Saving Hope “Contact” Review

Creatively speaking, the pilot episode of Saving Hope raised a lot of questions about the direction of the show. While the second episode provided a window into the future direction of the show, more issues cropped up as well.

For starters, the writers showed you a little bit of their plan for Michael Shanks’ Charlie Harris. It would seem that Charlie is set to roam the hospital and converse with the near-dead or dead.* It’s definitely not making the best use of Michael Shanks, but it’s better than what the pilot gave us. Still, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of Charlie Harris talking about being invisible. Call me crazy, but I don’t think you would want your best actor to be invisible.

*A thought popped into my head when Charlie was trying to read the newspaper over the guy’s shoulder in the waiting room: What does Charlie’s spirit do all day? Aside from the occasional chats with dead people, what else is there for a spirit to do? A couple episodes from now, I would like to hear Harris talk about how bored he is.

Another ongoing problem that the show has is the supporting characters on the show. Through two episodes, these people are so underdeveloped that I have trouble remember most of their names without a trip to IMDB. While most of them are merely forgettable, there are a few characters that are fairly painful to watch. This week, they decided to devote some time to tracking Dr. Lin’s embarrassing courtship of Dr. Goran. (Yes, I had to look up both of those names.) Lin’s attempt at being just as cocky as he is in an attempt to get him into bed was so off-putting that it will take a few episodes of really quality work to get her in my good graces. For the record, she’s not capable of work on that level.

Even worse than the courtship was Goran and Lin’s patient of the week. Strangely, I was into it at the beginning despite the overdone blood transfusion/religion angle. Watching the woman writhe in pain was emotionally effective. It was really tough to see her that way. When the husband agreed to sacrifice the religious principles for the sake of the surgery, I thought we were potentially headed to an interesting place. I thought that Lin’s condescendingly cocky “You made the right decision” foretold doom. Apparently, I gave the show way too much credit. We only revisited the couple in a montage where the husband was happily kissing his now okay wife on the forehead. I’m not the biggest religious guy in the world, but I thought that whole scenario played out as a nice FU to religion. If anyone actually watched the show, I could imagine a few of them being offended.

While Lin and Goran’s POTW was awful to watch, I enjoyed the work of Alex Reid with her patient this week. There were plenty of unbelievable elements involved, but having the kid slip in and out of the world gave us an opportunity to watch Michael Shanks… you know… act. Plus, I thought Erica Durance was good in her scenes with the kid and the parents. She’s a credible actress, but she needs more help than her co-stars are giving her.

And therein lies the problem. All of these ills could be covered up if Shanks wasn’t spending his time standing in the corners of rooms staring at his bride-to-be. I’m actually kind of glad the ex-wife showed up to prompt Alex to ask Charlie’s doctor “Why isn’t Charlie waking up?” Alex, we’re all wondering the same thing.

Some other quick hits:

*The lens flare thing was a real issue for me this week. It was distracting to the point where I can’t imagine someone thinking it’s a good idea. My wife even asked if there was something wrong with our TV at one point.

*Coma arousal therapy? Sounds like an excuse for Erica Durance to take her top off. For the record, I’m for it.

*I’m going to be continually interested in the passage of time on this show. Given that the longer Charlie stays in the coma the less likely he is to come out of it, I can’t imagine the show having big jumps in time between episodes. This week’s episode occurred 3 days after the crash.

*I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take anything away from the scenes with the interim chief. Seemed like Alex was just being overly sensitive. The writers didn’t give her any reason to behave like that.

*The flashback scene was kind of weird. It was touching, but I can’t say that I’ve ever been lost on the road somewhere, and I felt compelled to pull over and tell my wife that I love her. It just seemed odd.

What did everyone else think?

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  • http://twitter.com/ginnytwin Libby

    Charlie (Michael Shanks) isn’t invisible, though. He has interactions with dead/limbo patients and with Alex in flashbacks. He’s also not the show’s best actor. They’re all quite good, actually. Erica Durance was singled out by VARIETY for her excellent performance and I can’t tell you how many tweets and IMDb posts I’ve seen from people whose biggest problem with the show right now is they dislike Charlie and Shanks’s portrayal of him. I don’t agree because, as I said, I think all of the actors are good.

    I can’t tell if you’re being serious or artificially snarky regarding the names of the characters. You’d have to be one lazy viewer to miss their names. Not only were they all said very clearly in the Pilot, there were scenes in the second episode that practically contrived a way for their names to be repeated in full. Maggie shouted Joel’s full name in the cafeteria line and she introduced herself–full name and all–to Joel when they met for a consult later. Shahir (the neurosurgeon) was named in the last episode and this one and he said Charlie’s ex wife, Dawn’s, full name (Dawn Bell) in his office conversation with Alex, who earlier said the ER doctor, Zach’s, full name. They were all named repeatedly and clearly. If you missed that, you’re a lazy, unprofessional, idiot.

    I’d say I was being too harsh except for the fact that you also bash the show for not giving Alex a reason for her confrontation with the interim chief of surgery, Dana. In their very first scene together, Alex was only a minute late to a surgery and Dana told her she was no longer allowed to do it. When Alex tried to plea her case, Dana bluntly told her she wasn’t going to get special treatment like the kind she must have been accustomed to as the girlfriend and fiancee of the previous chief, Charlie. So Alex visited Dana later to make sure that she didn’t have the wrong idea about what kind relationship she and Charlie had. That she was never given special treatment, and thus wanted to be treated with respect. 

