NEW DRAMA "Complications"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on USA

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Whew, this is some serious summer for cable. One day, a TV critic sees TNT's "Proof," which thoughtfully probes possibilities of life after death. The next, she's watching USA's "Complications," a medical/crime/ethical thriller that wades into the deep end of doing wrong for the right reasons. Or is that vice versa?

Jason O'Mara is the good bad-doer here, back after popular turns on everything from "Life on Mars" to "Vegas" (plus a "Good Wife" guest arc). In this new drama from "Burn Notice" creator Matt Nix, the reliable star plays an Atlanta ER doctor who, having lost both a child and his professional purpose, stumbles one day into a gangland street shooting. In an instant, he saves a child's life, kills someone else, and feels convulsively "different. Like I can breathe."

His ER colleagues call him Dirty Harry M.D. And are they wrong? His esteem-boosting act of "heroism" leads to, yes, complications, whose many extralegal tentacles quickly encompass gun-toting gang leaders, a bad-news ER nurse (Jessica Szohr), a suspicious physician (Lauren Stamile), unwillingly entangled patients, and the doctor's own alienated wife (Beth Riesgraf).

MY SAY Is that vague enough? "Complications" unspools its intertwined details in dynamic enough fashion that I'd be a fool to spill spoilers. Let's just say the maxim about the cover-up being worse than the initial offense proves perilously true. The series' thriller vibe, fueled by Jeff Russo's pulse-pounding music, keeps you fixated, while writer-director Nix and his cast weave full-blooded characterizations that nicely eschew any easy dichotomy of upright/evil. As O'Mara's doctor intelligently dissects his own actions, we're invited to contemplate those moral choices.

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And the unexpected consequences continue to snowball -- right through the bloody cliffhanger of Thursday's episode. Nix knows how to dig deeper holes for his folks, while he broadens their motivations, sometimes recognized only along the way. Nix isn't bad at keeping the plot pot percolating, either. Let's hope he holds his rising temperature of improbability below the boiling point.

GRADE B+