Three Rivers -- TV Review

Three Rivers Hospital is a really, really nice place. In this Pittsburgh medical center -- all natural wood and hi-tech screens -- everyone works as a team, residents are cheery and a tad mischievous, and doctors are re-elevated to sainthood, sunlight shining beatifically on their concerned, compassionate faces. Marcus Welby lives.

And why not? The medical profession has taken a beatdown this season thanks to such shows as TNT's "Hawthorne" and NBC's "Mercy." So perhaps a segment of CBS' audience will enjoy the sedative-like effects of "Three Rivers," which injects sincerity and competence back into the profession with such unabashed ease that it's possible to overlook that this is utter drivel.

"Rivers" revolves around the doctors, donors and recipients of transplants, with special emphasis (at least in the pilot) on aforementioned well-lit surgeon Andy Yablonsky (Alex O'Loughlin, looking like Zach Braff and Noah Wyle's love child). He and his cohorts, including Alfre Woodard as the hospital administrator, are all earnest and squishy, getting involved in everything from a passed-out pregnant woman to an uninsured walk-in who insists on speaking only to Yablonsky. All of which is soporific -- at least until the transplant engine revs up and the plot's urgency raises ethical dilemmas: Should a heart transplant go to a possibly brain-damaged patient? Just how should one approach grieving family members for donations and not seem like a circling vulture?

One of those questions gets answered; the other, not so much. But what's even less-well resolved is the fantasy element of this show.

Yes, it is well-made and even sporadically compelling, but it's hard to ignore that it has no basis in the real world. A walk-in uninsured patient who gets immediate top-notch care with barely a nod to how it'll be paid for? In your dreams.

But maybe that's the point of "Rivers": It's a dream state.

Full of multiple plasma screens and supercool monitor graphics and apparently limitless resources, it gives TV audiences a glimpse of what a well-financed health-care system looks like. Unfortunately, it, like Three Rivers, remains fictional.

Airdate: 9-10 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 4 (CBS)
Production: CBS Television Studios
Cast: Alex O'Loughlin, Katherine Moennig, Daniel Henney, Christopher J. Hanke, Alfre Woodard, Justina Machado
Executive producers: Carol Barbee, David Amann, Ted Gold
Creator-writer: Carol Barbee
Director: Rob Bailey
Costume designer: Rachel Sage Kunin
Casting: Deb Aquila, Tricia Wood, Jen Smith, Erin Toner
Co-executive producer: Rob Bailey, Frank Military, Ildy Modrovich
Consulting producers: Greg Walker, Sunil Nayar, Lance Gentile
Producer: Randy Sutter
Director of photography: Frank Byers
Production designer: Phil Toolin
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