“This is how it happens,” says Charlie (Michael Shanks), as he surveys the emergency room in Toronto’s Hope-Zion Hospital. Just minutes before, he was chief of surgery, now, following a car accident in which he sustained a head injury, he’s watching from another dimension. And he’s philosophical: “You leave it all behind,” he goes on, “Everything you love, everything you know. You belong to the hospital now. All you can do is hope.” And with that, he’s named his show, Saving Hope, a Canadian-made series premieres on NBC on 7 June.
While Charlie’s body remains in a coma, his other self hangs around. Like other recent (and canceled) supernatural-twist shows A Gifted Man and Awake, Saving Hope provides a series of reasons for Charlie’s predicament. For one, he looks after chief resident Alex (Erica Durance), whom he’s about to marry when their cab is smashed (“I am having an out-of-body experience in a tuxedo,” he notes). For another, he has lessons to learn and to articulate for the rest of us. It’s good for doctors to be empathetic, to be humble, and to get to know their patients. It also looks like the in-between world is full of lens flares.
Some of these lessons are absorbed by Charlie’s colleagues and students, as when former romantic rival turned replacement surgeon Joel (Daniel Gillies) sorts out how to deal with an Iraq war veteran (Dwain Murphy) who resists his counsel: “I watched a bunch a guys die over there for no reason,” the vet sums up when Joel guess he has PTSD, “I probably do.” And too many lessons are just soapily obvious: resident Maggie (Julia Taylor Ross) must learn to treat patients with respect, even if they’re youthfully silly or, in the case of one young woman, overweight (“I was having trouble examining her,” she tells Alex, “because she’s so fat”).
As Charlie functions as a kind of ringmaster, observing some four or five lessons-as-storylines, the first episode feels crammed and contrived. In a bit of inadvertent comedy, he also observes himself, in a coma and also Alex, who maintains hospital schedule (?), with occasional visits to her fiancé‘s bedside, at once awkward and comely as she ponders how to communicate with him. “I’m still here,” his other-dimensional self says. This may be how it happens. But you can still hope it’s not so corny.