For standard broadcast fare, it's impressive how innovative NBC has been with not just outside of the box hits but shows about communities you might not often see over the last decade.
One of the channels being known for the hallmarks of American television introduced us to shows like Outsourced (set in India), Sunnyside (a community of immigrants in New York), Perfect Harmony (the South), Superstore (the working-class American Midwest).
It's perhaps in this tradition that NBC is branching out into far-off settings by adding a show about a Syrian refugee who faces marginalization despite his brilliance as a doctor on Transplant Season 1 Episode 1.
This highly relevant tale of a modern-day medical Maguyver of sorts starts off with an emotional wallop of a first episode. The only problem is where the show goes from here.
The show starts out with about three minutes of set-up as we see our protagonist, Bashir Hamid (Hamza Haq), cooking kebabs on a grill at his brother's restaurant while three customers come in. It's not much of a scene, but it's enough to give us clues about the diagnoses.
Fortunately, it doesn't take long for the action to start happening, and it's a full-scale explosion (likely the minority of the show's special effects budget) caused by a truck crashing into the building.
We later learn that Hamid has his skills sharpened in Syrian war zones, so it's probably not unintentional that the Toronto diner suddenly looks reminiscent of a scene of carnage from Homeland or Jack Ryan or any other series set in the Middle East.
As opposed to most procedurals that simply feature their doctors walking and talking in sterile environments, the first few minutes of the pilot are gripping as we see a guy MacGrubering his way towards patient treatment.
As he and three of the other accident victims -- his brother runs away from the scene fearing his immigrant status -- get transported to the hospital, Hamid is unwilling to stop being a doctor.
To the frustration of the hospital staff, he continually leaves his cot to administer advice about the three other victims who serve, to varying degrees, as the case-of-the-week.
If there's anything the first episode deserves credit for, it's layering storylines on top of one another into a well-paced sense of chaos.
One parent gets angry at him, unaware that Hamid saved his son's life. One medical resident (Laurence Leboeuf) suspects he is a medical genius and is trying to mine him for information that could save the patient. Another administrator (Tori Higginson) is just baffled that the guy won't stay put for his injuries.
On top of this frenzied circus, Hamid is searching for his brother and kid sister as well.
Then there's a cop who suspects Hamid might have been the perpetrator of the crime.
Bashir: Thanks for that. He's taking everything I say the wrong way.
Magalie: What does he think you did?
Bashir: At this point, maybe planning 9/11....but I didn't
It's such obvious racial profiling that it comes off as flat commentary. At the same time, it's fantastically prescient considering the state of public perception of cops today and that this episode must have been written and shot before COVID.
While the cop is a little bit of a strawman, the series establishes the stakes pretty convincingly. This is a guy who has to work his way up from the bottom, and this is a segment of society that I'm already pretty invested in.
It also helps that actor Hamza Haq boasts charisma out the wazoo as the wide-eyed Hamid. His line delivery makes the character thoughtful under pressure and adds certain heat to exchanges like the following:
Magalie: The police are looking for you
Bashir: I know
Magalie: Hey, did you drill into my boss's skull.... So you saved the others
[Bashir turns to leave]
Magalie: [trying to stop him] I get it, I get it. You're a doctor, you're a very talented doctor but also a wreckless one who need to understand that if my boss dies, they'll blame you.
Bashir: There was no time to wait
Magalie: How did you know where to drill without imaging
Bashir: The pupil asymmetry. The bleeding's almost always ipsilateral
Magalie: Almost always?
Bashir: He will recover from the recover from the drill if I was wrong but not the heatoma if left untreated. It was a risk I had to take
Magalie: Do you know whose head you drilled into?
Bashir: I know who Doctor Bishop is. Call the police if you like.
Similar to the protagonists of those USA shows of the aughts like Royal Pains, Burn Notice, and Psych, it's probable that the show is going to run the same angle.
Hamid will not only be gifted but a special kind of genius (have a knack for diagnoses without modern equipment) whose shoes no one else can fill.
Similarly, those strengths will be balanced by a certain outsider status bought on either by self-imposed weaknesses (Pysch, Monk), bad luck (Burn Notice), or the way that society might just be rigged against the good guys (Royal Pains). In this case, it's mostly the latter.
However, there's also the social commentary angle, which has the potential to make this show more than just a fun procedural if these guys play their cards right.
The main question is, what happens when the show goes into being a procedural? It seems like he will be hired at the end of the episode as a legitimate doctor.
The pilot was exciting because an unknown commodity was running around a hospital curing patients without permission while evading police AND trying to locate his missing family.
From here on out, it seems reasonable that he'll have his colleagues' permissions to perform medicine, and I doubt he's doing to get racially profiled mid-surgery.
Based on the initial bickering of the two, I would not be surprised if Hamid and Magalie LeBlanc (the aforementioned doctor played by Laurence Leboeuf) were romantic interests. It's too early to say if this is a good or bad thing.
Beware: Some of the medical scenes are pretty icky.
Come on, Doctor Bishop, just give the man the job! Seriously though, I hope we get to delve into why he was rejected the first time around.
So, where do we stand?
The show had a wonderfully exciting pilot, but it might never live up to that unless it gets inventive very fast.
What do you guys think?
Will the show be able to keep up the excitement of this episode?