'Combat Hospital': ABC tries a war series
Southern Afghanistan, 2006 . . . heat, dust and a hot war. Outside of Kandahar is a military hospital operated by the Canadians; the occasional RPG whistles overhead, and sirens split the fetid air when wounded coalition soldiers are medevaced in -- or when an "HVI," or "high-value individual," in this instance, a wounded Taliban commander, is brought in for treatment.
Two new trauma surgeons arrive to grope their way through this chaos. Dr. Rebecca Kincaid (Michelle Borth), a hotshot surgeon who most recently worked stateside in Miami and leaves behind an ex-boyfriend who pesters her with texts; and Capt. Bobby Trang (Terry Chen), who is unprepared for the horrors he is about to face. Their commanding officer is Dr. Xavier Marks (Elias Koteas), who is frazzled, overworked and understaffed.
MY SAY Wow. A hospital drama set in Afghanistan featuring Canadian doctors tending to grievously wounded soldiers? Has ABC completely lost its mind? Just to step back a moment and rationally examine this venture from a show-business standpoint, the network clearly did not get the memo that explains how war dramas are avoided like poison ivy by viewers. The pages of Variety are littered with the bodies of noble and ignored big-screen attempts -- "In the Valley of Elah," "Lions for Lambs," "The Hurt Locker." TV's best-known valiant effort, "Over There," was valiant for 13 episodes before cancellation.
But why shouldn't this be on the air? "Combat Hospital" is not remotely a great show, but it's not remotely a bad one, either. This is not, in other words, a Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy") treatment with hyper-sexed doctors jumping into each others' arms as the choppers thump overhead. Genuinely respectful of the subject matter, this clearly wants to say something important about the war and the remarkable people who tend to the wounded. It's just not clear from the first episode what that "something" is.
Placid and often incomprehensibly bland, "Combat Hospital" still has flashes of intelligence. Definitely worth a second look.