Monday, June 20, 2011

{alltv} 'Rookie', 'Combat' fill summer void 

Three parts characters, two parts romance, one part action and a pinch of frivolity.

If only it were that easy.

The truth is, there never has been a reliable recipe for good summer fare on TV. Whatever the reason for the steamy season, some shows taste right, while others just don't.

Combat Hospital and Rookie Blue fall on the savoury side of that summer-fare plate.

Combat Hospital is a new series that debuts Tuesday, June 21 on Global and ABC. Rookie Blue, meanwhile, begins its second season Thursday, June 23, also on Global and ABC.

Both series are Canada-U.S. co-productions; both are shot in Toronto; both are dramas with touches of playfulness; and both kind of hit the spot timing-wise if you're craving something other than reality TV, game shows or reruns.


Combat Hospital is set at an international medical facility in war-ravaged Afghanistan. Because the war there is ongoing today, the show has been set back in 2006, to provide some narrative distance and breathing room.

When we first heard about Combat Hospital, we must admit, it sounded a lot like a recently failed ABC show called Off The Map, the only difference being a jungle setting rather than a war zone. But having seen the first episode of Combat Hospital, we can confidently say it is way better and way less cheesy than Off The Map.

In fact, Combat Hospital -- which stars Elias Koteas, Michelle Borth, Luke Mably, Deborah Kara Unger, Terry Chen and Arnold Pinnock -- is at its best during its serious scenes. The lighter moments are not as strong initially, and Mably's character is a randy Brit who seems as if he should be in another show.

Overall, though, we were fairly impressed by Combat Hospital. Koteas in particular is excellent and Borth is very strong as well. It's a compelling peek at a world we all should know more about.

As for Rookie Blue, we definitely were surprised by how well it did ratings-wise on both sides of the border in its rookie campaign last summer. A lot of people involved with the show have admitted to being pleasantly surprised themselves.

But looking back with 20/20 hindsight, there's no denying the appeal of Rookie Blue. It's impossible not to fall for Missy Peregrym in the lead role. And the rest of the main cast -- Gregory Smith, Charlotte Sullivan, Eric Johnson, Enuka Okuma, Travis Milne and Ben Bass -- is intensely likeable, both individually and as a unit.

One request for the makers of Rookie Blue moving forward, however: Please quit giving your female characters male names. Honestly, as we try to explain the love quadrangle between Andy and Luke and Sam and Jo, can anyone keep the characters straight and tell the guys from the girls?

As cop shows go, Rookie Blue stands apart in that it's serious but not dark. While it's too early to make sweeping statements about Combat Hospital, it also appears to be playing in that serious-but-not-dark arena.

Who knows, maybe that's a crucial ingredient for good summer fare. Either way, both Combat Hospital and Rookie Blue are delectable distractions for the dog days.

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