    Speaking of respect, I hope your future reviews treat the show with more respect than you’ve done here.

    • Adam Newland

      Shots fired!

      I’m super glad that Variety enjoyed Erica Durance’s performance. Good for her. That being said, I think I am entitled to my opinion to some degree.

      Furthermore, I apologize for seeming like a lazy, unprofessional, idiot. I was merely trying to make a point that a lot of the ancillary characters are imminently forgettable. You would have to be a pretty lazy reader to miss that.

      Alex showed up late and wasn’t allowed to do the surgery. Do you have a job where it’s okay to show up late? The conflict comes across as petty.

      Finally, I am amused that you hope I treat the reviews with respect while calling me an idiot. That was worth a smile.

    • Anonymous

      Shots fired!
      I’m super glad that Variety enjoyed Erica Durance’s performance. Good for her. That being said, I think I am entitled to my opinion to some degree.
      Furthermore, I apologize for seeming like a lazy, unprofessional, idiot. I was merely trying to make a point that a lot of the ancillary characters are imminently forgettable. You would have to be a pretty lazy reader to miss that.
      Alex showed up late and wasn’t allowed to do the surgery. Do you have a job where it’s okay to show up late? The conflict comes across as petty.
      Finally, I am amused that you hope I treat the reviews with respect while calling me an idiot. That was worth a smile.

      • http://twitter.com/ginnytwin Libby

        Sure you’re entitled to your opinion. It sounds like a pretty questionable opinion based on what’s been said elsewhere by professionals more esteemed than yourself, but go ahead.

        Your point about the supporting cast being forgettable doesn’t jive with your commentary. If they were forgettable, then you wouldn’t have remembered to devote time to them in your review or have any thoughts/feelings about them at all. You would have forgotten them. Also, just because a character is allegedly underdeveloped doesn’t mean their names are hard to remember or difficult to catch while watching an episode.

        Alex was a minute late to her surgery. I’ve seen plenty of episodes of ER and Grey’s to know that’s hardly worth the treatment Alex received. Moreover, Dr. Kinney specifically told Alex she was being super harsh because, “I’m not your boyfriend. No special favors.” Alex confronted Dana later because Dana seemed to imply Alex received favors because she was dating Charlie not because she was upset about being shut out of a surgery for being late.

        Now, about calling you an idiot: if the shoe fits. Anyway, I’m glad I put a smile on your face.

        • Anonymous

          The supporting cast is forgettable, but since I am a professional :) then I make sure to address all parts of the show.

          You’re clearly a fan of the show. I’m sorry that my reviews don’t support your view of the show. Perhaps you should go read those more esteemed tv reviewers you referenced.

          That being said, feel free to stop by next week and tell me why I am such an idiot again.

  • Arry

    RE: the pulling over the car while lost comment – She is not his wife. They were on their way to get married when the car accident happened. And, it was made clear this was the first time that he expresses his love for her. D’oh!

    However, I do agree thjat Michael Shanks needs to be allowed to act more and narrate less!

    • Adam Newland

      Yes it was made clear. It just seemed like a weird time to decide to tell someone that you love them whether it’s the first time or the 127th time.

      I know she’s not his wife in that scene. I was making a reference to MY wife. I apologize for the ambiguity.

    • Anonymous

      Yes it was made clear. It just seemed like a weird time to decide to tell someone that you love them whether it’s the first time or the 127th time.
      I know she’s not his wife in that scene. I was making a reference to MY wife. I apologize for the ambiguity.

  • ptjackson

    I think I am starting to understand why we usually do not agree on TV shows. I think our focus is very different, so we naturally look for different things in order to judge a show! 8-)

    On the topic of the peripheral characters not being memorable, my take is that first, we have only seen two hours (or 2 – 45 mins, with commercial breaks) of this show, and it takes time to build the story and the characters. One thing that frustrates me with network programming is that they tend to cancel a show before it has time to build an audience and develop the story line and characters.

    I mean, heck, I watched the entire first season of Awake (may it RIP) and I could not tell you the names of his partners or doctors – nor could I tell you much about them. Any program with a large ensemble cast is hard to get to know everyone!

    Just my 2 cents worth. 8-)

    • Anonymous

      I am going to have to disagree. Effective shows establish characters within the first episode or two. It’s fine if you want to make the supporting players very forgettable (think Justified), but then you can’t turn around and give them a bunch of screen time.

      My favorite recent example is Girls. Lena Dunham established 4 characters in the matter of a half hour.

      It’s either one of the other give us a reason to care or let them be background noise, but you can’t do both.

      • ptjackson

         Well, this is what I mean about our approaches to a program. 8-)

        • Anonymous

          To each their own PT. As always, I respect your opinion. We should meet one day. I can imagine the resulting discussion would be quite interesting.

          • ptjackson

             Tee hee – it would not be dull, I’m sure! 8-)

            Actually, I’m glad that not everyone thinks the same way – life would be boring if that were true….

  • http://www.facebook.com/JamesS.Frost James Frost

    I cringe at the thought of any show having Michael Shanks considered to be their best actor. He can’t act and never could but fanboys seem to attach some kind of godlike status to him because of Stargate. It’s sad when truly great actors are sidelined due to the undeserved popularity of others because of their previous roles which were never based on great acting skills to begin with.

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