Bad TV can be good. We all have that show that we know we probably shouldn't be watching, but we just keep tuning in. For me, it's "Melissa & Joey" and "Glee." For you, maybe it's "Dancing With the Stars," "Smash," "Girls" . . . Maybe we're even too embarrassed to admit that we watch these shows, but they're still there, taking space up on our DVRs. Why? Because for whatever reason, they entertain us. One of the worst sins a new show can commit -- especially in the age of social media -- is just being there. Unfortunately for it, "Saving Hope" is just kind of there, despite the presence of a likable cast and an intriguing premise.
"Saving Hope" is a Canadian import from CTV that NBC has picked up to fill some of our long and empty summer nights. The generically titled "Hope" follows three doctors at Hope Zion hospital in Toronto, one of whom is in a coma . . . Let's back up a little. The pilot opens with a car accident. Drs. Alex Reid (Erica Durance, "Smallville") and Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks, "Stargate SG-1") are in a taxi on the way to their wedding, but their plans are interrupted rather violently when their cab is hit by an oncoming SUV. After saving a woman's life at the scene by sticking a tampon applicator into her collapsed lung, Charlie succumbs to his own head injury and is transported to Hope Zion, a frantic Alex accompanying him. This is where things get a bit wonky: Charlie starts talking to us, and then he realizes that he's actually standing outside of his own body, watching his fiancé try to save his life. With the exception of a ten minute flashback to let us get to know him, Charlie remains in the coma for the rest of the episode. He wanders the halls of Hope Zion, as he says, "having an out of body experience in a tuxedo." Presumably, he will remain in this supernatural limbo for the majority of the series. It's an intriguing beginning for a pilot, but it's one that ends up being mostly squandered.
Instead of being a supernatural drama that just happens to be set in a hospital, "Saving Hope" turns out to be a pretty run-of-the-mill hospital drama that just happens to have a little bit of the supernatural thrown in to differentiate it, a strategy which doesn't really work. When we're not following around a grief-stricken Alex, we're mostly left to watch two or three medical sub-plots that other, better shows have all attempted before: the girl who "didn't know" she was pregnant (which then turns into the-girl-who-was-killed-by-her-baby, which in turn segues into the-father-who-won't-bond-with-his-baby because it killed the love of his life), the teenagers who ingested funny substances (but not for the reasons you think!), the war veteran with survivor's guilt, and the John Doe who dies on the table.
Where the show attempts to set itself apart from the likes of "ER," "Grey's Anatomy," "Chicago Hope," and dozens of other medical dramas that have aired in the past thirty years is with the ghostly apparition of Charlie Harris wandering its hospital halls, saying things like "You belong to the hospital now," and conversing with newly deceased or unconscious patients. This strategy might have worked if the show allowed Charlie to be our point of view character, letting us follow him around, seeing the hospital through new eyes. Instead, Charlie appears and disappears at random, leaving the narrative for huge chunks of time, only to return at strange moments to voiceover things like "What if we actually got to know our patients?" These kind of musings might have been effective if they had some sort of endgame in mind, but there's no follow up, and Charlie's out of sight afterwards quicker than you can snap. We spend the most time with Alex, and with new doctor Joel (Daniel Gillies, "The Vampire Diaries"), who is a rogue in the classic manner of George Clooney, and who also happens to be Alex's cheating ex-boyfriend.
Again, it's not that what's here is bad, but "Saving Hope" has the definite scattered feel of a show that wants to differentiate itself from the pack, but doesn't have the nerve to fully commit to its own weird premise. "Ghost Doctor Roaming the Halls" is a neat concept to pitch to a network, but after you get past the concept, you also have to execute that concept in a way that makes it pop in viewers' minds. Right now it doesn't feel like "Saving Hope" knows what kind of show it wants to be, and that's a shame, because it's got some great tools to work with in its three leads. Erica Durance and Daniel Gillies are likable, watchable actors, and Michael Shanks knows how to work the screen even when given only cheesy voiceovers to work with. If "Saving Hope" could figure out a way to make Charlie into an actual character with things to do instead of a walking setpiece, the show might actually be weird enough to work. There are worse ways to spend an evening than watching an episode of this show, but that's not saying much, especially when it's so easy these days to pull up an old episode of "ER" and watch something better instead.