Friday, April 24, 2009

Pilot Script Review - Trauma

Written By: Dario Scardapane
Draft Date: December 17th, 2008
Pages: 65
Network: NBC
Category: Jury's Out

I read a fairly early draft of this script, and I've been told about some changes to it that make me want to elevate it from Jury's Out to Thumbs Up. My rationale for putting Trauma in the Jury's Out category in the first place was that I just wasn't sure the premise was sustainable on the scale presented in the pilot... and I still don't think it is.

The show is about an Emergency Response Team in San Francisco (as well as doctors at hospitals and the patients, but mostly the EMTs). The pilot features a helicopter explosion at an incomplete skyscraper (which takes place a year ago and provides some traumatic / tragic backstory to many of our regular characters... it was an EMT helicopter carrying friends, colleagues, loved ones...) and, in the present, a pileup at the Bay Bridge involving an incredibly-hard-to-miss-with story about a carpool mother and the five kids in the back of her van in the crash. I mean... it's gonna be a tearjerker.

But, jeez, what's next week?

And don't get me wrong... ER pulled it off, to varying degrees of success, for 15 years. It can be done. ER, on the other hand, was pretty much entirely situated in the emergency room. Production-wise, that's a lot easier to deal with on a weekly basis than creating new major disasters for the EMTs to respond to. I mean... we all got really sick of ER's big disaster episodes (hell, Grey's Anatomy only tried to pull it off twice and in the middle of the first story - the Ferry Crash arc - we all got pretty fed up with it so when the fourth season inverted ambulance episodes came around my eyes were already rolling rather swiftly).

Then I remembered that this is mostly about reviewing pilots, and only minorly about assessing series potential. As a pilot (script), Trauma works. It is big, it is bloody, it has a number of haunted lead characters. It's the anti-ER (because it features much more responding to the emergency and bringing the victims to the trauma center than it does of the trauma center itself) even if it tries to take a number of elements that made that series work so effectively in the beginning. We'll see if it works on the screen. I think some levity might need to be injected into the series, because it is very dark. Then again, too much levity and you wind up with a Grey's Anatomy tonal copycat with EMTs instead of surgeons so going for the more ER-esque serious tone may pay off.

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