007 at 6:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This show sucks enough for two shows. This long-suffering doctor and his female cleaning wrasse are just insufferable.

June 19 2007 at 4:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brett Love

He was left out of the cast photo because his character isn't introduced until next week.

June 19 2007 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why was Rockmond Dunbar cut out of the cast photo?

June 19 2007 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brett Love

David, the pilot is scheduled to air again next Monday before the second episode. I'm getting it at 5PM and 8PM here, but check your local listings.

June 19 2007 at 12:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your review could have benefited from not assuming we'd watched the show. You're talking about the characters and plot as though we know what happened in the episode. While I don't need a complete play-by-play of what occurred, a quick synopsis of what happened and who the major players are would be nice.

June 19 2007 at 12:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Does the premiere repeat at all this week? Based on your review, I think I'd like to watch it. I initially shied away from it since it seemed like (a) "yet another medical show"; and (b) Everwood redux.

June 19 2007 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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