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'Saved': Emergency Rescue Teams on the Tube

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And if you don't want to read, you can always check out what's new on TV. One new show is called Saved. Ambulance workers are the stars. Here is TV critic Andrew Wallenstein.

Mr. ANDREW WALLENSTEIN (Editor, The Hollywood Reporter): By my own unscientific estimate, the average EMT appearing on ER or Grey's Anatomy gets about 15 milliseconds of airtime per episode. If anyone out there is curious about this hidden world and didn't learn enough when Third Watch was on the air a couple of years ago, Saved will serve as a litmus test. But I can't say I came away particularly enthralled by its take on para-medicine.

To some degree, Saved is just what you expect, focusing on one ambulance as it makes a seemingly nonstop series of rescues. But it also finds time to be a character study of its protagonist, Wyatt Cole. We first meet him at an after hours cards game with dark rings around his eyes and a few days stubble on his face. On anyone else but the puppy-faced actor Tom Everett Scott, he'd seem the dangerous type. On Scott, it comes off as scruffy charm.

But we learn Wyatt leads a troubled life. He's a talented paramedic but something of a proud underachiever, refusing to apply to medical school and please his domineering father, who's a doctor himself. He's also a gambling addict in debt and self-denial. As you'll hear in this scene in which his broken hearted ex-girlfriend reaches out to him.

(Soundbite of TV show Saved)

Unidentified Woman (Actor): (As Character) This schedule is brutal.

Mr. TOM EVERETT SCOTT (Actor): (As Wyatt Cole) We'll have days off.

Unidentified Woman: (As Character) Which you spend gambling.

Mr. SCOTT: (As Wyatt Cole) Hey, what I do is not gambling. It's risk assessment.

Unidentified Woman: (As Character): I can't believe that's all you want. Playing poker and driving an ambulance.

Mr. SCOTT: (As Wyatt Cole) We do everything that you do. We just do it at 60 miles an hour.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: To its credit, Saved doesn't shy away from the dark side of Wyatt's character. The premiere episode's best moment is his encounter with a creepy bookie who happens to be his childhood friend.

(Soundbite of TV show "Saved")

Unidentified Man: (As Mitch) This is half. We were in the same math class, so I know you can add.

Mr. SCOTT: (As Wyatt Cole) (Unintelligible)

Unidentified Male: (As Mitch) You were my friend, Wyatt. We went to grade school together, so why do you do this?

Mr. SCOTT: (As Wyatt Cole) We have a history, Mitch, but we're not friends.

Unidentified Male: (As Mitch) Okay, now you're just hurting my feelings. You do have a choice. So why don't you just stop feeding the beast, huh?

Mr. SCOTT: (As Wyatt Cole) Let's just get this over with.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: When Saved tells the story of Wyatt's redemption, it can be riveting. But in the world of the ambulance, it comes up empty. The whole point of a show like this should be to steep the viewer in a subculture thick with jargon and procedural detail. But Saved doesn't teach you anything about paramedics that you didn't already know. Which makes it either a profession of little interest or a show that didn't do enough research.

What Saved does borrow from CSI and way too many other TV dramas, is a penchant for annoying visual flourishes. Whenever Wyatt approaches a patient, he's hit by a rush of images that wordlessly explain the patient's medical condition. It's intended to suggest Wyatt's instinctive ability to diagnose, but it's ridiculous. He's a paramedic, not a psychic.

Wyatt Cole is an interesting character well played by Scott, but there isn't much else to recommend about Saved. It's a medical show with too faint a pulse.

BRAND: Saved debuts tonight on the cable network TNT. Andrew Wallenstein is an editor for The Hollywood Reporter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Wallenstein
Andrew Wallenstein is the television critic for NPR's Day to Day. He is also an editor at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers television and digital media out of Los Angeles. Wallenstein is also the co-host of the weekly TV Guide Channel series Square Off. His essay on Holocaust films was published in Best Jewish Writing 2003 (Jossey-Bass), and he has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Business Week. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.