Tuesday, November 14, 2006

TV Review - 3 LBS

(Originally posted on Blogcritics.org)

Television audiences love a good medical show, comedy or drama, from M*A*S*H to ER; they always seem to go for the unique mix of healing and the human condition.

3 LBS is a visually captivating show. The opening scene of a string recital is lush in its lighting and setting. We see a young woman, Cassie Mack, playing her violin superbly, accompanied by her mother on the cello. Suddenly, the girl falters and her fingers stop working properly. Next, the camera begins to slide through Cassie’s layers: clothing, dermis, subcutaneous tissue, bones, and then travels the path of nerves from her fingers to her brain.

So, we see that this girl’s brain is ailing, as lights flash around her gray matter. Then, the camera backs out just the same way it went in, until we see Cassie’s worried face, as she too realizes something is very wrong. Finally, the focus settles on her violin, slowly falling out of her hands, and dropping to the floor. The beauty of the gleaming instrument striking the floor produces not only discordant sound, but image as well. Simple, but powerful.

As the scene cuts to a busy New York street, we are jolted back to reality. Dr. Seger (Mark Feuerstein) has just arrived from the West Coast. Seger is to join a neurosurgery team headed by the famous (or infamous) Dr. Doug Hanson (Stanley Tucci). Seger is greeted by one of Hanson’s assistants, who politely, but pointedly remarks that “he’s late”. She brings him into the hospital, and as she guides him to the Neuro wing, she casually mentions that the staff turnover is high on Dr. Hanson’s team, and advises him not to unpack all his things just yet.

Even before Seger enters the patient conference in Dr. Hanson’s office, we already know that there will be conflict, or at the least, tension. Dr. Seger has been portrayed as the empathetic eager beaver; while we’ve been made aware that his soon-to-be mentor has sent lesser men packing.

Oh, and we are not disappointed. Tucci’s Dr. Hanson is not a bad guy, nor boor, yet he states his findings and his solutions without handholding or any evident compassion. Dr. Seger senses Mrs. Mack’s growing alarm and confusion during Hanson’s discussion of her daughter’s condition, and he attempts to translate the medical terms into simpler language, and to inject a little comfort into the situation.

While Drs. Hanson and Seger prepare for a mapping procedure on Cassie, a side plot is introduced. A beautiful neurologist, Dr. Adrianne Holland (Indira Varma) is examining a patient in her office. While he submits to some standard tests, he quizzes the Dr. on why she does her exams barefoot. So here, we learn that not only is Dr. Holland is not only beautiful, but a bit eccentric as well. We also find out that her patient, Mr. Wills has been getting lost, and becoming forgetful. He also cannot distinguish between certain items when held in his hand. Dr. Holland used a fancy term for that problem; I’ll just say his tactile sense is messed up on the left side of his body.

Now we have two patients who need top-notch care, or is it three? The great Dr. Hanson is evidently mortal, he suffers from visual hallucinations, and during his brain scan (to test a new piece of equipment), an abnormality appears. However, he seems to be on top of his game, until his patient Cassie loses her expressive language skills after he completes his mapping procedure.

Again, the creators of 3 LBS use some unique and beautiful visual techniques to illustrate Cassie’s loss of speech. There is a dreamlike scene here that is very compelling. The camera work is one of the strengths of the show, right along with the writing, direction and acting. Feuerstein and Tucci are set up to play a bit of Good Cop – Bad Cop, but neither is drawn to such extremes.

Dr. Seger is kind and articulate, but is not above flirting with Dr. Holland, despite his acknowledgement of his girlfriend back home. On the other hand, Dr. Hanson is distant and abrupt. As much as I adore Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of the over the top grouchy Dr. House – Dr. Hanson is a bit more palatable, and is very capable of showing humanity when it is needed.

I shall not give spoilers, but there are some very intriguing twists at the end of the episode. One gives a sort of closure, and the other, makes us ask more questions. Those questions, along with the fine work helmed by Peter Ocko (Boston Legal) should bring viewers back for more.

3 LBS makes its network debut, tonight at 10:00 PM (ET)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool writing, Mary. This show sounds fresh and unusual because of the camera techniques. I like the title, too.